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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 Patrick Lenton

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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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Bond Gadgets and Where to Buy Them

Posted February 3, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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Gadgets maketh the spy. Bond wouldn’t be Bond, James Bond if he didn’t have a hover-gondola. Last week I wrote about how the more ordinary a portal to another world is, the more enjoyable it is for a reader; we can imagine ourselves finding a way through a magical wardrobe. The same principle works for gadgets; the more ordinary it appears, the more delightful and relatable it is. Each of us can hold a pen and imagine detonating something with a click. But no one else looks quite as cool talking into a clothes brush. live-and-let-die-brush

Just for fun, and lacking my own Q or the ability to invent stuff, I’ve trawled the legal parts of the Internet to see what I can procure in the way of Bond-ish spy gadgets.

First, glasses. In ‘The World is Not Enough’ Pierce Brosnan wore glasses which scanned his foes to see what concealed weapons they had on them. I can’t buy exactly that, but hidden camera glasses are pretty readily available, and Google Glass would be handy, if they were less distinctive looking. Not exactly spy-subtle at the moment.  Secret cameras come in pretty much every disguise you can imagine. I’ll never trust an air freshener again.bond1

In case you need to secretly record any humans, spy-grade dictaphones come in many unobtrusive shapes and sizes.  I vote the car keys below as the most discreet. In ‘From Russia With Love’ Bond used a tape recorder hidden inside a camera and in ‘Thunderball’ he hid one inside a book. Apparently you can’t use the same gadget twice.car keys

Jetpacks of course deserve a mention after their iconic appearance in ‘Thunderball’. They don’t seem to be the safest of hobbies, but they’re not too hard to get hold of.
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Also in ‘Thunderball’ James Bond is given a pill with a homing beacon in it – essentially working as a GPS tracking device. All sorts of such devices can be purchase from your local espionage goods purveyor, but closest to the source material is the GPS tracker pill bottlegps_tracker_pill_bottle_bait_bottle__31316.1405432509.1280.1280

In ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, Sean Connery’s career high, Bond used a voice changer to impersonate Willard Whyte. If only he’d waited until 2015, because now there is, of course, an app for thatsean

Most of the other gadgets seem to be weaponised and therefore not accessible to those of us unwilling to venture down the Silk Road or onto the dark web. In the Daniel Craig era they seem to have abandoned fun gadgets for product placement. Did anyone else come out of ‘Casino Royale’ with an inexplicable urge to buy Sony stuff?james-bond-productRight, I’m off to clear my browser history before MI6 burst through the door. Toodle pip.

#IdrisElbaForBond

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Cover Reveal – Avenger (Intrepid 3) by Chris Allen

Posted January 6, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Alex Morgan is back and he isn’t playing by the rules.

Policeman, soldier and spy for INTREPID, black ops agent Alex Morgan is hunting the Night Witch—the head of a shadowy criminal empire spanning the four corners of the globe and connected to Chinese triads, corrupt cops, and the Russian mafia.

When Morgan’s sent to China to shadow INTREPID’s newest agent, Elizabeth Reigns, he soon discovers she’s been sold out and the triads are after their pound of flesh.

With Reigns in his corner, Morgan must find a way through a complex labyrinth of scattered connections and corporate takeovers to find the real Night Witch, and crush an empire built on trading in human life. But there’s only one problem. To achieve his objective Morgan must confront an enemy he thought was already dead and buried. Will Morgan have what it takes to survive?

Avenger is available for pre-order now, and will be released on the 22nd of January.

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Cover Reveal: Frank Delaney Thrillers by Michael Rose

Posted December 17, 2014 by Patrick Lenton

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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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Q&A with Sophie Masson

Posted November 10, 2014 by Michelle Cameron

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We asked our wonderful author Sophie Masson some questions about her upcoming release Trinity: The Koldun Code.

 

 1. What inspired you to write the Trinity series?

I could say that what inspired me was my lifelong fascination with Russia, and that’s true. I could also say that it was inspired by my long-held desire of writing a big urban fantasy series, one that blends the everyday and the magical worlds, the natural and the supernatural, against a modern setting which makes the whole thing even more striking. That would also be true. And I wanted it to have other elements I love too, such as a good spice of romance and a sharp tingle of mystery. But Trinity might just have stayed as an idea in the back of my mind, if it hadn’t been for a chance glimpse on the Moscow Metro: a young man in modern jeans and leather jacket, but with the timeless, striking face of a prince or a legendary warrior, such as I’d seen that very day in paintings in the Tretiakov Art Gallery.

In that instant, just before the young man got off the train, Trinity really came alive. For there was Alexey Makarov taking shape in my mind, and there was Helen’s voice describing him. And I knew I could not rest until I had told their story.

 

2. Russia is such an evocative setting, how did you come to choose it?

As I mentioned, I’ve been fascinated by Russia since I was a child, when I read Russian fairytales, and later, Russian novels. My father (who comes from France) loves Russian music and art, so we were exposed to a lot of that at home. Much later, I visited Russia (I’ve been there twice now) and loved it—it was just as interesting as I had imagined it, in fact even more so! It’s such a mix of so many different influences—hugely diverse, enormously paradoxical, and extremely addictive.

 

3. Speaking of Russia, magic is such an ingrained part of their culture, how did this influence you?

Heaps! Russia is the absolutely perfect urban fantasy setting—you hardly even have to make anything up! From the Parliament trying to regulate witchcraft to the businesses who employ wizards to the scientists studying DNA for evidence of psychic talents to the ‘energy vampires’ who people firmly believe in, this is a place where the supernatural and paranormal are taken for granted by many, many people. And yet it’s also totally modern, with very high literacy and education levels.

 

4. What was your favourite scene to write, and why?

My favorite scene is the one where Helen and Alexey meet for the first time, in the woods. Everything changes in that moment for Helen, and it is truly magical, in all kinds of ways. Writing it gave me goose bumps!

 

5. What can we expect in the second book The False Prince?

A new threat on the horizon as a figure from the past resurfaces and causes havoc both natural and supernatural at Trinity. Watch this space!

 

 

Trinity: The Koldun Code is released on the 13th of November.

 

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Party Time – a short story in the ‘Timesplash’ world

Posted October 17, 2014 by Patrick Lenton

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Foresight: Timesplash #3 is out, but what even is a timesplash? This short story set in the world could help explain.

Party Time

by

Graham Storrs

You wouldn’t expect the world to change right there, in a house off Beverley Road. Beverley Road is the kind of place commuters pass through on the way to somewhere smarter. The grimy brick buildings that front the main road give way to side streets that should have been demolished long ago, to sagging terraces in which every other two-up-two-down has its windows boarded. Children and dogs roam those quiet streets in packs, bored and dirty.

But that’s where it happens.

“It’s a fucking brick, Grace.” Rylan Dickson giggles as if there is something funny about it, but he’s so stoned everything seems funny. His long, scrawny body is clothed in old jeans and an even older jumper. He looks like a gangly teenager, but he is actually twenty-three.

The brick sits inside a metal cage on the kitchen table. Around it there are coils of wire, heavy banks of capacitors, computer screens, black cables writhing away to a distribution board hacked into the electric main. A bright red dot shines from the side of the brick where it is illuminated by a low-powered laser. Beyond the brick, a photocell waits.

“Yeah, it’s the metaphor, right?” Grayson Faber explains. He is excited and a little wired. Shorter and stouter than his friend, he is dressed in the same kind of jumble-sale clothes. “Time is a stream, right? We lob the brick back into the stream and it makes a splash. Yeah?”

Rylan shakes his head. “You don’t have to convince me, man. I was the one who did the maths.”

Grayson gives a nervous laugh. “Yeah. It’s just… It’s like this is a really big deal Ry. We should have the press here. Television.”

“Bourgeois bullshit, Grace. That world is dead and gone, man. This is what’s real.” He waves a hand at the room. His gesture is exaggerated and sloppy. It takes in the dirty sink and the mouldy wallpaper as well as the piles of makeshift electronics.

There are footsteps in the hallway and the kitchen door opens just as Grayson is saying, “Right. Bourgeois bullshit.”

The newcomer gives a clenched fist salute and says, “Right on, man!”

Rylan giggles again and also gives the salute.

“So what’s up with you two geniuses today?” the newcomer wants to know. He is a well-fed, well-built youth of about seventeen, bare chested under an army greatcoat. He goes by the tag Major Tom and no-one knows his real name. Rylan picks up a bong from beside his chair and hands it over. Major Tom takes it and sets it down without using it. “Hey, you got the time machine going.”

He steps closer and peers into the mechanism. “Is that a brick in there?”

“It’s a metaphor,” Rylan says.

Tom grins at him. “Fucking geniuses. You’re all nuts.”

“We’re going to, you know, test it,” Grayson says, even more tense since Tom joined them. “It’s the first ever trial run.”

“Is it going to, like, blow up or something?” Tom asks, stepping back. “Cos I’m organising a real big party tonight, out at Orchard Park, and I need all my arms and legs.” The old Orchard Park Estate had been bulldozed by the city council, partly because it was a festering slum, partly because the police wanted to clear out all the drug factories and street gangs. Now it was a wasteland of rubble and ghosts, perfect for the loud, stimulant-fuelled, dance parties Major Tom was famous for.

“We’re going to lob that brick back in time, Tom,” Grayson says. “That’s a bit more important than your stupid party.”

Rylan is grinning but Tom doesn’t think it is funny. “It’s 2032, man. Biggest damn recession the world has ever seen. The oil’s run out, half the world’s at war, and the other half’s having a revolution. There’s nothing as important as a party right now!”

At which Grayson starts frowning. “Yeah, and they shut down the fucking university right in the middle of our PhDs.” He looks like he is going to become maudlin again, to start harping on his favourite subject.

“But we did it, right?” Rylan, says, trying to encourage him out of the mood. “We’ve got the proof of concept right here.”

But Grayson isn’t going to be cheered up easily. “Building lighting rigs and sound systems for this jerkoff!” he grumbles. “The two finest minds of our generation, sunk without a trace because the whole world’s turned to shit!”

“Who are you calling a jerkoff, Doctor Fucking Who?”

“OK,” Grayson raises his voice. “I’m going to throw the switch. You ready? Five, four, three…”

“Just throw the damned switch, Grace!”

“…two, one.”

The brick disappears. A buzzer sounds as the light from the laser is freed to cross the gap to the photocell. A timer starts displaying the passing seconds. They all gape in astonishment at the empty cage.

Then the buzzer drops in pitch. Major Tom shouts, “Whoa!” and Grayson looks round at him. Tom seems to be miles away, as if the room is as big as a football stadium. Then he snaps back. Rylan says something but he is speaking in a high-pitched squeak, his lips a blur. Ripples of distortion pass along the kitchen worktop and the oven door falls open, bounces closed, falls open again. The strangeness continues for a few more seconds, then stops.

The buzzer is still buzzing. The timer is still ticking. The three young men stare at the empty cage and at each other.

When the brick hits the bars of the cage and falls onto the metal plate beneath it, they all jump.

“Holy shit!” says Tom.

“It worked,” says Grayson.

“Wow, that was so far out,” says Rylan.

“I want that,” says Tom, looking from Grayson to Rylan and back. “Can you do that bigger? Like, maybe over an acre or two?”

“What?”

“That weird, trippy thing that just happened. Can you imagine that at one of my parties? Man! It was like acid, only it’s the world that’s tripping, not you! Just think about it. A hundred people – No. Five hundred people seeing that and feeling that all at the same time! No drugs. No hassle with the pigs. And the music! We could revive the Eighties, or the Nineties, or whenever all that house shit went down. This could be fucking enormous. We could all be living like kings!”

The silence is deep and incredulous. Rylan starts laughing and Grayson bursts into explanation. “We just sent a brick back in time, Tom. It wasn’t just some kind of show. That brick…” He opens the cage and pulls it out. It feels cold and is beaded with condensation. “If our calculations are right – and they must be, right? – that brick went back about five years.”

Major Tom looks at Grayson as if the young scientist just doesn’t get it. “All that shit – your calculations and all that – doesn’t matter. No, listen, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care where your bloody brick went. What matters is that weird thing that went on right here. That’s what’s going to make my parties – our parties – the only ones in the whole country that anyone will want to go to.”

Rylan is still laughing. Grayson turns sharply and shouts, “Shut up Ry. It’s getting on my nerves.”

“No, he’s right, Grace,” Rylan says. “It’s the lambda residual that matters. We chased it around the whiteboards and worried about the causal implications for all those hours, and what do you know? It’s all that really matters.”

“The residual? You mean what we just felt was an acausal backwash from the timesplash? You said it would be negligible. You said it would pass right through the present into the future.”

“Yeah, well, I was wrong. Obviously the future isn’t made yet, the Universe is self-assembling like Cahill and Klinger said. We always knew that was possible. When the residual travels downstream, the ‘backwash’ as you call it hits the present and has nowhere else to go, so it screws with causality.”

“What’s all this claptrap got to do with the price of fish?” Major Tom wants to know.

“It means we can make it bigger,” Rylan says, grinning maliciously. “We just need to lob bigger bricks farther back. The backwash is related to the size of the lob.” He looks at Grayson meaningfully and adds, “And the size of the splash.”

“No, no, no!” Grayson is alarmed now, and angry. He stands in front of Rylan, shaking his head. “We talked about this. We agreed. No paradoxes. Right? No-one gets hurt. We just run the trials. We write up the results and we take them down to Emory at Oxford like we agreed, right?”

“What’s he on about?”

Rylan gets to his feet. He is just an arm’s length away from Grayson. “Don’t worry, Tom. Grace is just being a bit slow to adapt to the changing circumstances.”

“What changing circumstances?”

“Wake up, Grace. Did you ever think there was really a chance Emory would let us in? Don’t you remember what he wrote to us when the uni was closing and we all but begged him to take the project?”

“He… He just asked for more evidence.”

“He talked bollocks, that’s what he did. He spouted Einstein at us, and quantum bloody gravity. It was obvious he didn’t understand the maths and, worse still, he didn’t understand the physics either!”

Grayson struggles to say something. He doesn’t want to let himself admit he has known all along this was a pipe dream.

“Who then?” he says at last, his thoughts surfacing. “If only the American’s weren’t in such a mess. A whole bunch of the physics department guys moved to CERN when Princeton went bust. We could try there.”

“You’re thinking of Sternberg, aren’t you? Just because he was the only one who was half-way polite to us. For God’s sake, Grace! The only heavyweight physicist who ever took this stuff seriously was dear old Prof. Baker, and no-one had taken him seriously for ten years or more. No wonder the poor old sod hanged himself when they shut us down. He knew there was nowhere else to go.”

“But it works!” Grayson holds up the brick, as if it is proof.

“Tell it to the Randi Foundation!”

For a moment, Grayson clenches the brick tight. For a moment, he is red-faced with rage. Major Tom looks from one to the other, wondering if Rylan will get hurt, and, if he does, how he can turn that to his own ends.

But Grayson suddenly sags. His arm drops and the brick falls to the floor with a thud. He turns away and walks back to the equipment on the kitchen table.

“The biggest fucking discovery since Special Relativity,” he says, and a long silence follows.

“So you can make it bigger, then?” Tom asks.

Grayson turns and glowers at Rylan, but he speaks to Tom. “Yes, we can make it bigger. Do you want to know how?”

“No man, I just -”

“Well we could send something massive back a long, long way. But the energy requirements would be enormous. The most cost effective way would be to send a person back, maybe a couple of decades – we’d need someone young – to shoot their own mother before they were born, create a paradox. Right?”

“You could send a person?”

“Oh yeah.” Grayson keeps looking at Rylan and it’s not clear now if he’s still talking to Tom. “Someone who wouldn’t mind walking up to their own mother and killing her in cold blood just to make a dance party go well.”

“But if you killed your own mother before you were born…”

“Yeah. Paradox. Like I said.” He waves a dismissive hand. He and Rylan had worked it all out. However big the splash, the time stream always heals itself, the paradox is smoothed over, fixed up. The present is unchanged by it. The past snaps back like elastic. But the backwash… The bigger the splash, the bigger the backwash. And that meant more ‘trippy’ experiences here in the present, more acausal weirdness for the kids to get off on.

“Would you do it?” he was definitely talking to his friend now, wanting to hear him say no.

“Fucking hell, yes!” Tom says. “I’d carve up the old bitch like a chicken. I’ve often thought about it. I’ll be your brick.”

Rylan grins and raises his hands in a gesture that says, “See? What can you do?”

Grayson looks away, unable to bear that grin. He feels tired. He pulls out a wooden chair and sits down.

The biggest discovery since Special Relativity, he is thinking, over and over. A guaranteed Nobel prize. If the world hadn’t gone to shit. If his partner wasn’t an arsehole. If he wasn’t so very sick of being hungry, and wearing cast-offs, and worrying about if he ever got ill or needed the dentist.

He looks up at Major Tom and his eyes are dull and heavy. “We’re going to need a bigger cage,” he says.

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Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Posted by Michelle Cameron

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One of the greatest compliments that I ever received from a reader was the news that, the evening after finishing the book, she was idly contemplating hosting a barbecue for the weekend and began mentally listing those she would invite. Halfway through, she realised that she’d included several of the characters from the book itself. The fictional characters. In the short amount of time that it had taken her to read the story, they had become her friends. And I know exactly what she means (I even developed a sort of crush on a male character I wrote once, and the ending – especially pairing him up with someone else – was a little like being dumped). But every time I finish writing a book, I experience an oddly nauseous mix of elation and regret. It’s impossible to even contemplate a new project until I go through a period of recovery, of separation. I mope around the house, eat copious amounts of chocolate, and make complicated calculations regarding the sun and the yardarm and a glass of wine. Although experience tells me that turning my book hangover into a real one doesn’t help. At all.

But that’s also why I’ve enjoyed writing the Nell Forrest series so much. Starting each new book has been like re-visiting old friends, catching up with what’s been going on in their lives, accompanying them as they move forward. It’s a reunion of sorts. Sure, there’s always a few characters that are best avoided (and if they turned up at the door, you’d be better advised to ring the police than let them in), but what’s a murder mystery without some colour? Nell Forrest though – well, she’s the sort of person that I’d invite to a barbecue. And I knew I’d have to write her that way if she was going to stay around (Hercule Poirot is not the type of protagonist I’d be able to have in a series). As both a reader and a writer, I like to connect. But Nell is more than a connection – she’s a friend. I might not have her phone number but I know where she lives. She’d know when to give me space if she knew I was moping, or drop in with buckets of chocolate (we’d probably even go retro and have a fondue, with strawberries and bananas and marshmallows), or help me with the sun/yardarm calculations and then say ‘what the hell, let’s open the bottle regardless – in fact make it champagne!’ Damn, I miss her.

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Cover Reveal – Foresight: Timesplash 3 by Graham Storrs

Posted October 8, 2014 by Patrick Lenton

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Jay and Sandra are back—fighting to save a world on the edge of destruction.

In the middle of a bizarre global catastrophe that looks suspiciously like the mother of all timesplashes, Sandra Malone discovers that the corporation she works for is spying on her. To find out why, she sets off to track down the culprits. What she discovers catapults Sandra, her daughter, and everyone around her into a deadly struggle to prevent a disaster.

Now working in European Military Intelligence in Berlin, Jay Kennedy begins to suspect that the shock that hit the world was something more sinister and dangerous than even a timesplash. In the midst of the chaos that has engulfed the world, Jay learns that Sandra is in danger and that their daughter has gone after her. This turn of events threatens to distract him from solving a puzzle on which the fate of the whole world might hang.

With time running out, Jay is torn between the possibility of losing Sandra, and the desperate need to stop a new kind of time-travel technology that could destroy the planet.

Foresight comes out on October 9 in all good ebook retailers!

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New Releases: The Foundation, Aurora: Meridian and Shatterwing!

Posted September 11, 2014 by Patrick Lenton

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We’ve got three fantastic new releases out today, and we’re so excited about them. First up:

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High pace political thriller: Read a sample here.

 

He who holds the pen holds the power.

“Great fun. A two-fisted thriller, escaped from five minutes into the future.”

—John Birmingham, author of the Axis of Time and Disappearance trilogies.

When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.

Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation’s deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.

Enter Jack’s boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation’s plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack’s the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it’s too late.

As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.

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The third in our fantastic Aurora series, read an excerpt here.

Their hardest battle will be fighting the enemy within …

Captain Saul Harris has found himself at a crossroads. Haunted by dreams of the dead, he fights to keep his soldiers safe as events spiral out of his control. But has his search for the truth led him to discover there is more to this mission of chasing Sharley than meets the eye?

 Meanwhile, Corporal Carrie Welles seeks revenge. Consumed with demons from her past two missions, she goes rogue in the hope that her actions will end all the pain and suffering the Aurora team has endured. But will facing the enemy free them all from Sharley’s cruel grasp, or has she condemned herself to a suicide mission?

 As the mystery of Sharley and UNFASP unfolds and lives hang in the balance, Harris and Carrie are forced to search deep inside themselves, and what they find will shock them.

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Epic contemporary fantasy: read a sample here.

Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

 The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

 There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

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Best Dad Jokes – Win a Father’s Day Book Bundle!

Posted September 5, 2014 by Patrick Lenton

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Do you like DAD JOKES? At Momentum, we love dad jokes. Jokes that make you roll your eyes and say ‘Daaaaaaaaad’ and then you get on your skateboard and go and hang out with Samantha.

Because we love DAD JOKES so much, we’re offering a bundle of books to anyone who gives us an excellent dad joke in the comments. Look at all the amazing books you could win:

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So just leave your favourite dad joke and your email, and you too could win!

This competition is closed as of Monday 8th September, congrats to the winners!

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Excerpt: The Phoenix Variant (The Fifth Column, #3) by Nathan M. Farrugia

Posted August 11, 2014 by Patrick Lenton

It’s only a few days until The Phoenix Variant (The Fifth Column, #3) by Nathan M. Farrugia is released!

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Here’s a sneak preview to get you excited. And if you haven’t started his thrilling series The Fifth Column, #1, The Chimera Vector, is currently free for a limited time only!

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Chapter 1

 

Ekne, Norway

1944

The moment Denton sat down, he identified the most dangerous man in the room.

‘We’ve reviewed your request for the transfer of Victor,’ the Colonel said.

Denton had noticed poor Victor, the German mineralogist, on his way in. He was a prisoner at the camp, but they seemed to treat him well in exchange for his specialized work.

‘That’s why I’m here,’ Denton said. ‘Victor will be very useful for our team.’

When Denton arrived at the Norwegian boarding school turned Nazi prison camp, he’d been asked to hand over his Polish Viz pistol for the duration of his visit. It put him on edge, and he enjoyed it.

Denton smoothed the lapels of his SS coat. He had to give it to the Nazis, they sure knew how to make a uniform. Turning slightly in the metal chair, he checked the edge of his vision and observed the posture of the guards standing by the door. His threat assessment was complete.

‘I’ve noticed an irregularity in your records, which complicates things,’ the Colonel said, taking a seat at his desk in front of an ornate marble fireplace. The Colonel’s head was shaped like a watermelon. He had a receding hairline and a smirk that irritated Denton.

‘Irregularity?’ Denton asked.

‘You’re an American spy.’

Denton kept his breathing slow. ‘I can see how that might complicate things.’

Standing by the Colonel’s shoulder: Greyleg, the chief prison guard. His eyes gleamed at Denton. Watching.

The true influencer in any group was not always the person with the highest rank.

The Colonel cleared his throat and leaned forward. His stomach pressed his uniform taut.

‘Here is what will happen, Lieutenant Denton, Office of Strategic Services,’ the Colonel said, pushing his chest forward in small increments. ‘I’m short on test subjects for our experiments. You’re going to fill that. A strictly short term arrangement.’

There was that smirk again. Denton ignored it.

Greyleg was circling. He knew why.

‘If it’s all the same with you, I prefer the spy thing,’ Denton said, grasping his armrest. ‘Plus, your uniforms are fantastic. It’s a shame this Hugo Boss fellow doesn’t make suits.’

The Colonel touched the oak leaf on his collar. ‘One of many shames.’

While Denton might’ve looked like his focus was on the Colonel, his attention was riveted to Greyleg.

One look at the man and Denton recognized someone unburdened by humanity’s weaker emotions. He was free to operate at his full potential. And that involved shooting Denton, shooting the guards, and shooting the Colonel. Greyleg would blame it on Denton and receive his promotion.

Denton knew this because that’s what he would do.

Greyleg approached Denton’s nine o’clock, where the guards couldn’t see him draw. The Colonel was busy showing Denton how deep his voice could go, and hadn’t noticed Greyleg’s movements.

Denton stood. Greyleg went for his Luger P08 pistol. Chair in hand, Denton slung it into Greyleg’s midsection. The chair’s leg knocked air from his lungs and dropped him to his knees.

Denton closed on the Colonel.

The smirk was gone, but there was a glint of oxide steel. A Luger, identical to Greyleg’s. The Colonel drew his Luger. He should have drawn the pistol close to his chest, punching out and firing. But like many soldiers Denton had killed this year, the Colonel tried to swing the pistol from his hip. The barrel struck the edge of the desk, slowing his draw.

Denton reached the desk and slid under it. The Colonel brought the pistol across his body, hunting for a target. Denton emerged beside the Colonel, deflected the arm as the trigger squeezed.

The round discharged, clipped Greyleg in the arm. Much to Denton’s amusement.

Greyleg’s firing hand fell limp, his pistol skittering towards the slowly reacting guards. Denton twisted the Luger from the Colonel’s bulging fingers and used the Colonel’s body as a shield against the guards.

The guards advanced, trying to move wide enough for a shot around the Colonel. Denton applied trigger pressure to the base of the Colonel’s skull and they hesitated. The round would not only punch through the Colonel’s brain but, if he was lucky, strike one of the guards.

From the edge of his vision, he saw Greyleg recover.

Denton took aim over the Colonel’s shoulder and killed one guard. The second guard aimed, unsteady finger moving over the trigger. Denton dropped to the floor. Shots punched above him, through the marble fireplace. Denton lay under the desk, watching from an upside-down perspective as the guard’s legs moved closer. He fired a round through each leg, waited for the guard to drop, then continued firing as he collapsed. Through his chest, through his neck, through his nose.

At the same time, the Colonel slumped beside Denton, catching the poorly aimed rounds from the guard.

Greyleg’s boot crushed Denton’s pistol-wielding hand, pinning it to the floor. Denton was about to move in closer but he saw the knife early, just as Greyleg kicked the pistol across the floor. Denton pulled back, flipped the desk onto him. It glanced off Greyleg’s head, but didn’t slow the man down.

Denton appreciated the challenge. Engaging with Greyleg made the adrenalin burn sweeter. He brought his hands up, ready. Let’s see how Greyleg does without a firearm, he thought.

Greyleg leaped over the table in one stride, but then tripped on the Colonel’s body. Denton sidestepped as the man stumbled into the fractured marble shelf. A sharp edge tore Greyleg’s neck as he fell. He shuddered, hands clutched over scarlet.

Greyleg collapsed on top of the Colonel and bled out.

Denton lowered his hands.

‘That was disappointing.’

The Phoenix Variant is released on the 14th of August, where all good ebooks are sold. Or you can preorder now!

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Cover Reveal: The Phoenix Variant (The Fifth Column, #3) by Nathan M. Farrugia

Posted August 1, 2014 by Patrick Lenton

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Sophia: former black operative, current enemy of the state.

Moments before a catastrophic hurricane hits New York City, a terrorist attack vaporizes a museum and a large chunk of the Upper West Side. Almost caught in the explosion, Sophia gives chase to a suspicious figure running from the blast zone.

Amid the chaos, Sophia recovers a rare meteorite from a black operative and is quickly ensnared in a hunt between clashing factions of a labyrinthine covert government known as the Fifth Column.

The meteorite contains traces of the ancient Phoenix virus. The effects of the virus are unknown to Sophia, but she soon discovers it is more powerful than she dared imagine – and that the Fifth Column will stop at nothing to get it.

Unarmed and outnumbered, Sophia and her allies hurtle towards a confrontation that will determine not only their fate but that of all humanity.

The PHOENIX VARIANT goes on sale August 14th where all good ebooks are sold. You can also preorder!

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Cover Reveal: The Foundation by Steve P.Vincent

Posted by Patrick Lenton

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He who holds the pen holds the power.

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When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.

Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation’s deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.

Enter Jack’s boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation’s plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack’s the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it’s too late.

As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.

The Foundation goes on sale on the 11th of September 2014 where all good ebooks are sold. Or you can preorder it now!

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Monsters vs. Men

Posted June 19, 2014 by Stephen Jones

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So excited am I by the new Greig Beck Arcadian book I’ve combed through my e-library and have created the ultimate Monster and Men showdown list. Behold, humanity, your champions!

All heroes must face the ultimate monster at the end of the story and defeat it, or else their Hero Card (which gets you 10% off at Rebel Sport) gets revoked and you have to go back to the farm you grew up on.

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Nope, no adventure for you

So, the following are, in my opinion, the best of the best of literary face-off between monsters and men. I’ll be looking at their strengths and weaknesses and deciding if the author got it write (Hah! Deliberate!) All the arguments stem from the original source material, not from the sequels, re-makes, adaptations etc.

Also, spoilers. Duh.

Round 1

Polyphemus vs. Odysseus from The Odyssey

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Polyphemus

Polyphemus

Strengths

  • Son of Poseidon
  • Giant
  • Musician

Weaknesses

  • Depth perception and, after the face off, any perception
  • Totes gullible
  • Eats his guests

Odysseus

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Strengths

  • Great-Grandson of Hermes
  • Cunning
  • Smart

Weaknesses

  • Having the last word
  • Asking for directions
  • Lots of murdering

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Odysseus loses some hero points for eye-gouging with a fire sharpened stick, but Polyphemus did start it by eating his guests and in Greece eating one’s guests is a greater faux-par then blinding so I’m saying Homer got this one right. If Odysseus had just kept his big mouth shut then the rest of his journey would have been much quicker but he wouldn’t have had all that sweet Circe lovin’ so…swings and roundabouts.

 

Round 2

Cerberus vs. Hercules from The Twelve Trials of Hercules

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Cerberus

Cerberus

Strengths

  • Three heads, mane of snakes and lions paws
  • Guardian of the Underworld gates
  • Giant freaking three headed dog

Weaknesses

  • Action by committee – never a great start
  • Not a fantastic guardian of the Underworld gates, not so much gates as revolving door
  • At the end of the day…still just a dog.

Hercules

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Strengths

  • Son of Zeus, so…physically, lots
  • Smart (ish)
  • Looks great in lion-skin which not everyone can pull off

Weaknesses

  • Has an eternal enemy in Hera, Queen of the Gods
  • Easily succumbs to madness (sent by Hera, Queen of the Gods)
  • Kills readily and with divine ease (like, for example, Hera – Queen of the Gods).

Cerberus was the 12th labour of Hercules to atone for the slaying of his wife and kids. He faces off with Cerberus without any weapons and bests him, taking him live before King Eurysteus.

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Hercules then became immortal and was accepted to Mount Olympus. I’m guessing he left the giant three-headed monster dog for the king to deal with? The literature isn’t really clear but Eurysteus had been a bit of a dick to Hercules so he totes had that coming.

 

Round 3

Dracula vs. Van Helsing from Dracula

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Dracula

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Strengths

  • Control over weak minds
  • General super-strength
  • Sexiness, both having and inspiring it

Weaknesses

  • Things that cleanse e.g. fire, sunlight etc.  (Ajax?)
  • Predictable actions- tends to turn the female best friend of the protagonists fiancée
  • Starring in terrible films (looking at you, Dracula 3000)

Van Helsing

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Strengths

  • Knowledge of Dracula’s weaknesses and predictability
  • Passes this knowledge on through generations/lives a really long time
  • Can fashion a cruciform out of anything

Weaknesses

  • Being human (compared to Dracula)
  • Taking too long to connect any, and all, dots pointing to the fact that his constant and almost eternal arch-enemy is back, again, and getting his vampiric vengeance on
  • Co-starring in terrible films (still eyeballing you, Dracula 3000)

Dracula and Van Helsing have been facing off through the centuries ever since Van Helsing was summoned to help identify the mysterious illness Miss Nina was succumbing to (hint: it’s vampire). Since then it’s been Van Helsing winning.

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EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Which I personally disagree with. With Dracula’s specific skills (hint: VAMPIRE) he should be kicking arse and taking names, and as the name is always Van Helsing he’s all outta names. I’m available to write Dracula 4000, by the way.

 

Round 4

Creation vs. Dr. Frankenstein from Frankenstein

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Creation

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Strengths

  • Dedicated and focused to the task at hand
  • Has read and can recite passages from Milton’s Paradise Lost
  • Undead/not quite alive/somewhere in between?

Weaknesses

  • Being ugly (not a personal judgment, read the book. It’s seen as his greatest flaw.)
  • Constant recitation of Milton’s Paradise Lost (it’s pretentious and gets kinda annoying)
  • Being a virgin

Dr. Frankenstein

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Strengths

  • Being a doctor, because an education is important. Stay in school
  • Can mix chemistry and alchemy
  • Creation of life, itself!

Weaknesses

  • Poor decision making skills
  • Changing his mind quickly (serious flip-flopping)
  • Dying of pneumonia

Classic eye-for-an-eye behaviour from the central characters leaves everyone without a mate. The doctor decides not to let his creation have a wife to run away to Brazil with and so, in an understandable fit of anger, the creation turns around and doesn’t murder Frankenstein but Frankenstein’s new wife Elizabeth.

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Because why not? Then the doctor hunts down his creation, and his creation is hunting down the doctor and it all ends in the frozen north with them both dying virgins.

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There is a lesson in there for everyone.

 

Round 5

Moby Dick vs. Capt Ahab from Moby Dick

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Moby Dick

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Strengths

  • Big white whale, so lots of privilege in modern society
  • Big, whale
  • Just a huge freaking white whale really

Weaknesses

  • None, due to being just a big white whale.

Capt. Ahab

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Strengths

  • Finding big white whales
  • Knowing the names of his crew
  • Determination

Weaknesses

  • Determination, above and beyond the call of duty
  • Needing vengeance
  • Losing, really badly

Yeah, Ahab loses. He loses everything. For more information feel free to watch Star Trek: First Contact which is my favourite, therefore THE BEST, adaptation of Moby Dick. Except the ending, which is different. You know what? Read the book.

 

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An ancient evil awakens….GORGON by Greig Beck, available now where all good ebooks are sold

 

 

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GORGON by Greig Beck – Excerpt

Posted June 11, 2014 by Mark

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City of Uşak, interior Aegean region, Turkey

The Uşak rug bazaar was one of the largest in the country, with buyers coming from neighboring provinces to select the best, which they would sell internationally at greatly inflated prices. Before dawn, hundreds of sellers crossed the Lydian Cilandiras Bridge over the Banaz Stream, to compete for space in the bazaar and for the buyers’ attention. It was still dark, but soon the sun would rise, and the cacophony of hawkers’ voices, haggling traders, and playing children would turn the park-like grassland into a riotous circus of sound and color.

Halim watched his mother and grandmother unroll a pair of enormous rugs, their best. Pressure was on all of them to sell their wares early and then be off home. There was death about, a grotesque illness sweeping the countryside. The whispers hinted that the army had collected the bodies of the afflicted, and whole families, whole towns had been wiped out. The newspapers had urged people to stay indoors. A djinn, his grandmother had whispered knowingly. Other old women had picked up the word, and made the sign of the evil eye over their faces, so the devil would not see them this day.

Halim’s mother held his shoulders tight and stared into his face as she laid down the law to him: he was to stay close to her or his grandmother. Halim hummed and drew on the ground with a stick, watching his mother smooth the rug’s edges, and then work with a fine pick to adjust any thread that dared to lift its head above its brothers. He knew why she paid the rug such fussy attention – it took many months to weave, dye, and then dry, but a single sale could deliver enough money to keep the family comfortable for the next half-year.

Bored, Halim said he was going to have to pee, and headed off to the tree line. Once out of sight, he changed course and instead made for the bridge. His mother would scold him if she knew, and his father would more than likely thrash him for disobeying her. But this time of year, snakes, frogs, salamanders, and all sorts of wonderful creatures came out to bask in the day’s warmth. If he could catch one, it would keep him amused for the entire day.

He leaned over the side of the bridge, and waved at his dark reflection. He had the stream to himself, save for several large dragonflies, about a thousand chirruping crickets, and a few small birds warbling in the trees hanging over the water. There was a chill on the back of his neck – cold, but not unpleasant. Halim had collected a handful of stones, and now he dropped them one at a time into the cool swirling water, causing a few minnows to dart out of the reed banks to investigate, before vanishing in flashes of silver and green. He hummed tunelessly in the pre-dawn. He knew if they didn’t make a sale early, they would be there all day and long into the warm evening, before grandfather came with the truck to carry the three of them back home for a late supper. Until then, it was dry flatbread with pickle jam – luckily, he liked pickle jam.

As he watched the water, chin on his hand, the air misted and became cooler – like smoke lazily drifting across the stream surface to dull its sparkle. He looked skyward, expecting to see clouds pulling across the sky – which would be a tragedy for his mother, and all the rug sellers. Three hundred and sixty-four days a year they prayed for rain, but on the day the rugs were unfurled in all their brilliant dyed glory, they prayed for it to be dry. Today there were no clouds, just the same thin mist drifting in from the east. He squinted; it seemed thickest down the road, as if his grandfather’s truck was backing up, blowing exhaust fumes. But there was no truck, no noise, and even the birds and crickets had grown quiet.

Halim angled his head, his face creasing as he concentrated. In the center of the rolling mist, something was taking form, rising up, solidifying, a dark center appearing as if the cloud was denser at its core. The shape was tall, moving toward him, but gliding rather than walking. He grimaced, rooted to the spot. Something about the dark mass instilled dread in the pit of his stomach.

‘Hello?’ His voice was weak, betraying his nervousness. Speak like a man, his father would have said. Halim regretted wandering away from his mother and grandmother. He had the urge to turn and flee, and not stop until he was hugging his mother. But he couldn’t move.

The mist began to clear, and just as the form became a figure, something warned him to look away. He spun, crushed his eyes shut, and placed his hands over his face. He leaned far out over the bridge, holding his breath while he waited. He could feel it now, freezing cold on his back, every hair on his body standing erect, his skin prickly with goose bumps. There was no sound; it was like he had stuffed cotton in his ears, the air muffled and silent around him.

He couldn’t take it any longer and opened his eyes, looking down into the stream. He saw himself in the water, and looming up behind him, something so monstrous, so horrible and terrifying, that he immediately voided his bladder into his trousers. He felt bile in his throat and an explosion of pain behind his eyes. The warmth down his legs unlocked his stricken throat and he found his voice, screaming so long and loud he thought he would never stop.

He did, when consciousness left him.

When he awoke, his head hurt, and there was a needle-like pain behind both eyes. His senses slowly returned – he felt the sun hot on his face; he heard the stream slipping by underneath the bridge, crickets singing, dragonflies zooming about, their iridescent wings and green eyes like tiny jewels.

Halim had never owned a wristwatch, but the sun was well above the horizon – hours must have passed. His mother would skin him alive. He got to his feet, staggered a few steps, then began to run, back along the path, through the trees and into the bazaar. But instead of the swirling dust, riot of color, and noise of hundreds of people haggling, fighting or laughing, there was nothing. A silence so total, he had to rub his ear to make sure he hadn’t been struck deaf.

‘Mama? Nana?’

People everywhere, but all so still. Some were lying down, others were kneeling or sitting, many with hands thrown up trying to shield their faces. Halim saw that all were a ghastly white, even their eyes were the bleached blankness of dry sand.

He found the small square of ground marked out by the beautiful reds and blues of the rug dyes his family preferred. Mama was there, sitting crosslegged, one arm out, the other hand over her face. Nana was kneeling, tiny as always, her hand in front of her face, warding off the evil eye. It hadn’t worked.

‘Mama?’ He touched her – she was as hard as stone.

He nudged his grandmother, and she toppled over, her body remaining in its pose, stiff and unbending.

Halim crouched next to his mother and edged in under her outstretched arm. ‘I’m sorry, Mama. I fell asleep. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’

His head ached terribly as he leaned against her, feeling the hardness under her clothes. The familiar feel and smell of her, of her warmth, perfume, and love, was gone. A tear rolled from his cheek, to splash onto her leg. It dried quickly on the stone.

 

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GORGON is available now where all good ebooks are sold

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Cover Reveal: The Spartan by Charles Purcell

Posted April 9, 2014 by Patrick Lenton

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Chinese extremists want to destroy America—and now they’ve got the means to do it.

When a rogue Chinese general threatens to unleash a biological Armageddon across the U.S., there’s only one man who can stop him: the Spartan. Tier One’s toughest soldier has just seven days to prevent China’s toughest special forces soldiers from detonating their plague canisters across the U.S., poisoning millions and sending the world teetering towards war.

By the Spartan’s side is Teresa Vasquez—a former Juarez policewoman whose family was murdered by the cartels. Vasquez is now the owner of the world’s first invisibility suit, after joining forces with the formidable Colonel Garin, Homeland Security’s top troubleshooter and the Spartan’s mentor.

Besides the terrorists, standing in the Spartan’s way is the mafia, the Mexican cartels, the triads, U.S. special forces … and one vengeful U.S. General who never forgot the recruit who refused to salute his superior.

The race is on for the Spartan to stop the canister conspiracy and save the world before the bombs go off on the 4th of July … or before his enemies can kill him.

An exciting new thriller in the tradition of Chris Allen and David Rollins – preorder The Spartan here. 

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The best fictional diseases. Wait, worst. The worst fictional diseases.

Posted March 19, 2014 by Mark

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Flu season is almost here so I thought it would be a good time to look at some horrible diseases from fiction. Most of these will get you a lot more than three days off work…

 

TheStand

Captain Trips (The Stand by Stephen King)

A highly contagious, constantly mutating flu-like virus that is fatal in 99.4% of cases. Starts as a cough and ends in brutal death. Originally developed as a weapon.

 

phage-60

The Phage (Star Trek: Voyager)

A disease that kills off organs and other body parts, the only effective treatment is replacement of the infected organs.

 

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Greyscale (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin)

A flesh-based disease that leaves its victims disfigured but can lead to madness and/or death.

 

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Bone-itis (Futurama)

“My only regret…is that I have…bone-itis!” It’s a horrific disease that, if left untreated, kills you by snapping every bone in your body.

 

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Solanum Virus (World War Z by Max Brooks)

A virus that attacks the human brain, killing the host and then reanimating them as a flesh-eating zombie.

 

Cell_by_Stephen_King

The Pulse (Cell by Stephen King)

Another brain-attacking virus, this one also turns the host into a flesh-eating zombie. But this one is spread by a mobile phone signal. Most phone companies would charge extra for that.

 

28-days-later

Rage (28 Days Later)

The rage virus is highly contagious and develops in seconds, turning the victim into a mindless rage machine, driven to violence and nothing more.

 

Richard Matheson_1954_I Am Legend

Vampirus (I Am Legend by Richard Matheson)

This diseases causes light-sensitivity, tooth growth, and compels its victims to drink blood and appear in bad Will Smith movies.

 

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Meningoencephalitis Virus One (Contagion)

A flu-like virus that starts as a severe cough and ends with brain haemorrhage. This movie’s tag line should have been, ‘Nothing spreads like fear. Except meningoencephalitis virus one.’

 

 

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Dave’s Syndrome (Black Books)

If a sufferer of Dave’s Syndrome is exposed to a temperature over 88°F, they’ll go on a Hulk-like rampage, usually involving a loincloth of some sort. Heat-be-gone-booties are not good at preventing an episode.

 

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Irumodic Syndrome (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

A neurological condition that degrades the synaptic pathways leading to memory loss and confusion.

 

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Uromysitisis Poisoning (Seinfeld)

A potentially fatal illness that’s caused when the victim fails to relieve themselves.

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Excerpt: Kill Zone by Harry Ledowsky

Posted March 13, 2014 by Mark

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A nuclear device the size of a briefcase has been developed in Pakistan. The scientist  responsible has disappeared with it. The CIA believes the target is on US soil.
When the disappearance of the miniaturized nuclear weapon is uncovered a covert division of the CIA sends Ryan Nash, a major in the 82nd Airborne, to Pakistan. His mission is simple: assassinate the rogue physicist before the drop-off to a fundamentalist Islamic cleric can occur in the North-West Frontier Province.
But the mission is not as simple as it seems.
The CIA’s budget is being slashed in the wake of the disastrous war in Iraq, and the covert division is being shut down. The deputy director of the CIA, Conrad Lawrence, wants to stop the mission, and is willing to go to any lengths to achieve maximum deniability.
Will the team be able to stop the weapon getting to the United States? How far is Lawrence willing to go to stop the mission? Is the target really what it seems? Nash and his team must race against the clock to stop the terrorists and uncover the corruption at the heart of the CIA in this high-voltage military thriller…

 

“ETA three minutes,” said the Blackhawk pilot through the microphone.

All eleven men from the 82nd Airborne Division began to systematically check their gear, weaponry, and ammunition. The M4 carbines, with their attached M203 grenade launchers, were readied. The night-vision goggles attached to their helmets were pushed out of the way and their flak jackets, designed to protect them from shrapnel and light arms fire, adjusted and pulled tight. It was a ritual they’d performed dozens of times before. Rations wouldn’t be needed this time; it was going to be a short operation.

Major Ryan Nash checked the lipstick camera attached to his Kevlar helmet. This would send live pictures of the mission via satellite to their command post in Jalalabad.

He and his men were on their way to recover the last of the five Navy SEALs killed in Kunar. The bodies of the other four had been recovered before the initial rescue mission had to be aborted. Earlier a helicopter that was attempting to recover the body came under heavy Taliban fire from a strongly fortified cave high above the dried riverbed, where the body of this SEAL still lay, and was forced to abandon the rescue. Nash was determined that this wasn’t going to happen again.

The fallen SEAL was coming home.

The Blackhawk roared just ten feet above the barren terrain as it raced toward their target. Banking to starboard, it dropped to just above the sandy surface of the riverbed’s winding path and charged along it. Suddenly the Blackhawk turned a bend in the river and came to a hover, hanging in space like a huge insect. From its doorway an M60 air-cooled fifty-caliber machine gun exploded angrily to life.

One of the aircrew rained five hundred and fifty shots per minute of hot lead onto the granite clifftop and the heavily fortified cave only three hundred meters away. The empty cartridge cases and links spewed into the canvas ejection-control bag to stop them being flung into the path of the rotor blades or turbine-engine intake.

As the Taliban ran for cover near the cave’s mouth, pieces of rock, shrapnel, and dirt exploded like bombs all around them.

Just below the Blackhawk and several meters ahead of it the body of the Navy SEAL could be seen wedged between some boulders on the edge of the riverbank. Clouds of dust, as fine as talcum powder, swirled about as the helicopter dropped from the sky and bounced on the uneven terrain on the edge of the riverbed. The doors rumbled open.

“Go! Go! Go!” Nash screamed as he leaped from the doorway, followed by seven of his men. As they clambered across the rocks, the fine dust and sand blew over them, covering them in a deathly red mask.

“Rodriguez! Johnson! Recover the body,” Nash barked.

The two men hurried toward the fallen SEAL.

Suddenly the persistent and unique sound of AK-47s cut through the air, biting into the earth and ricocheting off the rocks around them, followed by the unyielding fire from a heavy machine gun.

The Blackhawk leaped back into the sky to avoid the relentless fire from the mouth of the cave, retreating a few hundred meters further and firing brutally toward the cave and its militia.

“Get some cover, over there!” roared Nash as he and the rest of his men raced over a landscape that was totally devoid of grass, trees, or vegetation of any kind. The rocks and pebbles, as hard as iron and as sharp as razors, cut into their leather boots and rolled beneath their feet as they scrambled for cover.

It was as if they had landed on the surface of the moon.

To his right he could see that Rodriguez and Johnson had reached the SEAL and were lifting him into the green rubberized body bag. Even over the din of the fight and the helicopter noise he imagined he could hear the sound of the zipper closing.

Raising his binoculars, Nash looked at the cliff face and studied the cave at the top. At its entrance, protected by the hedge of boulders, a band of five or six Taliban was firing down on them. Given that the SEAL commander had reported around twenty, the rest must have fled or were hiding deeper in the cave somewhere, he thought. Four of the Taliban had established a defensive position at the cave’s mouth and were enthusiastically firing the heavy machine gun.

“Kelly!” he called.

“Yes, sir.”

“Take them out!”

Kelly nodded to Jacobs and Bennett. They armed the M203 grenade launchers attached to their carbines and fired. The rocket-propelled grenades exploded in front of the cave between its mouth and the gun emplacement. Two bodies flew high into the air like bolts of cloth and dropped out of sight.

They waited for some returning fire. There wasn’t any.

Pausing to assess the situation, Nash peered through his binoculars and then signaled his men to carefully and silently make their way up the stone path that snaked up the mountain. With their weapons readied, they edged in single file along the rocky and rough track that climbed toward the cave’s entrance.

Arriving at the cave’s mouth, they found three Taliban fighters dead: one slumped over the machine-gun position; the other two bent and twisted in the dust nearby.

“Bennett, Kelly, come with me,” said Nash as he raised his Beretta M9 automatic and made his way into the cave. Kelly followed with his favored weapon, a flamethrower, which was held firmly out in front of him.

Standing in the cave’s entrance, Nash was surprised at how large the inside was. A small oil lamp barely lit the interior, and seven bedrolls were on the floor. A satellite phone was sitting on a box of ammunition next to an assortment of papers and maps.

Nash signaled silently with his fingers. Bennett and Kelly moved to his left. The three of them crept further into the bowels of the cave complex, which split into two passages and disappeared into total blackness.

The remainder of Nash’s team took up defensive positions just inside the cave’s mouth, watching the terrain below for any sign that the Taliban or their reinforcements were returning.

As Nash, Bennett and Kelly edged their way silently down the main tunnel, a volley of nine-millimeter bullets flew out of the darkness and tore into Kelly. Instinctively he squeezed the trigger of his flamethrower. A dripping liquid flame, some twenty meters long, shot from its mouth and raced into the depths of the cave, setting everything in its path alight. As Kelly fell to the cave floor, a barrage of sickening screams came from the direction of the flames.

Crashing through the wall of fire, two Taliban, their clothes ablaze, raced toward them. Thrashing their arms about wildly, they were trying to beat out the flames that were consuming them.

Nash aimed and fired two shots. Both bullets hit the first of the Taliban squarely in the head, and it exploded like a ripe melon. Bennett fired his M4 carbine and the second Taliban crashed to the cave floor. The screaming stopped as the stench of burning flesh and rancid smoke began to fill the cave.

Nash leaned over Kelly. The first bullet hadn’t penetrated his flak jacket but the second had caught him in the side of the neck, where his carotid artery was vigorously pumping the life from him.

“Did I get him?” Kelly asked.

“You sure did—barbecued him good,” Nash replied.

Kelly smiled and then said, “I’m really cold, sir.”

“You’ll be fine,” said Nash, knowing full well that he wouldn’t be. “Get the medic in here!” he called to Bennett, who rushed from the cave toward the rest of the men.

Cradling Kelly in his arms and with his thumb pressed hard against the artery in his neck, Ryan Nash watched another of his men die.

Suddenly, through the smoke, Nash thought he heard a sound. He laid Kelly’s head gently onto the cave floor. Covered in blood and moving to his right, he stepped through the smoke and came face to face with another Taliban fighter. This one was armed with a knife.

Nash looked deep into the man’s black eyes. “A knife …?” he asked.

The Taliban didn’t utter a word. He simply smirked through a shaggy black beard and broken yellow teeth.

“Maybe some other time,” said Nash as he raised his Beretta and pulled the trigger. It didn’t fire. It was jammed. He pulled the slide back to try to free the shell, but the Taliban lunged forward, slashing at Nash with his blade.

Nash leaped to one side, dropped the Beretta onto the cave floor and pulled his Special Forces dagger from its sheath. With a twenty-two-centimeter blade of hardened blue steel it was sharp enough to shave with.

As his enemy lunged again, knife held high, Nash leaped to his right and grabbed the Taliban around the head and shoulders. The Taliban’s arm carrying the knife was now pointing straight up into the air and was pinned hard against the side of his head. Nash lifted him above the ground. The Taliban’s feet flayed about desperately. He was much smaller and lighter than Nash had expected.

“This is for Kelly,” he whispered as he slit the man’s throat to the spinal column and dropped him to the ground.

The blood gushed from his neck, a strange gurgling sound filling the silence of the cave as his life drained from him and raced across the rocky dirt floor.

Nash stepped back through the smoke and into the cave’s entrance, where the medic was crouched desperately over Kelly. Nash looked down and the medic simply shook his head. In the corner Bennett was busily collecting the papers and maps that had been left beside the bedrolls and satellite phone.

Bennett stopped and stared intently at the piece of paper in his hand. “Major, you’d better look at this.”

Kill Zone by Harry Ledowsky is available for $5.99 where all good ebooks are sold. Click here to purchase from your preferred ebook retailer

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Cover Reveal: GORGON by Greig Beck: Alex Hunter Returns

Posted March 11, 2014 by Mark

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Bestselling author Greig Beck (This Green Hell, Black Mountain) is back, and so is Alex Hunter, the Arcadian.

An ancient evil awakens…

Alex Hunter has been found – sullen, alone, leaving a path of destruction as he wanders across America. Only the foolish get in the way of the drifter wandering the streets late at night.

Across the world, something has been released by a treasure hunter in a hidden chamber of the Basilica Cisterns in Istanbul. Something hidden there by Emperor Constantine himself, and deemed by him too horrifying and dangerous to ever be set free. It now stalks the land, leaving its victims turned to stone, and is headed on a collision course with a NATO base. The Americans can’t let it get there, but can’t be seen to intervene. There is only one option – send in the HAWCs.

But Alex and the HAWCs are not the only ones seeking out the strange being – Uli Borshov, Borshov the Beast, who has a score to settle with the Arcadian moves to intercept him, setting up a deadly collision of epic proportions where only one can survive. Join Alex Hunter as he learns to trust his former commander and colleagues again as the HAWCs challenge an age-old being straight from myth and legend.

GORGON will be available worldwide on 10 June 2014, where all good ebooks are sold. Pre-order now, and check out Greig’s other bestselling titles from Momentum:

 

 

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The First Bird 

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Black Mountain: An Alex Hunter Novel

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This Green Hell: An Alex Hunter Novel

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Arcadian Genesis: An Alex Hunter Novella

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Return of the Ancients: The Valkeryn Chronicles Book 1

 

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Cover Reveals: TROLL MOUNTAIN by Matthew Reilly

Posted March 5, 2014 by Mark

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On April 8, the adventure begins as worldwide bestselling author Matthew Reilly takes you on his wildest adventure yet!

A dauntless young hero.

An army of brutal monsters.

An impossible quest.

Journey to the mountain …

In an isolated valley, a small tribe of humans is dying from a terrible illness.

There are rumors, however, that the trolls of Troll Mountain, the valley’s fearsome overlords, have found a cure for the illness: a fabulous elixir.

When his sister is struck down by the disease and his tribal leaders refuse to help him, an intrepid youth named Raf decides to defy his tribe and do the unthinkable: he will journey alone to Troll Mountain and steal the elixir from the dreaded trolls.

But to get to Troll Mountain, Raf will have to pass through dangerous swamps and haunting forests filled with wolves, hobgoblins and, worst of all, the ever-present danger of rogue trolls …

The journey to the mountain has begun.

Troll Mountain is being released exclusively as an ebook serial through April…dates and covers: 

 

 

TROLL MOUNTAIN: EPISODE I

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8 April 2014

 

 

TROLL MOUNTAIN: EPISODE II

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15 April 2014

 

 

TROLL MOUNTAIN: EPISODE III

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22 April 2014

 

 

TROLL MOUNTAIN: OMNIBUS EDITION

29 April 2014

 

 

Available where all good ebooks are sold at retailers worldwide

 

 

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Where do you get your great ideas? A brief chat with JR Carroll

Posted February 27, 2014 by Mark

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1. What is your daily writing routine?

In the past I used to write about 6 hours a day, beginning mid-morning. But now … a couple of hours, maybe 11 to 12 and then another hour during the afternoon. Much of my writing time is fragmented, done whenever it suits me or when I think of something that absolutely must be written at that time. I spend a lot more time actually thinking about the book – what happens next, where this or that character is going, how it’s going to end – than I used to. Thinking up plots doesn’t get any easier, I find.

2. Name some books or authors that have influenced you

Authors who have influenced me over the years are many – Graham Greene, who got me interested in fiction, Hemingway, for his taut, masculine style and the stoicism of his protagonists, Elmore Leonard ( who himself owed a debt to Hemingway, without whom, in his opinion, there would be no crime fiction as we now know it), Raymond Chandler, because of his literary qualities and his perfection of the suffering, lone wolf detective (we all have damaged cops these days; how much of that is owed to Chandler?), Philip Kerr, who carries on that noble tradition with Bernie Gunther, Michael Dibdin for the same reason and also because of the Venice setting, Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, for his brutal style and evocation of place and time, Michael Connelly (who comes through that ‘Great Tradition’ of modern American crime fiction), Ruth Rendell, for her psychological insights into the twisted mind … And ditto for Colin Wilson. The list goes on. I suppose I have been influenced by every author I’ve encountered in one way or another.

3. Why should people read 8 Hours to Die?

I would hope people would read 8 Hours to Die to be transported into a truly frightening world, if only for a few hours, to experience vicariously blind terror at the hands of vicious desperadoes in that scariest of scenarios – the home invasion. One never knows how one would fare in such a situation. whether one would be heroic or not … Character is the core of a crime novel, and in this one I’ve pushed that to extremes, to see what human beings are capable of under great duress. The most unexpected things can happen, good and bad. I’ve always loved the idea of the ‘siege thriller’, ever since seeing Peckinpah’s horrific and controversial film ‘Straw Dogs’ back in the early seventies.

4. What do you hope readers take from your book?

Pretty much as above. I would also hope the reader is kept on a knife’s edge at the narrative level, trying to figure out what is happening and how it’s all going to pan out. And then, when it’s over, to experience nightmares, to jump slightly when the doorbell rings at night … So I would like the reader to carry this sense of fear, and dread, a knot in the stomach, that such things can and do happen to just about anyone.

5. What are you currently reading?

Since I’m living in Venice at present, my reading is determined by what’s on the bookshelf here, in our apartment. I have read and enjoyed Michael Connelly’s ‘The Gods of Guilt’, Philip Kerr’s ‘A Philosophical Investigation’ (1992, before the Bernie Gunther series), Robert Harris’s acclaimed Nazi thriller ‘Fatherland’ and one of Ian Rankin’s, ‘Black and Blue’.

6. Where do you get your ideas?

I get my ideas from everywhere I can. Real crime is a constant source of material. I’m particularly fond of long-unsolved murders, police corruption, disgraced politicians and businessmen, crime families and the culture of the outsider they instill in their young, to ensure that the cycle of criminality is perpetuated, organised blue-collar crime, terrorists, bikie gangs, the lot … I find that with each new idea I decide to base a book on, just a single incident perhaps, I have to create a new set of characters and a new setting, so I’ve never been able to settle into the ‘serial character’ pattern. That makes life more difficult, but also more interesting as there are so many bizarre and fascinating crimes out there waiting for someone to turn them into fiction.

8 Hours to Die is available now where all good ebooks are sold. Click here to find it at your preferred 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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Nine reasons to be excited about Jurassic World

Posted by Mark

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The long-awaited fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park franchise is about to start filming. If you’re anything like me, this fills you with a joy so profound you can’t really describe it. Here are a few reasons you should be getting excited.

1. It’s been a really long time since there was a good dinosaur movie

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21 years to be exact…

 

2. Chris Pratt is the lead actor

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I’d love to see him do the role as Andy from Parks and Recreation.

 

3. It will form part of the 2015 orgy of nostalgia

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Between this and Star Wars Episode 7, we’re all going to feel like 12 year olds with no friends again!

 

4. The director is Colin Trevorrow

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Who made the charming time travel film Safety Not Guaranteed, with another Parks & Rec star, Aubrey Plaza.

 

5. It’s not the ‘mutated dinosaurs being trained for the military’ storyline that was talked about a few years back

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While the exact details of the story aren’t known, it’s definitely not that.

 

6. It promises to show the park as a successful, functioning theme park

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You were always curious as to what the park could have been had it succeeded and now you’ll know!

 

7. It’s a sequel, not a reboot

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Although the suits at Universal would have been tempted to go for a complete do-over, this way there’s still a chance that Jeff Goldblum or Sam Neill could turn up.

 

8. The screenplay is based on a script by the writing duo behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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Now there was a reboot that offered a fresh, inventive take on an established franchise.

 

9. Velociraptors 

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Clever girl.

 

 

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In the mood for more dinosaurs? Greig Beck’s The First Bird is  Jurassic Park meets The Walking Dead and has just been nominated for an Aurealis Award for best horror novel! 

 

 

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Excerpt: Lethal Metal by Harry Ledowsky

Posted February 25, 2014 by Mark

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After three children stumble on dumped radioactive waste in a Murmansk forest, one of them dies from radiation poisoning. 

Outraged by such a tragic waste of a child’s life, American doctor John Ross joins forces with a Typhoon class submarine captain (the father of one of the surviving children) and an undercover operative from the Russian Radiation Authority to hunt down those responsible.

This puts them on a collision course with a Russian Mafia boss and an Al-Qaeda agent determined to acquire nuclear material.

They find themselves entangled in a web of brutality, bribery and blackmail, where no one is who they seem and everyone is expendable …

 

ONE

‘Captain! Captain!’

Captain Andriev Alenkov was suddenly woken by frantic pounding on his cabin door. He flung it open and in front of him stood Vasili Masorin, the second officer, wearing a thermal wetsuit and dripping with water. The look on his face told Alenkov there was something seriously wrong.

‘What is it? What’s the problem?’

‘We’ve lost a man overboard …’ Before Masorin could continue, Alenkov had grabbed his jacket and begun to run through the control room. His six-foot frame raced up the step ladders to the bridge in the conning tower and into the black Arctic night.

Although it was early summer, the Barents Sea had a reputation for sudden and violent changes in weather conditions. A storm with forty-knot winds and a thirty-foot swell had arrived. The rain, mixed with swirling snow and ice, hit and stung his face. The lack of moonlight and low cloud cover meant that the darkness was absolute. He couldn’t imagine worse conditions for a sailor to be lost at sea.

Alenkov was instantly reminded of the last time the Russian Northern Fleet had lost someone overboard, just over a year ago.

Two sailors had been washed off the deck of a Delta-class nuclear submarine that had surfaced in stormy weather in the eastern part of the Barents Sea after experiencing technical problems. The crew was tracking two NATO submarines patrolling the area, when one of the outer hatches on the Russian submarine refused to close properly. As the submarine had submerged and begun to gain speed, the water rushing over the faulty hatch was so loud that the NATO submarines soon realized the Russians were tracking them. The captain of the Russian vessel decided to surface and send two of his officers topside to seal the hatch. A huge wave had washed both men overboard. One body was recovered that same day; the other was never found.

Now Alenkov clambered into the conning tower. Uri Chirnovich, the first officer, was directing the search and rescue operation like a traffic cop at a busy city intersection.

Lieutenant Uri Chirnovich, who was in his early thirties, was a replacement for the TK20’s regular first officer, who had suddenly been transferred to a training post in Sebastopol. Why, Alenkov wondered, had this ambitious individual not chosen a more interesting patrol, or even a higher paying administrative role back at Andreeva Bay? There was something about Chirnovich that didn’t sit comfortably. He was very efficient, well educated, well connected, but too willing to please. Thick set and five foot nine inches tall, with a dark complexion and short salt-and-pepper cropped hair, Chirnovich never questioned a thing. Alenkov had already decided that he couldn’t be trusted, even though he was now his first officer on board.

The largest submarine ever built, TK20, a Typhoon-class nuclear submarine, was the length of two football fields. It weighed eighteen-and-a-half thousand tons and had a maximum speed of twenty-five knots underwater. It carried twenty Makeyev solid fuel rockets, twenty-two torpedoes and a dozen Novator missiles. Each was armed with a nuclear warhead.

TK20 was an awesome example of naval firepower. Tonight she was lit up like a Christmas tree. All six of the port and starboard lights were on. The work lights amidships were ablaze, and two large spotlights mounted on the conning tower swept the sea, struggling to pierce the sheets of rain and spray being whipped up by the wind and waves. Six of the crew, attached to the deck by safety lines, were directing those in rubber boats that were skipping from wave to wave like flat stones bouncing across a lake. The Barents Sea waves broke into clouds of angry white swirling mist, which curled over and tumbled down the front of the wave.

The two men on board each boat were shouting into the blackness, fighting against the roar of the waves and the howling of the wind. They called desperately to the missing crewman and strained to hear a word of response as their torches lit the waves, and saltwater and rain lashed at their faces. But there was nothing. The storm was now furious and well and truly upon them.

‘Number One, who have we lost?’ Captain Alenkov asked.

‘Illya Stepanovich, one of the reactor crew,’ replied his first officer.

‘When?’

‘About twenty minutes ago.’

‘Twenty minutes ago! What the hell took you so long to begin the search?’ Alenkov demanded, failing to hide the anger in his voice.

‘We were rotating the crews on deck as agreed, when suddenly the weather began to close in.’

‘So …’ Alenkov was becoming impatient.

‘I decided we’d be better off continuing submerged to get out of the weather. After we dived we started the first roll call …’

Roll calls were standard procedure after crews have been on deck and again after a dive had begun, designed to avoid the very accident that had just occurred.

Chirnovich continued, ‘When I called the roll the first time Stepanovich didn’t reply, so I called his name again; when he didn’t reply a second time, we conducted a full search of the ship. We didn’t find him, so we surfaced and began the search.’

‘Why did you call the roll? Isn’t that Kuroyedov’s responsibility?’

Stanislav Kuroyedov was the petty officer on watch.

‘He was in the head, so I did it.’

Alenkov glared at Chirnovich, and then lifted his binoculars to scan the wild water, hoping to see something, anything. He then looked at his watch. Stepanovich, if he had been left on deck, would now have been in the water for close to thirty-five minutes. The heavy thermal jacket, pants and boots he was wearing would rapidly fill with water and weigh the best part of eighty to ninety pounds. That extra weight, and a water temperature of somewhere between thirty-two and thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit, meant that if he hadn’t been dragged under by his water-laden clothes, he would certainly have been claimed by the freezing waters of the Barents Sea in about twelve minutes.

Suddenly a thirty-foot wave broke over the bow of the TK20. White water crashed onto the port side and grabbed two men on deck, flinging them into the sea. Their screams, and the shouts of desperation from those still on deck, cut through the roar of the storm.

‘Grab the lines! Grab the lines!’ called the chief petty officer, who was on the deck directing the rescue.

Alenkov watched as TK20 dipped in the heavy seas and rolled frighteningly when another wave smashed over the bow. The remainder of the crew members were slipping and sliding over the deck as they grabbed for the safety lines of their desperate shipmates, finally managing to drag the ashen-faced and spluttering men out of the blackness and back onto the heaving deck.

Alenkov turned to Chirnovich. ‘We can’t risk any more men in this weather. If he’s out there somewhere, he’s gone now. Bring them back in and do another thorough search of the boat. Let’s hope we find him somewhere on board.’

Chirnovich spoke. ‘Would you like me to stay on the bridge, sir?’

Alenkov thought for a moment. There was nothing more he could do, and although they would have to return to base, he still needed to decode the remaining orders for this patrol.

‘Yes, I’ll be in my quarters.’

Alenkov disappeared down the hatch into the control room and headed to his cabin.

His suspicions began to grow. The whole incident was riddled with questions. Why wasn’t Chirnovich the last to leave the conning tower? It was the watch commander’s responsibility to make sure no one was still on deck. Reaching his cabin, Alenkov stepped inside and took a small towel from the back of the door to dry his hair and face.

He had short brown hair, steel blue eyes and was an honors graduate from the largest of the submarine schools, the USSR’s distinguished Sebastopol Naval Academy in the Ukraine. His training over, Northern Fleet Command had offered him a prestigious teaching position at the Sosnovy Bor training center. Alenkov, however, wanted to be at sea.

At thirty-two, he became the youngest captain of a Typhoon-class nuclear submarine. Admiral Gennady Chirkov had taken a fatherly interest in him and his career ever since he joined the naval college. Chirkov was Chief of Staff of the Northern Fleet at Andreena Bay, the largest submarine base in the USSR. Alenkov’s rapid rise through the ranks was in no small part due to his influence and support.

Today, the Russian Northern Fleet was in a state of decay, financially run down and without the resources to carry out more than the most basic of routine maintenance. Demoralized and lacking in funding, it had turned its heroes into workhorses. One of Alenkov’s colleagues, the captain of a Victor III-Class submarine, had recently been ordered to transport potatoes and fruit from the Kola Peninsula in Russia to the Yamal Peninsula on the northern coast of Siberia. Missiles and torpedoes were removed to increase the space for the potatoes.

TK20 normally carried a crew of one hundred and seventy-five officers and men, but budget cutbacks and the failure to pay many of the enlisted men for months on end meant that they were sailing with just one hundred and twenty-two. The rest had simply not bothered to return from shore leave.

Many officers had resigned their commissions; sailors had just deserted to join the growing ranks of black marketeers and smugglers, the growth professions of the day in Russia. Submariners, once the elite of the Soviet Navy, were now reduced by poor pay and conditions to being mere ‘sailors’. It was a navy that bore no resemblance to the one Alenkov had joined.

Since leaving their base at Andreeva Bay, in Murmansk, on Russia’s most northern coast, Alenkov and his crew had been at sea just sixteen hours. This six-week patrol off the frigid waters of the Norwegian and Russian coasts was now effectively over.

Alenkov looked around his cabin. It was large by submarine standards. There was a small bathroom, a luxury reserved for the captain alone. A single bunk bed ran from there to the bulkhead, against which stood one chair. Opposite the bed, on the right, was the captain’s desk, and under the desk, a small safe. Above the desk was a photo of his wife, Nadia, and son, Valentin. Nadia had the softest green eyes and a smile that always made him feel warm inside. Valentin had that cheeky grin of all nine year olds, with a missing front tooth. Alenkov stared down at his desk. Papers, charts and correspondence were liberally scattered over it. It looked untidy, but he knew what and where every single piece of paper was.

What a nightmare this first day at sea had become.

He hung the towel back on the hook and returned to his desk. There were regular dispatches and reports from Northern Fleet Command and all except one had been decoded. That envelope was clearly marked ‘FOR THE EYES OF CAPTAIN ANDRIEV ALENKOV NUCLEAR SUBMARINE TK20 ONLY’.

Alenkov took the longish brown envelope and stared at it for a second. As he leaned down to reach the safe beneath his desk, the chain around his neck swung forward. On it were two keys. One had a blue tag and the other a red. The red-tagged key activated the nuclear weapons system on board. The blue key was for his safe. He took the chain off his neck and placed the blue key in the safe’s keyhole. After one full turn the small door swung open. He reached inside, pushed his navy-issue nine-millimeter Makarov pistol to one side, and grabbed the small, and somewhat dog-eared, beige-colored codebook.

Placing the book next to the message, he began to decode it:

‘You have on board Commander Nicholi Tirenko of the Gosatomnadzor.’

The Gosatomnadzor was the Russian State Radiation Authority. It had earned a fearsome reputation as the incorruptible enforcer of environmental radiation laws, and for prosecuting criminals involved in the theft and blackmarket sales of nuclear material—the sort of material that could be used in the stage-one production of nuclear weapons.

Alenkov read on:

‘He has been working undercover investigating the theft of seventeen pounds of weapons-grade Plutonium 239 from the nuclear waste storage facility at Andreeva Bay. This is enough plutonium to make a bomb equal in intensity to the one dropped by the United States on Nagasaki. He is listed on your crew manifest as Able Seaman Illya Stepanovich.’

‘Stepanovich! Shit!’ Alenkov couldn’t believe it as he stared at the name that leaped at him from the page.

‘He will identify himself to you only if he needs your assistance,’ it went on.

Too late now, he thought.

‘Destroy this message after reading.

Yours faithfully,

Admiral G.A. Chirkov

Chief of Staff, Northern Fleet Command’

Alenkov leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath as his mind raced. What a fuck-up! Why was an undercover operative from the Gosatomnadzor on his ship? Who was he tracking? And why had Alenkov not been told sooner that he was on board? Maybe he could’ve helped. One thing was certain: it was too late now.

Northern Fleet Command would give him hell over the events of the past two hours. They took a relatively pragmatic view of accidents at sea when they involved navy personnel. In fact, the navy even budgeted to lose a dozen or so men to accidents each year across the entire fleet. But when it involved an outside authority, and a very high-profile one like the Gosatomnadzor, it became very public and very messy. Someone would have to be sacrificed and, as the Captain of TK20, Alenkov expected it would be him.

He suddenly felt much older than his forty years.

A firm knock on his door snapped him out of wandering too far into self-pity.

‘Enter.’

Chirnovich, still wet from the storm, stepped into the cabin.

‘We’ve conducted a thorough search of the ship,’ Chirnovich began, ‘and I’m afraid Able Seaman Stepanovich is definitely not on board, sir.’

‘Very well, head back to base submerged. Surface twelve miles from Murmansk Harbor. I want a full report on this incident before we dock at Andreeva Bay. Get onto it, Chirnovich, and leave nothing out. Is that clear? Nothing.’

Chirnovich simply nodded, knowing full well what was expected.

Alenkov looked up and noticed Chirnovich glance, with more than passing interest, at the message from Northern Fleet Command.

‘That’ll be all.’

‘Yes, sir,’ Chirnovich said, and he turned and left the cabin, closing the door behind him.

Lethal Metal by Harry Ledowsky is available from 25 February 2014 where all good ebooks are sold. Click here to find your preferred retailer.

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