Heil….Sturgeon. 

An unusually political post on the blog today. 

With the SNP in such unparalleled ascension both in Scotland and  UK politics there’s a storm brewing. 

It’s not a fervent ‘Nationalist’ agenda of the Nazi variety,  the SNP aren’t bogeymen coming to steal your children (or destroy their Barbies) in the night. They don’t represent or endorse and social exclusion, anti-English (or any other nation) sentiments or burn Londoners at stakes. They don’t carry a swatstika or salute pictures of Eck Salmond. At least I don’t think they do. 
  
The SNP is not an exclusionary or bigoted party (a tiny minority comparable to any political party’s members aside) as some sections of the UK media and political parties would love you to believe. 
The SNP are not the  UKIP of the North.  They are inclusionary- truly inclusionary- and blind to social status, race or historical allegiances. 
The SNP in Scotland embody and lead a demand for change, a movement, that concerns itself with social justice and which is led by an inspirational woman who genuinely believes in her policies and knows that she serves the people she represents, not the other way round. 
 This movement was sparked by the referendum last year but is not motivated by the desire for another. 
Who was the last politician any of us saw those qualities in? Someone to admire, to aspire to and hold as an example to our children?
For me? None in living memory, I’m too young to remember the inspirational working men’s parties and politicians of the 70s and 80s firsthand. They’re mythical beasts to me.  
Certainly Miliband, Cameron, Clegg or Salmond do not fall into into that category. Career politicians to a man.  
  
Despite the qualities which brought me to join the party, the SNP are not perfect. Far from it. Their education record for example is not the best, but their passion for supporting free education and propping up the health service and the poor rather than make them the scapegoats for the nation’s ills and debt resonates deeply with me. 
What the potential SNP yellowing of the Scottish map is, is a bold, loud, post-referendum statement from a disenfranchised Scottish electorate who’ve seen their political power, their votes, have little or no effect on UK politics for decades to the wider UK establishment. 
The referendum was supposed to have divided our country. Potentially it has united is against the greater Westminster machine like never before. 
“You told us you needed us in the Union. Here’s our input. Value it.”
So far the answer is ‘stay in your box, Scotland’.
Like so many others, I’d never voted for the SNP but chose to join the party  post-referendum having been wakened politically during the referendum by the bullying, lies and fear-mongering of the main UK parties and by the betrayal of a Labour Party- who once fought so very passionately for my father’s generation, the steel-men and coal-men- That Labour Party who stood arms-linked with the very party who decimated families and livelihoods with so much gusto in the 80s and 90s. 
Despite being a new member of the SNP. Despite how whole-heartedly I embrace my new party; a party who seem the inheritors of the mantle of Keir Hardy’s values, the thought of a ‘one-party state’ is not one to be celebrated. 
The General election on May 7th is exactly the arena to strengthen Scotland’s position in the UK political meat grinder. Our voice so desperately needs and demands to be heard after a generation or more of accepting the ineffectiveness of our vote. Of wiping out the Tories and voting Labour, hoping for the best, but in our hearts knowing they’ve become smothering so very far removed from the party our grandparents loves so much. Beyond May 7th. No thank you. 
I’ll celebrate if the SNP manages to take as many MPs to Westminster as the polls suggest, but I’ll have one eye on the next Scottish election. 
I do hope for the stronger voice in Westminster that Ms Sturgeon appears to be striving for.  I don’t wish to see an unopposed party in my country, no matter how strongly I agree with their policies. 
Every leader, MSP or politician, damn, every right-thinking person in all walks of life need challenged with opposing views. 
If you think shite’s brown, someone should be there to open your eyes to the different shades and textures, even if you don’t like the whiff of it. 
Rigid, two party politics where generations voted for their Grandas’ party long past the ethics, effectiveness or goals of the party they married is as undesirable as the one party state actually happening in the next Scottish election. 
A nation of SNP- devotees does our country no good. I love the SNP. I love what they stand for. I love our remarkably impressive leader, but I want them challenged on every decision, policy and proposal.  I want them to work to make their proposals take effect. 
  
That’s democracy. Anything other than that makes the SNP the bogeyman the UK media and establishment try to make us fear. 
We shouldn’t celebrate Labour’s demise, we need a good strong socially-conscious Labour or Green or Lib-Dem or Socialist Party in opposition to (as Sturgeon herself would say) keep those in power honest. 

Nicola Sturgeon is a true serving politician, one who knows the real power to decide should lie in the hands of the electorate, not in those of corporate monsters or Etonian plutocrats. 
A rarity, she says what she means and means what she says. This is what sets her aside as a party leader. 
Nicola Sturgeon believes also that a leading party and its representatives should be made to work for their proposals take effect. 
For now. She gets my admiration and my vote. But I’ll be watching. 
Mark Wilson is an independent author  and Publisher of Scottish fiction ….and SNP fledgling. 
You can find mark and his books at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing and Amazon UK and U.S.  

Bracha’s Origin – dEaDINBURGH: Origins Excerpt

Taking my favourite, heroic ginger Royal and twisting him into a psychotic, sadistic survivalist was (to date) the most fun I’ve had writing a novel. Please enjoy.

Mark

The following excerpt is from dEaDINBURGH: Origins and is copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing:

dEaDINBURGH: Origins is currently on FREE promo at Amazon (until April 25th, 2015).

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Chapter 1

 Edinburgh

Hogmanay

2014

11:50 pm

 “I’m not interested, Jimmy. You fire in.”

He throws me a smile that’s not really a smile at all. It’s laced with sarcasm and judgement. Letting his raised eyebrows mock me for a few seconds, he finally turns his attention to the young lass.

“I will,” he says, leering at her legs.

Leaving our booth, Lieutenant James Kelly staggers on strong but wobbly legs across the carpet to unload his spiel on the unsuspecting girl in the red dress, completely oblivious to the wedding ring on her finger or the husband in the toilets. Jim’s had a few drinks, but he’s entitled. Besides, I’m designated babysitter tonight, subsequently limited to two drinks.

Harry, who’s in better shape but approaching tipsy, reaches across the table and drops a note.

“Fifty quid he earns himself a generous kick in the testicles.”

“Fuck off, Spike,” I tell him. He snatches the strangely-coloured note back.

“Right. For fuck sake.”

Despite myself I laugh. I always do. It’s his voice. It always makes me laugh when he swears using that clipped, so very proper accent of his. So at odds with who and what he actually is.

I throw a twenty of my own on top of his purple twenty, both bearing his grandmother’s likeness, and give him my thickest Lanarkshire accent.

“Right then, fanny-baws. Twenty sheets it is.”

He laughs loudly at me.

“Nice,” he says. “Don’t often let the…” He pauses for a few seconds, searching for the phrase. “Schemey. You don’t often let your schemey origins show, Cameron.” He laughs at his own use of the colloquialism.

“Aye, well. You’re being an especially excellent example of your kith and kin tonight, Harry,” I tell him. I hardly ever call him by name. All the lads call him Spike. Always have.

The ever-so-posh demeanour and bumbling, upper-class moron act he uses, which we call his Bruce Wayne persona, couldn’t be further from the man I’ve known for a third of my life. The soldier, the professional killer, the assassin who sits opposite me is not the man his public buys into. The jovial, ruddy-faced, red-haired buffoon he plays for the public and the media. Captain Wales, Apache-pilot. An officer and the poshest of gentlemen. This image carefully crafted and maintained by the ministry, so often useful as a mask and diversion, betrays not a sliver of who Spike really is.

Jim Kelly and I have been his shadows since Sandhurst. Employed to protect a killing machine. The thought is laughably ironic, as though Spike had ever feared anything or anyone. We trained and bled and laughed and drank and killed alongside him during his rigorous training in the Army Air Corps and then Special Division and on every Black-Ops mission since.

Captain Wales, according to official records, completed two heroic tours in Afghanistan based at Camp Bastion, Helmand province. His presence there was kept secret for the months of his tour, to both protect the men serving beside him and allow the young soldier the privacy to perform his duty. To be one of the troops.

Of course, cameras followed from a distance, filming him. Showing him mucking in like any other man of his rank and duty. A promise from the media, a gentlemen’s agreement, to not break the story until his unit were safely home was respected. A year later an admiring public watched with admiration as the news crews showed footage of the young captain doing his duty.

A substantial morale boost to the troops, his presence lingered for months following his departure, motivating the men who remained or replaced.

Ask any of the soldiers stationed there during that time, and they’ll tell you, “Great patriot. One of the lads. True professional.”

And they wouldn’t be lying: the man they served with was all of those things. He just wasn’t actually Captain Wales.

The genuine article, Spike we call him, long story, was in Syria, doing his real job.

I cut him a look, marvelling as I always do at how effectively this man masks who he really is beneath a veneer of joviality and haphazard clumsiness.

“I might be a schemey,” I smile at him, “but that lassie over there is all class. He’s getting sent packing.”

I jab a thumb at Jimmy who, one hand on her knee the other trying to get the attention of the barman, is laying it on thick for the lady in red.

“Watch this,” I say.

Harry flashes his best smile, the one we call his camera smile. All perfect teeth and carefree attitude, a mask for the iron-veined soldier underneath. The Batman persona.

“Yes, all right then, Cameron. Let’s see, shall we?”

His confidence, borne of generations of status, wealth and breeding, but also from hundreds of hours of Black-Op missions and killing, oozes from every pore.

We watch as the girl accepts the drink – a single-malt, no ice – and gently removes James’ hand from her thigh where it’s crept. She talks politely for a few short minutes then firmly ushers him back to our table. He walks slowly back to us, arms spread like Jesus, all attrition and mock repentance.

“She’s gay,” he tells us, sheepishly, despite his demeanour.

Spike’s laugh fills the booth.

“Of course she is, my boy. What rotten luck.” His affection is genuine.

I pick up my winnings from the table as Jim plonks himself back into the comfortable leather bench of the booth.

Spike juts his chin towards the bar.

“My round, I believe, chaps. Same again?”

Jim burps loudly, exaggerating the noise. “I’ll have a pint this time, Spike,” he says, Edinburgh accent thickening as his sobriety thins.

I take the fifty from Spike’s hand. “I’ll go,” I say.

His lips thin but he doesn’t argue with me. He knows we could do with some peace and quiet. It’s almost midnight and people are busy getting excited about seeing another year end and one begin, but as soon as he leaves the relative privacy of the booth, cap pulled down over his eyes and bushy red hair or not, someone will clock that famous face of his and our night will be over.

The lady in red catches my eye as I approach the bar and waves me over.

“Your pal. He all right?” Her husband’s back at her side and giving us a puzzled look.

“Aye,” I say, “he’ll cope.” I smile at them both. He looks relaxed, but you never know with some blokes, especially on the drink.

“Another admirer, eh?” he smiles at his wife and then throws a big genuine grin at me. “Poor wee bastard.” He laughs, sharing a private joke with his wife.

I acknowledge his joke with a nod, “Have a good night, folks. Happy New Year when it comes.”

The couple return their best wishes and I turn back to the bar to shout the barman over.

Whilst he’s away pouring the drinks, I scan around the pub. It’s packed, so we did well to get the booth during Hogmanay in Edinburgh. It’s a minor miracle we got a seat at all, but we have been in here for most of the afternoon and evening, leaving the table only to relieve our bladders. Hell, we’ve earned some downtime: it’s been a bad year.

There’s a band setting up through in the stage area. All low cavernous ceilings, reminiscent of the Edinburgh vaults, the venue slash pub holds a great little crowd and an atmosphere that belies its size. Down on the Cowgate, Bannerman’s has long been a favourite of ours. Whenever we are in town, which is often, this is our second home. After Holyrood Palace, of course.

The bar owner has known us for years and is one of that rare type who couldn’t care less who a person is, so long as they behave themselves and send their wages over his counter-top. Travelling and working alongside Spike, you tend to put people into types based on their reaction to His Royal Majesty: gawpers, agitators, creeps and indifferent. Jackie was the last of these. The working classes, more in common with the toffs than either group realise, tend to be relaxed around Spike.

An hour later and the bells have come and gone. A slow trickle of drunk and happy people begin to spill out onto the Cowgate. Parents who’ve managed to get babysitters begin to remember that early start the next day and grimace at the thought of their little ones bounding cheerfully into their rooms at first light. Young kids couldn’t care less about hangovers or days off.

Twenty-somethings – the three of us have recently left that particular club-dance – are out looking for their next party or nightclub. Tourists, singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and staggering on the cobbles, trying to remember which direction their hotel was in.

The barman, Jackie Naismith, gives the regulars a nod and yells, “Time, please.

We stay put. Jackie’s a good bloke, he’ll see us right. I watch the big barman slide the upper and lower bolts into place on the heavy doors and light a cigarette. Lock-ins, the sanctuary of the blessed man. Late night drinking behind closed doors at the invitation of the landlord. And you don’t have to step outside into the shredding Edinburgh wind when you want a fag.

Jackie slams a few heavy, old-fashioned ashtrays onto the bar followed by a bottle of Glenmorangie Pride 1978 Spike gave him as a thank-you gift three years ago. Jackie places the thirty-four-year aged single-malt gently onto the counter, yanks at the cork and takes a deep nose-full of the escaping vapours. He pours four singles and replaces the cork, returning the bottle to its locked case behind the bar.

“Here ye go, Cammy,” he says, pushing three tumblers towards me. “Don’t drink it too fast. That deserves to be enjoyed.” He glares at me but the malice he directs towards me is meant affectionately.

“Thanks, Jack.”

He gives me a quick nod then focuses his attention on the shot of whiskey he’s waited all year to enjoy.

As I gather our drinks a wee guy I don’t know nods at me as I walk past. I laugh as I hear him get told to “Get tae fuck, Johnny,” by Jackie.

Never interrupt a man with a rare whiskey in his hand.

Spike notices me coming with the drinks. A silent exchange passes between us confirming Jackie’s generosity with his prized whiskey. Spike takes his glass from me and strolls over to the bar for a chat with Jackie. Flopping into the leather booth, I cut a look at James who’s sprawled over the beer-soaked table, face resting on an arm.

I don’t try too hard to wake him and carefully I make my whiskey a double.

“Thanks, Jim. That’s good of ye,” I tell the back of his head. He grunts something unintelligible.

Sipping at the whiskey I let the off-amber fire soak in my mouth, under my tongue and slosh to the roof of my mouth for a bit, enjoying the intensity of the burn which continues along my gullet and into my stomach after I swallow. Feeling the warmth spread, seemingly to my bones, I close my eyes and enjoy the sensation. The noise of a siren nearby threatens to break the moment, but I find my whiskey-Zen again and submerge myself in the sensations.

I feel a buzz that has nothing to do with the evening, the company or the whiskey and snap my eyes open, searching for Spike. His eyes are already on me, alerted by his own device. Even James is up from his seat looking significantly more alert. A decade of training takes control of us.

Jim secures the doors and windows, Harry takes his cap off and shows our fellow drinkers his face. He uses their shock at seeing his familiar coupon to usher the remaining revellers, along with Jackie, to the rear of the pub, smiling genially and muttering apologies as he shepherds the mostly drunk crowd.

I’m on weapons detail. On sober duty, I’m the only one who’s supposed to be carrying a firearm. I pull my Sig Sauer P230 from the horizontal holster at the base of my spine. Performing an automatic check, I ready the sidearm and check with the lads.

Spike has three knives, his favoured weapons, of various size and type on his person. I know this without asking, but he also pulls out a handgun I didn’t know he had, another Sig P230. That’s fourteen rounds between us.

James, a little slower thanks to the alcohol but mostly alert, pulls out a P226 with fifteen rounds. Neither of them should be carrying. We share a sardonic smile as we assess each other from across the room.

Several other sirens have joined the first I heard in the ten seconds since our personal comm-devices issued the level 1 alert and I can hear sounds of a crowd gathering on the Cowgate. I sweep my eyes around the room one more time and pull my phone from my back pocket. As I move my thumb to speed dial our control centre, it buzzes in my hand. I answer in less than a second and bark my clearance code into the receiver.

“Confirmed,” a woman’s voice says, “please hold for Lt Colonel Melville.”

The line clicks and the calm voice of our CO speaks.

“Situation report please, Captain Shephard.”

“Unit is in lockdown in a level 2 secure building. No immediate threat present. High defensive capability.”

“Affirmative. Hold.”

I listen as Melville leans away from the phone, someone whispering updates in his ear. Spike and James, both calmly standing their zones and smoothing things out with the other occupants of the pub, look to me with questioning eyes.

I break eye contact as Melville coughs and returns to the phone.

“We’re at full-alert, Captain. Escort Captain Wales to…” Another pause for updates. “Escort the captain to Beta Location. Acknowledge.”

“Acknowledged, sir. Timescale?”

Melville, a man with a stoic reputation, unimpressed by pomp or status, sounds genuinely ruffled.

“Immediately, Captain. Expect resistance.”

In Edinburgh?

A trickle of cold sweat tracks its way down my butt crack as the significance hits me.

“Sir. Civilian or military?”

He answers and I wish I hadn’t asked.

“Anyone who gets in your way, Captain. Direct route, no detours. No other directives.”

Melville clicks off, leaving my next words stillborn in my mouth. Despite the insistence on urgency, I take a second to compose myself. From outside a choir of sirens races past up on South Bridge. The crash of twisted metal vibrates down to the Cowgate and rattles the windows. Something explodes, the pub’s frosted windows light up as a fireball warms the night sky. People outside, minutes ago laughing and dancing, are now screaming loudly. Jim and Spike both look to me once again.

“Direct evac,” I tell them. “No distractions. Level one.”

Spike waves me off and returns to calming the punters in the bar.

“Spike, I’ll force you if I have to.”

He raises an eyebrow in amusement. We both know that if he chooses to assert himself, I’ll come off worst. We also both know that he’ll have to hurt me badly to deter me. Neither of us wishes this.

“Not until these people are safe,” he says, pulling at a cellar door behind the bar.

The last level one alert issued to our team was when the plane hit floors 93-99 of the World Trade Centre’s north tower. We were in London at the time and had Spike to his safe location in under five minutes.

None of us know exactly what’s going on outside in the gothic city, but the status of the command leaves us in little doubt that something dreadful is happening to the city. Invading army, bombing, nuclear aggression, bioweapons? We can’t know. We have our orders. Go directly to Beta Location, secure Harry. Do not pass go, do not collect a hundred pounds. Do not stop to help anyone, only engage enemies if progress is barred.

I grind my teeth and crack the pub door a fraction, trying to gain some insight as Spike and James usher the pub’s occupants down into the cellar. Jackie descends the stairs last, face stern.

Spike gives them assurances that they’ll be safe in their hiding place and that he’ll make sure that someone comes for them quickly. Jackie reappears and offers a beefy hand which Spike encloses in two of his.

“I promise, Jack. Now go.”

The big bartender gives him a firm nod and disappears down into the cool cellar with his customers.

Spike wastes another twenty seconds closing the cellar door and shifting a rug over the top of it for camouflage.

James has drained two cups of coffee. He’s alert now, but walking a fine line between sobriety and the shrill over-sensitivity to stimuli that a good dose of black caffeine brings.

Peering through the door I watch people run past Bannerman’s all headed away from The Royal Mile, towards The Grassmarket. Bad news for us; our evacuation route takes us along Niddry Street, straight up onto The Royal Mile and along to Holryrood House where an underground bunker and/or chopper awaits.

I close the door softly and double-check my sidearm.

“You guys ready or do you have something else to take care of?”

Neither answers. Instead they flank me, weapons ready, and we crash through the doors into a nightmare.

 Chapter 2

Cammy threw the double doors open and they spilled out into the street. It was one of those moments, the ones you never saw coming but which changed everything you thought was certain about your world. The sequences and events a team prepared for hundreds of times in training and executed dozens of times – if you were lucky, and you were good – in the field.

Secure, recon, eliminate threats, progress.

They’d done this together so many times they had lost count. Each of them knew his respective role. The big men, so well-coordinated it looked like a lover’s dance, began to move in synchronised perfection.

James had shaken off the last effects of the evening’s alcohol. A glucose tablet and two cups of strong black coffee in under a minute had brought his senses screaming back online. All he had left to fight was the encroaching shrillness of his hyper-alert state – and whatever was happening in the city. Despite the pressure, James felt calm, in control. His training and hard-earned experience taking over, he was a virtual passenger. His best friends by his side meant that he feared nothing. Business as usual, no matter how odd the location.

Through the door, three men, back to back, pirouetted and scanned each section of their zones twice. Smooth, certain, decisive.

That was normally how it went, at any rate. Cutting a look past Harry’s left shoulder, James’ eyes widened as they watched a young man in denims and a Nirvana T-shirt run directly towards them. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-one, just a kid but crazed and covered in blood and gore and sprinting at them, lips peeled back from blooded teeth, naked fury burning in his eyes. No, not fury… hunger.

James moved his weapon up smoothly and issued the kid a warning.

“Halt.”

The kid kept coming. Snarling, he leaped over a shredded body and raised his hands as claws.

James did not hesitate and fired three rounds centre mass into the kid’s heart.

Whipping around he repeated the process, killing four more feral-looking people. The world transformed into a fury of teeth and blood and crazed eyes and death. His team had taken down around a dozen assailants but had expended almost all of their ammo.

“What the fuck has got into these people?” James asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” Cameron replied roughly. “Let’s move.”

James and Cameron flanked Harry who covered their rear as his two guards progressed up the hill towards The Royal Mile. After ten steps Harry swore loudly in that refined voice.

“What in the name of holy fuck?”

James and Cammy swung around, facing the direction they’d come from.

Every one of the people they had dispatched was somehow back up on their feet. Some looked dazed, others fixed on the three friends instantly. All had congealed jelly-like blood clotted where arterial spray should have been pumping out onto the pavement. They bared their teeth once again and ran at the team.

Harry raised his gun first and put a single round into the head of the nearest man, a policeman in torn, bloody uniform sporting two bullet holes delivered to his heart by Cameron moments before. The policeman collapsed like a marionette with its strings severed and didn’t rise a second time.

“Headshots,” Spike said, firing his last two rounds into the heads of a tourist with a rucksack on her back and an elderly lady who was running at him with the speed of an athlete. Both face-planted the cobbles, skidding to a stop a few feet from the group.

Cammy turned uphill once more and brought down two new arrivals who’d been drawn down from The Royal Mile by the gunfire. All three men took advantage of a ten-second break in the onslaught to check their firearms, confirming what they already knew. Three rounds left: two for James and one for Cameron. Spike holstered his empty sidearm and drew two of his blades, big Rambo-esque knives with one sleek edge and a ragged one. One of them sported his house emblem, while the other, a gift from his grandfather, bore his name.

The three men exchanged glances and sprinted the length of Niddry Street, dodging fallen people and shouldering further assailants from their path. Spilling out onto The Royal Mile they cut a quick look uphill and gasped.

The famous thoroughfare’s width and length was filled to overflowing with people. Some crawled over cobbles and over each other, some ran… and all were screaming. Some of those screams were gargled, the thick blood torn loose blocking the path of their dying wails. Some were screams of fledgling hunger from the throats of new-born creatures already deep in the throes of an eternally-agonising appetite for flesh.

Blood flowed in thick, fast rivulets between the cobbles towards the men. The soldiers noted immediately that a close, further along The Mile, was the likely epicentre of whatever the hell was happening. Cameron discharged the last of his ammo into the head of a heavily-built man in a kilt, slipped his knife from concealment and rammed it through the temple of another lunatic trying to force the big officer to the bloody cobbles beneath.

James pulled at Harry’s sleeve to cajole him along in the opposite direction. His friend stiffened, resisting, and pulled his arm free. James watched as the man he was sworn to protect plunged the knife in his right hand through the top of a female tour-guide’s skull. Releasing the big knife, leaving it in her head, he continued his move by fluidly stepping on the back of a dead tourist and launching himself into a wide-arced leap. Adjusting in mid-air, he changed to a two-handed grip on his remaining blade and brought it down heavily into the base of the neck of a woman who’d made it through Cameron’s defences.

James shouted at both men.

“When you’re all done, can we get fuckin’ moving?”

He nodded down the mile towards High Street. Despite the confusion and the terror and the river of blood and madness flooding their way, the men managed a tight grin.

“Keep your knickers, Jimmy,” said Spike.

All three men continued their sprint, feeling the crowd and the enemy thin out as they crested a little hill before High Street swooped down to Holyrood.

They skidded to a halt just after the cobbles end at the entrance to a former church. Looking around at the people running past, James gasped.

“What the hell is going on here?”

Cameron shook his head and blocked a young man about to clatter into James, sending the man sprawling onto the tarmac. The guy regained his feet instantly and sprinted on without ever looking back.

“They seem like they’re infected, near as I can make out,” Cameron said.

Harry laughed, but there was no humour in it.

“They look sick to you, Cameron?” he asked.

Cameron shrugged and opened his mouth to reply when one of the people who seemed to have gone insane came tearing along the street. The three soldiers watched in horror as the assailant pulled down an elderly woman and ripped at her throat, arms and legs with his teeth.

Clinically, James started counting. He reached thirty when the madman tore himself away from the dead woman and snarled, sending blood and flesh spilling onto the concrete. He… it lashed at another passer-by, a middle-aged man this time, and began tearing at his face.

James continued counting. At fifty seconds, the elderly woman jerked up. Moving smoother and significantly more quickly than she had before the attack, she sprang from the ground and fixed her eyes on them.

All three men watched the transformation take her, burning away the frail pensioner. They stood open-mouthed and inert. A first for the unit.

Cammy was the first to recover, but only by milliseconds. The trio, with a new vigour and previously untapped speed, resumed their run towards Holyrood Palace.

End of Excerpt

dEaDINBURGH: Origins is currently on FREE promo at Amazon (until April 25th, 2015).

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Near to the Knuckle: Rogue – Review. 

  
Unlike most anthologies, Rogue leads  the reader through a series of torrid, murky dirty trysts, each refreshing and building your interest as a new writer takes the lead and pulls you through his filthy little journey. 
There are far too many examples of gorgeous writing on display by this team of writers to mention all; but for me, Furchtenicht, (gratuity, dead-on insights) Nixon, (always a pleasure to read keith’s inspired Russian, bampot) and Bracha (endlessly creative and willing to stretch himself); shone a tad brighter and gave moments of genius amidst a collection of extremely talented writers, all producing their finest work to date. There’s not a single author on this project I won’t be checking out in future. 
Sant, Douglas and the lad Bracha have brought a large number of very different writers together, this doesn’t always work, like too many creative musicians in a super-group, but when it does work, as is the case with this anthology,  it really really does make you long for a larger platform for Team Indie to share their Manky words on. 
Near to The Knuckle has a fan for life in me. 
You can find the Near to the Knuckle anthology and the authors involved at Amazon 

Eagle’s Blood by Keith Nixon – Review

Cards on the table. I’m unashamedly biased in the following review. I love Roman epics and devour anything smelling even vaguely of sandals and red robes. I’m equally invested in Keith Nixon’s steamrolling writing career, which has been mainly focused on humorous, punchy, smart crime novels to date.

Keith’s attention to detail, laborious research and flowing narrative makes the follow-up to Eagle’s Shadow a triumphant return to the world he’s fleshing out in the most subtle, but immersing manner.

Writing a sequel comes with its own difficulties. Will the readers like where I take the story? Am I staying true to the characters but allowing their development? Is it as good as the first.

Yes. Absolutely. No, it’s much, much better.

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In Eagle’s Blood, Keith stretches his literary legs and pushes his skills to new levels. Danger, intrigue, betrayal, Romans, brother-hood and battles. All are presented with the confidence of a writer who has found a new voice in Historical fiction, one that both compliments and surpasses his enviable skills in his more familiar crime/thriller genre. At times one would swear that Nixon has a window to the past.

Striding genre isn’t an easy skill for a writer to develop, few manage it effectively; even fewer make it appear effortless. Nixon’s return to Caradoc’s world screams of confidence and a refusal to be constrained by one writing style.

A wonderful novel reminiscent of the humour, passion, detail and scalding human stories that so pervaded the HBO series ‘Rome’.#

Eagle’s Blood is available now from Gladius Press.

You can find Keith and his books at Amazon US and UK

Jack Thatcher – dEaDINBURGH: Alliances Preview 


The following excerpt comes from dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (Din Eidyn Corpus 2) by Mark Wilson. 

Available now as a paperback and kindle at Amazon UK and US 

Jack

Noticing light breaking through the gap in his curtains, Jack squinted at his Holo-
Screen, blinking the fog from his eyes. Seven a.m.

He’d been playing the dEaDINBURGH: Lair of The Ringed video game since
midnight, when the feed had been cut from the live show. He flicked his finger across
the air in front of him, causing the UKBC screen to pop up. The countdown until the feed
re-connected sat at 00:15. Just fifteen more minutes until they had the show back in full
High-Def Holo-Image. Jack saved his progress and kicked at the desk in front of him,
sending his ergonomic chair scooting backwards through the pile of empty energy drink
cans and takeaway boxes littered across the carpet of his living room.

Scratching at his crotch with his right hand, he lifted his left arm and sniffed at
his arm-pit, screwing his face up at the sourness.
Should have time for a shower if I get a
move on.

Jack stood with a groan in protest at the crack of his knees. It’d been a while since
he’d had quite so long a session on the game. S
cooping a handful of Cheesy-Puffs off the
desk and into his mouth,
he headed to the apartment’s little shower cube.

As he sang from the shower, the dEaDINBURGH theme began blasting from the
surround-sound speakers, eliciting a whoop of delight from him as he barrelled from the
bathroom, not bothering to dry himself, body wobbling back into his still-warm chair.

Leaning forward he made a little gesture to enlarge the screen and scanned the
info-bar along the bottom of the page to catch any updates. There were too many to
read so Jack flicked a finger at the Holo-Screen, bringing up a highlights reel on a smaller
screen within the main one. Whilst the main screen flickered into life, he jerked his eyes
to the highlights feed, gleaning everything he could about what had happened to his
favourite
Survivors during the feed-loss.

Suzy Wheels, Danny McGhee and Jennifer Shephard, his main characters, were all
more or less where th
ey’d been when the feed had cut twelve hours earlier. Jack flicked
at the screen a few more times, bringing up images of one of the less popular and least-
covered
Survivors he’d been following.

Joey MacLeod’s face filled the frame. Jack liked this kid. He’d begun to get a little
more airtime recently, mostly because he’d been in a few scraps
with Zoms of late. Jack
remembered him fondly
from the episodes where he’d left The Brotherhood a few years
back, with the old Padre. Those were amongst some of the most unexpected and
emotional scenes he’d ever watched and he’d replayed them many times in his mind’s
eye, lying in bed.

Padre Jock had been a favourite of Jack’s as a kid. As a Zom-Hunter and one of the
most colourful characters on the show. H
e’d had a huge chunk of airtime over the years
and had consistently been in the
Survivorstop ten chart for over twenty years. When
he’d been killed by Bracha, Jack had shed a few tears for the old man. For Jack’s  generation, who’d grown up watching him, Padre Jock was as intricately tied to the
show as its theme tune.

Three years later, Jack still felt grief whenever he looked at one of the many
images of Jock on mugs, posters, T-shirts and other merchandise around his home. Jack
had a massive poster of Jock over his bed. It depicted a scene from the show with a
young Jock, blades flashing, silencing five Zombies. It bore the legend:
Running rings
around The Ringed.

One of Jack’s online friends had a tattoo on his cheek in the shape of the
characteristic Ring o’ Roses rash of The Ringed. Despite being into its third decade of
transmission, dEaDINBURGH showed no signs of losing popularity, and if anything it
had gained more viewers than ever. In part this was
because of Jock’s protégé Joey and
his best friend, Alys Shephard. Quite simply she was the most skilled combatant the
dead city had.

Many of Jock’s fans had now latched onto the eighteen year old he’d trained out
of the need for a connection to the familiarity of the Padre. Aside from that, they’d
grown to know and love Joey during his time with Padre Jock. Many more had chosen
Alys as their new prime
Survivor because of her attachment to Joey and her own
considerable talents. The pair were fast becoming the definitive
Survivors of their
generation.

The screen Jack scanned showed Joey and Alys, from behind, in a large open field.
Joey had his bow over his back and was following along behind Jennifer’s daughter.
Their body language suggested they were tired and were both covered in grey dust. Jack
watched as the cameras zoomed out, revealing a mass of Zoms spilling out into the field
from a cycle path and a little clearing in a woodland. From the trail in the long grass, it
was obvious that the teens had come from the Zom-infested area.

It was a beautiful shot, so much so that it moved Jack to click the little thumbs-up
icon at the corner of the screen. He was only the hundredth to do so. It made him feel a
part of something special that he was amongst the first to see the beauty in the
photography.

Wondering how the teens had survived the massive congregation of Zoms and
why the infected weren’t pursuing them, he whirled the highlights footage over to the
main screen and began searching through it, hoping that he hadn’t missed something
special. He looked at the view counter at the edge of the highlights screen.

One view.
A single viewer besides him.
Jack felt a thrill surge through him and clicked the thumbs-up icon, making

himself the second person to have done so. He watched amazed as Joey and Alys moved
like crowd-surfers along a mass of the dead. They seemed completely calm, so at ease as
they slipped through and over a swarm of the Ringed. Jack had never seen anything like
it.

Nobody had.

 As the scene progressed, it was suddenly cut with footage from earlier in the day.
The pair had battled hundreds of the dead in that same clearing, Joey with an injured
foot in a tree firing arrows, and Alys a whirling, kicking and stabbing demon with her
twin Sai. The images were astounding and contrasted so sharply with the serenity of the
previous footage that Jack felt a prickle all over his skin. 

He watched Joey and Alys’ Survivor ratings rocket from around ten thousand
straight to positions two and one, respectively. Realisation suddenly made him jerk in
his seat. He motioned at the screen and watched as his viewer rating appeared. Last
night he’d been somewhere close to the ten-million region. A respectable position for
someone in Kent. The total viewing figures worldwide for dEaDINBURGH were at
around four billion.

Due to his early support for Joey, and lifelong support of Jock, whom he’d voted
for and thumbed-up hundreds of times, maybe thousands, in his lifetime, Jack’s viewer
rating would receive a boost. Factor in his support of Alys by proxy of being a Jennifer
Shephard supporter, and combined with this
morning’s early acknowledgement of both
the live-feed and the highlights package, and
Jack’s viewer rating should be at an all-
time high, perhaps in the top one million.

Jack blinked in disbelief as he looked at the numbers.
His rating had been propelled into the Top 500, worldwide. Number 1 in Europe.
His Holo-Screen suddenly lit up with emails, messages and invitations regarding

interviews, expert analysis and insights he might be happy to offer. He was being lined
up for a series of appearances across some of the biggest shows on the network and a
clutch of major blogs and newsfeeds. Hell, a news-crew were on their way to his
apartment at that very moment.

Messages of congratulations from his network-family scrolled across his screen.
In an instant
he’d gone from being another nobody – an above-average fan who spent a
little too much time watching the most-watched Holo-Programme on the planet and one
of those guys who haunted the thousands of fan sites and pages looking for insights and
extra-footage
to the hottest viewer-consultant in Europe.

Jack’s eyes glazed as he considered the possibilities. He’d always known that he
was someone special. Always felt that he was destined for something better than his
current station in life. Something more important. His great-grandmother had been an
exceptional woman, the first woman to become a true world leader. His own father,
Mark, was a world-famous author. Sure, Dad had ridden the coat-tails of his
grandmother too, but
his books continued to sell well years since the old lady’s death.

Jack conjured up an image of his father, Mark, with his arm around him,
congratulating his son, expressing his pride. He watched his fiction-writing father and
himself plan interviews and write opinion pieces together. He teared-up as an image of
himself spoke to an audience of billions whilst his father stood at his side, beaming with
admiration.

This was it. Finally.

Jack glanced down quickly at his mostly-naked wet body, edges of the towel
barely meeting around and under his belly. He gave a curt, decisive nod, to himself.
Time
to get sorted. The first thing I’ll do is get that liposuction and skin removal. And my teeth.
Get my teeth fixed. Pectoral implants. The UKBC will pay for everything, they always do for
their correspondents.

With the kudos and the money that’d be coming his way, it was time to get
himself together.

Rising from his seat, he stopped for a second, lifted his right thigh a little and
expelled a cloud of gas before heading to his wardrobe. Drying off, he pulled on a pair of
clean sweatpants, figuring that he’d aim the Holo-Camera from the waist up. Best to be
comfortable.

Jack then pulled on an old dEaDINBURGH T-shirt his dad had given him on his
thirtieth birthday, with an image of Jock in full Plague-doctor outfit on the front. It felt a
little tight, but also felt familiar.

Striding back through to take his seat, he flicked open the Comm for his first
interview with an American news network, allowing himself to enjoy a moment of
satisfaction at finding his rightful place.

Jack Thatcher smiled warmly and connected his call.


End of excerpt  

This excerpt comes from dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (Din Eidyn Corpus 2) by Mark Wilson. 

Available now as a paperback and kindle at Amazon UK and US 


Prince Lestat by Anne Rice Review.

So here’s the thing. I’m a huge fan of the vampire chronicles. Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned, Tale of the Body Thief, Memnoch; Blood and Gold, Pandora, Vittoria; God I love them and have read each several times over.

Then Ms Rice chucked her Mayfair people at the chronicles and fucking ruined them.

I was hoping for a return to the old chronicles, y’know when reading about these characters truly was like visiting an old friend.

Prince lestat is simply a journey along with an author as she disappears firmly and irreversibly up her own arse in a storm of over-descriptive, self-aware and self-impressed navel-gazing wankery.

Utter pish. So disappointed.

Ben Turner is a Dead Man – Review.

I’ve an image of a hirsute idiot-savant drooling down his chin and laughing as he watches his imaginary pals act out his fantasies in his minds-eye whilst his clumsy, hair-covered fingers work a chunky crayon describing their humiliation.

Och, they keep him happy enough, this hairy, sausage-fingered, piss-panted genius. His guardians throw him regular snacks (could do with cutting back on the burgers) and lavish praise on him for each dirty new jewel he unleashes.

The follow-up to the refreshingly-irreverent Paul Cart is a Dead Man is another magic bullet from the prolific Rain-Man Bracha.

A normal writer, with a fully-functioning set of senses would stick with what worked in the first Dead Man book. He’d reuse the wonderfully creative and engaging characters who propelled us through the dirty satire of Bracha’s dystopian New Britain and we’d be happy to play wingman on the trip.

Rather than stick to the plan, Bracha throws the least likeable character from the first book, Ben Turner, front and centre, accompanied by his wonderful new creation, Nat Sweeney.

Ben Turner not only continues the excitement and inventiveness of Paul Carter but builds on, and surpasses its predecessor.
The pace is relentless and the plot marvellously, tightly-chaotic.

Yes, Bracha is kept in a small room, walls covered in Kim Kardashian and Bungle from Rainbow wallpaper splashed with the products of his self-abuse, but he’s happy, well-fed and by God he’s been busy.

You can find Ryan Bracha and his books at Amazon UK and US.

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