Death Parts Us – Guest Post

Today I have a guest post from Alex Walters, discussing the setting for his latest work, Death Parts Us:

Book Description:

Twenty years ago, Jackie Galloway was a senior cop with a bad reputation. Then he ended up on the wrong side of the wrong people, and his career was ruined. Sacked and with no pension, he ends up eking out his last days on Scotland’s Black Isle, his mind lost to dementia, supported only by his long-suffering wife, Bridie.

 

Then Galloway is found dead. The police assume the death to be accidental, until Bridie Galloway reveals that her husband has been receiving apparently threatening letters containing only the phrase: ‘NOT FORGOTTEN. NOT FORGIVEN.’

 

DI Alec McKay is struggling to come to terms with life without his estranged wife Chrissie, and is living in isolation on the Black Isle. As a junior officer, McKay had been allocated to Galloway’s team and has bad memories of the man and his methods. Now he finds himself investigating Galloway’s death.

 

But when suspicion falls on him and more police officers are murdered, the pressure is on for McKay to solve the case.

 

Why would the killer seek revenge twenty years after Galloway left the force?

 

As McKay fights to link the events of past and present, he realizes that time is rapidly running out…

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Links:

Available now from Amazon and Bloodhound Books

 

Website: www.alexwaltersauthor.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/alexwaltersauthor/

Twitter: @mikewalters60

 

Guest Post:

MURDER IN THE BLACK ISLE

 

The Black Isle, as DI Alec McKay would be the first to tell you, is famously neither black nor an island. It’s the peninsular that juts out into the North Sea just north of Inverness, bounded by the Beauly, Moray and Cromarty Firths. As for the ‘black’—well, no-one really knows. One theory is that, because of its local microclimate, the Black Isle tends to be less susceptible to snow than the surrounding Highland region. Another, more intriguing theory is that the name refers to the area’s historical associations with witchcraft and the black arts. McKay, with the typical suspicions of a city boy, thinks the latter is more likely.

 

The area is less remote now than in the past, particularly since the opening of the Kessock Bridge over the Moray Firth in the early 1980s provided easier access from Inverness. But the Black Isle still carries an atmosphere all of its own. When I was seeking a location for a new crime series, I felt no need to look any further.

 

Although I was born in the English midlands, I’ve been making regular visits to the Scottish Highlands and Islands since I was a child. Quite what possessed my parents to drive up there so frequently in the days before motorways, I’ve no real idea, but they did it frequently. I have childhood memories of glorious scenery, empty beaches and—well, fairly mixed weather.

 

Even so, the Black Isle was unfamiliar to me until about ten years ago. It was just a name I’d driven by on the endless A9 heading even further north. Then, on a whim, we booked a holiday house in Rosemarkie and spent a couple of weeks falling in love with the place. We’ve spent a lot of our time there since, and we’re now in the process of making a permanent move (we’d already be there if it weren’t for the vagaries of the English house-selling system—suffice to say that an unreliable buyer may well come to an unpleasant end in one of my future books).

 

Location has always been an important element in my writing. My first three crime novels were set in the exotic environment of modern-day Mongolia. My subsequent Marie Donovan and Kenny Murrain series were located in and around Manchester, making use of both the urban settings and the surrounding Cheshire and Derbyshire countryside. I soon realised that the Black Isle offered a range of atmospheric backdrops that would provide the perfect setting for a new series.

 

The area packs extraordinary diversity within its small boundaries. Rosemarkie itself offers a strikingly beautiful beach, backed by woodland and fossil-filled cliffs. The village of Avoch (pronounced, with typical perversity, simply ‘Och’) is a working fishing village. Fortrose has its own ruined cathedral. Cromarty is an atmospheric jumble of narrow streets and vennels, offering striking views of the beauties of the Cromarty Firth and, more unexpectedly, the huge constructs of oil rigs being restored or dismantled in Nigg on the far side of the firth.

 

Apart from the sleazy Caledonian Bar, virtually all the locations described in the Alec McKay books are real (although sometimes lightly fictionalised to protect the innocent). The first book, Candles and Roses, begins in the eerie setting of the Clootie Well, a supposedly holy stream where the surrounding woodland is festooned with faded and rotting scraps of cloth. These are offerings left by visitors in the hope of securing improved health for ailing relatives or friends—the cloth has been wiped on the brow of the sick individual and, as the cloth rots away, so the illness is supposedly cured. Whatever the truth of that, the whole place has a disturbing atmosphere. Kelly, a young woman who appears in that scene, thinks ‘…the place was infested by ghosts, the spirits of those who clung on, earthbound by their last dregs of hope’. That was my feeling, the first time I visited, so what else could I do but leave a murder-victim there?

 

Of course, the real Black Isle is a tranquil place, untroubled by anything much more than the most trivial crimes. I’ve already managed incongruously to locate two serial killers in this most peaceful of rural environments. But that’s what crime writers do—think of Morse’s Oxford or Midsomer, apparently the murder capital of the UK. It seems to me that, for the reader, one of the incidental pleasures of crime fiction is often the contrast between the beauty of the settings and the horrors that are being enacted within them.

 

In this case, as in my Manchester-set books, the reader’s suspension of disbelief is helped by the proximity to an urban environment. McKay and his colleagues are based in Inverness—not a large city but one which offers a useful contrast to the quiet of the Black Isle and surrounding Highland countryside. The stories tend to have their roots in the city, even if the consequences play out in the country. In this fictional world, the Black Isle is somewhere people go to hide their secrets or to lose their past. Even McKay himself, in the latest book Death Parts Us, seeks bleak sanctuary there as his marriage disintegrates.

 

And, of course, like all locations that attract tourists, the Black Isle is a different place out of season. In summer, the place has a striking beauty, bathed in long light nights and wide translucent skies. In the winter, as the darkness closes in and the rain and wind whip in across the firths, the atmosphere is different again. Then his becomes a community closed in upon itself, focused on its own interests rather than the needs of visitors. That’s when secrets can breed and fester, and the seeds of future crimes are sown.

 

As I say, that’s what we crime writers do. We imagine what hidden truths might be lurking behind the curtained windows we pass, what dark thoughts might be crossing the minds of those we encounter in the streets. And from that we construct our narratives of murder and revenge, exploiting the otherwise-innocent world around us to help render them plausible.

 

It goes without saying that this is simply fiction. I hope that the good people of the Black Isle will forgive me for making use of their home in this way. The killings aren’t real. But the glorious, atmospheric settings are genuine, and I hope that in my writing I’ve managed to do them some justice.

 

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Anglesey Blue by Dylan H Jones – Review

Anglesey Blue is a pleasant surprise in a genre I rarely read. Written in 3rd-person, past-tense (again, uncommon in the genre), Jones’ narrative flows well and engages the reader effectively. Despite being a little exposition-heavy at times (for my taste) Jones’ excellent dialogue offsets what could’ve been a minor quibble in the chunks of exposition.

The dialogue feels ‘current’ in a way that many crime writer’s don’t always manage and always has purpose, whether in moving the plot forward or in slowly peeling away to reveal more depth to the characters than one might expect. For me this displayed an impressive technique in showing rather than telling in the dialogue sections, and clearly a strength for this writer.

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The plotting is tight, and mostly pacey, but where it lacks pace, I sensed important groundwork and character development being laid down for future stories, which is always welcome.

 A very solid start to a series. I will definitely pick up the next book.

You can find Dylan H Jones at Bloodhound Books and Amazon.

Book Review – Russian Roulette by Keith Nixon

A collection of all seven Konstantin Novellas:

    • Dream Land
    • Plastic Fantastic
    • Fat Gary
    • Bullet
    • Infidelity
    • Close Contact
    • A Chorus of Bells

Russian-Roulette

If you’re a crime novel connoisseur and love punchy, bullet-paced plots with pitch perfect dialogue and the darkest of humour, Nixon and his anti-hero creation Konstantin are the very boys for you.

Me? I never read crime fiction. It’s just not my bag, I’m a character-development man and like a slow burn story where people are gradually revealed along the way. Despite my unmanly aversion to crime novels, I’m first in the queue when Nixon delivers his latest work. In the Konstantin series Keith manages to pull both worlds together, violently fusing a hurtling plot with outstanding characterisation and development.

As each chunk is a complete little story in its own right shoving you through Konstantin’s hurricane, so too is the greater collection a cleverly constructed journal of Konstantin’s complexity of character, morals, and capacity for general mayhem. Konstantin himself seems genuinely ambivalent towards the right or wrong of his actions.

Nixon’s work, all pace, venom and clattering twists, never fails to drag his readers into the piss-soaked murky alleys and streets his characters frequent.

Another lesson in storytelling from one of the mainstays of the new Brit writer invasion currently swaggering through Amazon Bestseller lists.

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

Head Boy – Chapter 5 Preview

The following excerpt is from Mark Wilson’s Novella, head Boy. Due for release by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing on June 17th 2013:

All text copyright to Mark Wilson 2013

 

In this chapter, the main character’s friend and policeman father have a conversation.

Chapter 5

DCI Douglas Diller

 

Stevie, coffee in each hand and a bag of McMuffins under his arm, shouldered his way through the blue wooden doors into Bellshill police station straight into the path of a young, uniformed PC headed the other way.

“Fur fuck sake son!” Stevie hollered at the young copper as coffee scalded his hand, “that’s a coffee ye owe me.”

The PC showed a flash of anger before his training took over. “Sir, might I suggest a less aggressive tone when you’re addressing a police officer?”

Stevie cocked an eyebrow in amusement and annoyance. Mostly in annoyance. “Never mind yer pish, wee man. Get yer arse down tae McDs and get a large cappuccino for the gaffer.”

The PCs wee puffed-out chest deflated a little.

“Gaffer?”

“Aye,” Stevie nodded his head, indicating that he should turn around. “That coffee you just assaulted me with was destined for the hand of DCI Douglas Diller.”

Stevie gave the kid a moment to turn and acknowledge the appearance of his commanding officer.

“I’d go, PC Whitelaw, before ex-Detective Sergeant Miller sticks a boot up your lazy hole.”

PC Whitelaw nodded and made for the car keys behind the desk.

“Never mind, Bawbag,” Stevie conceded, “I’ll have half a cup. Dougie, here,” he offered the full cup to his former colleague, “you have mine.” Addressing Whitelaw once more Stevie growled, “Beat it, dick.”

Whitelaw looked very much like he wanted to retort, but kept his mouth shut and did as instructed.

“Still not any more fond of probationers, Stevie?” Dougie accepted the full cappuccino.

“I’m not overly fond of any of you pricks these days, Dougie. Where’d you find these wee fannies?” Stevie nodded at the door that Whitelaw had departed through. “He’s no’ a polis. Can you imagine a laddie like that in the force when we came through? Pffft.” He blew a whistle of disapproval through his teeth.

“It’s a different world, Stevie,” Douglas laughed. “PC Whitelaw has a degree in business and in fannying about with computers. That’s the future of the force right there. He’ll have my job in about ten years.”

Stevie grimaced, scanning Dougie’s face for a sign of humour. “Get tae fuck, Dougie. Yer joking?” he asked hopefully.

“’Fraid not, Stevie.” Douglas took a sip of his coffee and sat himself down behind the desk.

“Jeezus. One more reason to hate you pricks in blue I suppose.” Stevie wasn’t really joking, but Dougie laughed anyway to side-step any tension.

“How’s tricks then, Stevie?” Douglas asked as he inspected the contents of a sausage and egg McMuffin before deciding not to bother and chucking it back in the grease-marked bag.

“Aye, fine. Look, Dougie, I’m a night worker these days. It doesn’t suit me to be up and about before the lunchtime menu at McDonalds, so why don’t you just tell me what it is you’re wanting?”

Dougie leaned back in his seat, his smile fading. “It’s David. My David. I’m a wee bit worried about the company he’s keeping.”

Stevie filled his mouth with a gulp of coffee to avoid replying. He motioned for Dougie to continue “He’s always out, even on a school night. I know that he’s not a wean anymore, but he’s never in. I heard that he’s been hanging about up at Angel’s. You see him much?”

Stevie took a bite of his muffin and chewed over his reply along with the grease-slick ‘meat’. He hated lying to Dougie. Of all people, loyalty and history meant that he deserved better from Stevie, but Stevie didn’t subscribe to those ideals or live in Dougie’s world anymore. Neither did Davie, if he ever did. As he thought it, the wrap and the money from Dougie’s son felt heavier in his coat pocket.

“Look, Dougie. Davie’s in a few times a week, but he’s hanging about wi’ a good crowd. Folk wi’ money, they’re not scumbags. Actually, they’re the professional types. He’s no’ a big drinker and he doesn’t cause any bother. He’s just enjoying himself.” And making a fuckin’ fortune for himself and Big Hondo.

Dougie looked a little relieved for a second before his face hardened again.

“What is it Dougie, spit it out.”

Stevie was getting impatient. It was all right for Douglas sitting behind his cosy desk, and leaving for a nice comfortable house at dinner time. Stevie had a shift from six pm until three am, standing freezing his bollocks off outside and he was missing out on sleep.

“We had a young guy in here a couple of weeks back,” Dougie said. “Picked him up with a couple of grams of coke. Hondo’s coke, just cut a wee bit. Personal use, he said. He got a caution and sent home. On the way out the door, the desk sergeant overheard him worrying about repercussions and mentioning somebody called ‘Diller’.”

“So what?” interrupted Stevie. “It’s just some wee druggie worrying about the DCI Diller.”

Dougie shook his head. “Naw, Stevie. I’d never met the guy. I had no part in his arrest or processing. Do you think he was talking about Davie?”

“Don’t be daft. Davie doesn’t hang about wi’ folk like that. Look, Dougie, you’ve nothing to worry about with Davie Diller.” True. “That boy of yours is a grafter.” True. “Davie’s far too clever to get into trouble wi’ folk like this wee guy.” True. “As for Hondo, what the fuck would a smart guy like Davie be doing anywhere near someone like that?” Lie.

Dougie looked a little less worried than he had before. “Davie’s always had a wee element of danger about him, y’know?”

“Away tae fuck, Dougie. Just cos yer son likes a bit of risk doesn’t mean he’s out doing drugs and fuckin’ about wi’ folk like Hondo. The wee guy was just worrying that the station DCI would get involved. Davie’s got nothing to do with this. You know that.”

Dougie smiled warmly at Stevie. “Aye, you’re right enough. Even if he was the type, he works too hard to have time for that shite. Thanks, Stevie.”

“Nae bother DCI. Right, if you’re all done being a mother-hen, I’m off.”

Without waiting on a reply, Stevie headed for the door. As he approached the exit, PC Whitelaw re-entered with one of the station dogs dragging along behind. Catching scent of the coke wrapped tightly in Stevie’s inside jacket pocket, the wee spaniel went ape-shit, barking, yelping and pointing the metaphorical finger at Stevie.

“Seems that Muffin likes you, Ex-Detective Sergeant Miller,” PC Whitelaw scowled at Stevie.

“That dug’s as big a fuckin’ poof as you are, son.” Stevie barged past him and out the door.

Whitelaw started after Stevie. “I think you’d better come back here, sir.”

“Fuck off, goon,” Stevie replied without turning back.

Douglas walked around to the front door and pulled PC Whitelaw by the arm. “That dog needs more training, Whitelaw. His heid’s up his arse.”

Following the DCI back inside, PC Whitelaw looked unconvinced.

 

After a hundred yards or so, Stevie fished his iPhone from his pocket and scanned for Davie’s number. It was early, so he’d probably be on his way towards the school. As the ring tone started, he heard a phone ringing behind him and turned to see Davie ten feet away.

“Could’ve just shouted on me, Stevie,” Diller laughed.

“Aye, listen.” Stevie brushed off the humour. “Dougie’s been asking questions about your ‘night job’. Nothing serious but I’d make a point of meeting up with yer dad and laying on the charm.”

Diller’s eyes narrowed as he thought through the possibilities. “That boy Kenzo got picked up the other week. Did he open his mouth?”

Fuck, this boy is lethally quick thought Stevie. “Na, nothing deliberate, Davie, the desk-jockey that booked him overheard the name Diller mentioned when Kenzo was being released.”

Diller’s face was the coldest of steel. “Right. Thanks, Stevie. See you later, it’s time for school.

Stevie raked in the McDonalds bag for the last McMuffin, eyeing Davie’s back as he headed towards Bellshill Academy. Aye, Dougie, your boy’s far too clever to get himself in the shit he thought bitterly.

End of Excerpt

Mark’s other novels can be found now on Amazon

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Standing on The Shoulders…. Telling other’s stories; A preview

Whenever I write a new book, I ask a friend if I can borrow a story of theirs, something that happened to them that I then dramatize a wee bit and adapt to move my story forward.

I’m constantly surprised by how willing people are to let you hear their most personal lows and highs and basically, fuck about with them for entertainment.

For my debut novel, Bobby’s Boy, I used an experience of my own; sitting on a doorstep, neglected, day upon day. I also adapted an upsetting episode form a friend’s life. My friend had been tied to a chair and whipped, to ‘whip the gay out of him’. I dramatized this and made it worse than reality (as if reality in this case wasn’t bad enough) and thanked him over and over for trusting me with something, he hadn’t shared with his own family.

For Naebody’s Hero, I had my main character, Rob wake up to an empty house. Parents gone. this happened to a friend of mine and like Rob, he used it to become a truly good person.

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My new book, Head Boy is no exception. Why make it up, when you can steal your friends stories and embellish them? One of the loveliest, funniest (and most gorgeous) people I know had relayed this particular story to me a year or so ago, mostly because we share some history and too many common incidences of being let down by parents. You know who you are. Thanks for trusting me.

In this scene from Head Boy, Stacey is patching up an injured Davie Diller. Diller hs been tortured. The pair are occasional lovers.

The following excerpt is copyright to Mark Wilson 2013

Chapter 11

 Michael Jackson and Bubbles

 

Hunched over, hands deep inside the sleeves of his coat for protection, Diller slipped through the school gates and made his way around to the rear of the building. Kicking the door to save him using his hands to knock, Diller sighed with relief as Stacey opened the rear door for him. He didn’t know Cardinal Newman High School very well, but Stacey’s instructions had been clear.

“Davie, what’s happened to you?” Stacey had spotted the burst nose and bruising that had already formed on his face.

Diller slipped his hands through his jacket sleeves, and held them up for her to see.

“Oh God, Davie. Get in here.”

Stacey led him to the school’s little first-aid room and clattered around in cupboards and drawers for a minute or so collecting liquids, cotton and bandages.

“Sit here” she told him. Pushing his hands into a metal bowl filed with disinfectant, she waited for him to wince but saw no reaction.

“You’re not going to tell me what happened are you?”

Diller shook his head. “I can’t, Stace.” He wiggled his fingers in the bowl silently for a second or two, enjoying the clarity of the sting.

Stacey reached out and touched his cheek in the one place that looked like it wouldn’t hurt. Come on. Let’s get this cleaned up.”

Carefully disinfecting each of his nail-less fingertips, the cuts on his nose and cheek, Stacey then began applying ointment and bandages to each of his fingers. Davie stood up. “Just plasters on the finger-tips please, Stacey. I need to use my hands.”

“You need to keep these clean, Davie. I’m using bandages. Band-Aids are no good.”

Diller held her hand lightly. “Please, Stacey, just the plasters.”

Looking miffed, Stacey did as he asked despite her annoyance. Retrieving a big box marked ‘Multi-coloured Band-Aids.’, she proceeded to place a different coloured plaster on each of his damaged fingertips. “Blue, pink, yellow and purple. There ye’ go, tough-guy. MJ lives.”

Diller did a short Moonwalk in reply, making her laugh.

“Seriously, Davie, you should go to the hospital.”

Ignoring her remark, Diller put his arms around her and pulled her in close. “Thank you.”

Shrugging him off, Stacey told him “Don’t be getting all lovey with me, son. Friends with benefits, that’s what we agreed.” She was grinning.

“Aye, and some benefits they are.” Diller laughed.

“You had better be going home, Davie?”

An icy-seriousness slid over Diller’s face. Na. I’ve got people to meet at Angel’s.”

Stacey shook her head. “Go on then. Off ye’ go.”

Diller turned to leave but halted as Stacey took a firm grasp of his forearm.

“Hang on a minute, Davie.”

Diller sat back down, nodding his head in a gesture that conveyed, go on then. Stacey sighed and sat next to him, taking him by the arms again, avoiding his hands.

Staring out the little window in her office, she looked sad for a moment before talking.

“Do you remember ma Mum, Davie?”

He did, she’d been a big MILF in her younger years, in all honesty Davie would probably still fire into her, just for the novelty; she was still a good looking woman.

“Aye.” He said.

“Well, you’ll remember the state she used to get into, with the drink….and the drugs?” Stacey looked into his eyes, her own eyes, quivering and misting a little as she dredged up rusted memories that were perhaps better left lying to rot.

“Aye.” Diller said softly. “I remember.”

Stacey shifted her damp eyes back to the widow, giving Diller her profile.

“One Christmas, Mum bought me this bike; my first bike. I was probably five years old. It was beautiful.” She smiled at the memory for a second and then turned stone-faced.

“I played with it all day long on Christmas day, this beautiful pink bike, with tassels on the handles and clean, white pedals. I loved it. Mum made me stay in the house with it, we had a long hallway, so I didn’t mind…not really.” She smiled sadly at the thought of herself happily coasting up and down her Mum’s flat’s hallway.

“I went to bed happier than I could ever remember being. I felt surrounded by love that night; that was a rare feeling for me then, in those days. I thought that only someone who really, really loved you could put such thought into finding such a perfect present for you; that’s what I fell asleep thinking. How loved I was.” Stacey smiled again, a sadder smile this time.

“When I woke up the next morning, the pedals were off of my bike. I asked my Mum why and she told me that the bike, my bike, was faulty and that she’d send it back to the catalogue the next day for a better one, one that wasn’t broken. It would be back in a few days; she promised. I watched her take my beautiful bike away and planked myself on the window sill, remember those big windows in the flat?”

Diller nodded.

“Well, I sat there every day at eleven o’clock, when the post came, waiting for my new bike to come. I sat there every day, Davie. Day after day, she’d tell me, I’m sure that it’ll be here tomorrow, hen. Just wait and see. After six months I finally figured out, that she’d sent it back and gotten a refund; for money for drink.”

Stacey turned back to look into Diller’s eyes. Hers were no longer moist, they were steel.

“I got that bike for one day and spent dozens of days afterwards deluded, waiting desperately for it to come back. Who does that to their children, Davie?”

“I know, Stace. It’s shite.” Diller put a hand over hers, the one that still rested on his arm. He didn’t like this kind of closeness with anyone, it reminded him of holding Paul’s hand. No don’t go there.

Stacey shrugged him off and took his face in both of her hands. “That’s what you’re like, Davie. You give a little of yourself and you take it away before anyone can love it too much. You’re a fucking Indian-Giver with your affection.” Stacey laughed at this, then turned serious again.

“You need to sort yerself out, Davie.”

Diller looked away from her piercing eyes. “I thought you were happy with just a wee shag now and again, Stacey.”

She burst out laughing. “I don’t want to marry you ya’ arsehole; I just want you to let me be your friend.”

She reached out to his face again and rested her palm against his cheek. “You need to let somebody love you, Davie….. As a friend.”

Diller stood up from the table they’d been sitting on and pulled his zips up tight, closing his coat.

“Wouldn’t know how. I’ll see ye’ later, hen.”

“Go on then.” Stacey nodded at the door and watched him leave.

 

Head Boy will be published by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing, late July, 2013

Head Boy Preview – Chapters 1 and 2

The following excerpt is from my upcoming 3rd novel, Head Boy and contains strong language.

Monday
Chapter 1
School

Strutting along Bellshill main street Davie Diller kicked a discarded Coke can under the wheels of a buggy causing one of the rear tyres to suffer a slash as it crushed the can underneath. It was unintended but Diller took satisfaction from the sound of the tyre bursting anyway. The young mum, fag in hand, black leggings-cum-tights straining to contain her blubbery legs, continued on without noticing the puncture.

As he neared Bellshill Academy, Diller took a hard drag on what remained of his cigarette and tossed it with a flick at the heels of a pensioner who faced away from him. Diller didn’t need the hassle being seen smoking near the school grounds brought from teachers today, he had enough on his plate. Dressed in denims, shirt and tie and wearing a new pair of Adidas Superstar 2 trainers, Diller shoved his way through the double doors of the formerly boys only entrance. He fully expected a few snide comments about his appearance from some of the staff, but his attitude unsurprisingly was fuck’em. Diller figured that the teachers would love to have the balls to turn up in school in decent attire instead of their ubiquitous, black shoes, troos, and ever so rebellious, patterned shirt and tie combo.
“Haw, Wee-man” Diller grabbed tightly on the arm of a third year he’d spotted hanging about at the door. “You better have something for me.”
Terror filling his eyes, the pupil stared nervously up at Diller. “Aye, I mean, yes. It’s here…”
“Right. Good.” Diller cut him off by snatching the small envelope the kid was offering out of his hand. Pushing the boy aside and pocketing the envelope, he painted a cheery smile on his face as Mr Oliphant passed. “Morning Mr Oliphant. Diller sing-songed at the passing Maths teacher.
Fumbling around in his briefcase, Oliphant, dressed in a tragic turquoise Asda shirt, tie and trouser combo didn’t manage to look up but grunted a distracted “Morning.”
Diller shook his head, wondering, not for the first time how a dozy old bastard like Olly managed to remember how to breathe in and out all day, never mind explain complex equations to his pupils. At least he had a nice way with him old Olly, unlike the majority of the arsehole teaching staff. Smiling to himself, Diller continued upstairs towards the English department and his first class.
“Morning Mr Diller.” Never far from the English department, Mr Bowie loomed at the end of the corridor. He had a gift for making a friendly morning greeting sound like an accusation. He made Mr Diller sound like arsehole.
Davie had been in Bowie’s class in fifth-year. It’d been one hell of a year. Bowie was never off his back, a total head-case. The simplest mistake, misspelling or breathing too loud some days, was enough to tip the man over the edge and into a rant about responsibility, carelessness etc. Obviously, this meant that Bowie was by far the best teacher in school to rip the pish out of, but Davie had learned to be circumspect in his efforts, no use giving him fuel for the fire of his outrage. Besides, in a school with seventy-odd teachers, Bowie was the only one who had seen past Davie’s outer-persona. He stared right through the intelligence, manners and faux-charm, straight into the devious and dangerous little shite who lived beneath the veneer of a dedicated pupil. Imagine Bowie’s joy when in Sixth year, as reward for all of his ‘consistently excellent contributions to the school’, Diller was made Head Boy.
Bowie seemed to have been a teacher at Bellshill academy forever. Having taught a lot of the kids in Diller’s Class parents, he was still here, having not evolved to the changing times one iota. How the hell can a teacher from the late seventies hope to understand what goes on in the mind of kids in the year 2013. With iPads, Kindle, internet, hell indoor toilets, it must be like the future to a guy like Bowie. Dressed in a brown suit, beige shirt, brown tie and tan-coloured shoes Bowie sported the only two things that marked him out even further as a man displaced from his own time. A great big, bushy, grey moustache and a Beatles-style bright ginger toupee. The fact that Bowie was onto him from first glance, combined with his appearance and the old man’s attempts to control him, quite simply made Bowie an irresistible target to Diller.

As Diller wasn’t late today, for once, that meant that he was probably overdue with an assignment. Without stopping, Diller pushed his way into the classroom and disappeared through the door, pretending he hadn’t heard. Prick.
First one here Diller noted as he entered the ancient-looking and smelling classroom. The wood panelled walls bore the carvings of generations of Bellshill Academy pupils ‘BYT’, Linda gies gobbles’ and other such displays of wit adorned the panels. The painted sections above the wood had faded from bright white, to dark brown over the decades. The polystyrene ceiling tiles, dotted with precariously hanging pencils and spit-formed balls of paper towel fragments added no ambience.
Taking his customary chair at the rear of the room, Diller stretched his legs, lifting them up and onto his desk and pulled his phone out to check on his Facebook page as he waited for the classroom to fill up. There’s wee Stacey sent me a message. She’s a wee dirty, that yin. Probably after her hole. Jabbing on the envelope icon to open the message, Diller confirmed his suspicions as to the contents of Stacey’s message. ‘U up 4 it the night, Davie?’ and quickly closed it again without replying, preferring to keep his options open. Tonight was a long way off, anything could happen between now and then. It was a school night, sure but Angels in Uddingston had a three hour happy hour tonight and it was calling his name.
Stacey, twenty-one year old receptionist at Cardinal Newman High, across the other end of town, had been a fuck-buddy of his for around six-months. She was sound as fuck. Always around when he took the notion; never needy for a wee cuddle or a kind word afterwards. They had to keep their liaisons quiet at any rate, due to the age difference. Diller suspected that Stacey was as bad as he was when it came to her attitude towards sexual partners, seeing them as little more than sex-aids. That was fine by him. A wicked grin crossed Diller’s face as he enjoyed a quick mental flashback to their last encounter together at her modest flat on Glebe street. Christ! That was a good night. Enjoying the afterglow of the memory, he re-opened the message and replied ;-). Sometimes words got you into trouble so a non-committal winking emoticon would keep those gates open without promising anything.
Just as Diller moved to thumb the off button, a significantly less welcome message vibrated through. Moving his finger to open it Diller’s heart sank at the name that appeared. ‘Big Hondo’.

Big Hondo was actually James Crosbie of Babylon Road. Sixty-eight years old with the muscle mass of a man half his age, Big Hondo stood well over six feet in height. A former steelworker, In the 90s Hondo had used his substantial redundancy money to set himself up at the forefront of the only thriving business Thatcher had left in the area, the drug business. Hondo also had the foresight and intelligence to attend university using the re-training wage kindly offered to the redundant men of Ravenscraig by Mrs T, graduating with a 2:1 in Business management.
Hondo attacked his new venture with the same commitment he had his degree at Uni, with the single-minded, fastidiousness that only mature students bring he implemented his detailed business plan; making a vast number of contacts abroad, establishing a supply chain, examining the logistics of his new enterprise, building a network of mules and street-corner/club dealers, armed with bags of…whatever. Hondo quite literally carved himself a huge slice of the drug trade pie in North and South Lanarkshire. In the process he employed violence more often than he employed new dealers.
Most folk in the area believe he gained the nickname ‘Hondo’ due to his love of all things Western-related. Permanently dressed in double-denim, cowboy boots, belt and Stetson, Hondo wasn’t difficult to spot in The Orb, a local pub, of an evening. The truth was that Hondo acquired his nickname from his enthusiastic use of the Bowie-knife, a cowboy’s favourite blade, as his favoured deal-maker and deal-breaker. Taking all of five years, Hondo had slashed, stabbed, throttled, drowned, bought, shagged, bribed, murdered and dealt his way to a position of power that had ultimately made him untouchable in Lanarkshire. Rumour had it that he had a fair few cops on his payroll, which Diller’s Dad said was rubbish. Drug-dealer propaganda he’d called it. Whatever the truth was, when it came to scoring some top-notch Charlie, Hondo was the man in Lanarkshire and the man was not to be fucked with.
Working with Big Hondo, was Wee Hondo, or Lionel, his son. Wee Hondo was if anything, even bigger than his Dad, but had none of the old man’s fierce intelligence, the only ferocity he displayed was with his fists. Growing up with Hondo as his father, immersed in the old man’s business, had made the boy as hard as rock. He didn’t need to be clever, the old boy took care of that, Wee Hondo was best utilised in the more physical side of the business. He was good at it and enjoyed it’s challenges immensely. Over the years, Wee Hondo had developed a reputation as a skilled remover of body parts. He could remove pretty much anything from a person whilst avoiding his victim bleeding out; so they said. A true chip off the old, blade-wielding, gonad-smashing block that was Big Hondo. It was true that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, but in Hondo’s case it had fallen with a pair of size fourteen, steel toe-capped boots, a pre-disposition towards torture and an evil grin. Big Hondo’s Dad, a wheelchair-bound ninety year old who smoked all day, dispensed larger deals to more trusted clients who visited their home and never left the house; completed the trio.

The Crosbies weren’t the small former-mining town’s only drug-dealers but the three men who made up their ranks controlled a continuous flow of the highest quality cocaine in a twenty mile radius and oversaw the activities of the others. Generously, the Crosbies also offered ‘tic’, an arrangement where the purchaser could obtain the drug of their choice gratis for an arranged period, usually a week or two. After that it was pay up or lose body parts courtesy of Wee Hondo. Diller was normally the type who preferred the former payment plan, but had been short of funds and taking the piss recently taking him dangerously close to paying the latter price.

Looking back to his phone, Diller sat staring at the unopened icon for a few minutes. Shit. Whatever Hondo wanted wouldn’t be good news; that Diller was certain of. He thumbed the message and felt a shiver pass through his muscles as he read the words ‘Hundred Grand by Friday or UR dead.’

Chapter 2

On a School Night

“Give me those fags.” Diller had scraggy-looking fourth year boy with a squint in his eye, whose name he didn’t know pressed against the wall with the palm of his hand on the lads’ chest, in the alcove under the assembly hall.
“Ye’ cannae’ dae’ that.” The wee guy squealed.
Diller poked an index finger into ‘Skelly-eye’s’ shoulder. “Hurry up ya wee fanny.’ His voice was calm and quiet. Skelly-eye looked around at his friends for a bit of back-up, but they’d picked a spot each on the ground and were avoiding Diller’s challenging, scanning stare. One of them got a moment of courage and told Skelly-eye, “Just give him them Jordan.”
Diller pushed his nose closer to Jordan’s. Letting some gas rise up his throat, he belched loudly in the kid’s face, noticing the after-burn of the cold curry he’d had for breakfast. Jordan wretched a little at the smell and reached into his jacket pocket for his ten-deck of Lambert and Butler.
“Here.” Jordan slapped the pack into Diller’s waiting hand.
“Smoking’s bad for ye’ Jordan” Diller put a mocking tone into name, “I’m doing ye’ a favour here, son. Right,” he leaned in close to whisper into Jordan’s ear, “get tae’ fuck, dick.”
As the little group of fourth years ran off, Diller rounded the corner and entered the bin shed, flicking one of Jordan’s cigarettes into his mouth as he walked out of view. Grimacing at the first harsh lungful, he examined the silver box Jordan had given him. Cheap, shitey fags, I’ll have to pick a better class of loser for my next pack. Lunchtime lasted fifty minutes and Diller normally spent that time smoking in the bin shed, chatting up some of the sixth year lassies he hadn’t ridden yet or occasionally doing some work in the library to keep up appearances. Today, he smoked eight of the ten cigarettes Jordan had ‘gifted’ him in a twenty minute blast, mind racing with possibilities, consequences and possible outcomes. This thing with Hondo was a worry, no doubt about it.
A long-term client of Hondo’s, Diller had made a small business of buying manageable quantities of coke over the last two years or so. He had a small number of guys dealing for him, after a wee tamper with the quality of the product, of course; and with Hondo’s blessing. The problem was that over the last six months or so, Diller had taken on an absolute mountain of coke, all on ‘tic’ with a far too care-free attitude.
He hadn’t snorted hundred grand’s worth of Hondo’s Charlie on his own, he found that coke made him a bit too careless and made his ego grow out of control; on the contrary he’d been very generous with it. The coke had been meted out to barmen, bouncers, and potential sexual-partners; to low-level dealers whose own inferior product paled in comparison and any number of thugs out over the six months. Diller was building his own wee network of ‘friends’ and filling an account full of favours owed from a range of useful types around Lanarkshire. You never knew when an alibi, some muscle, entry to a club or some sex would be needed and Diller liked to keep a myriad of opportunities and options on call. School, with its ever-changing clientele and flow of people was an ideal recruiting base and networking opportunity for those who kept their eyes open. Never dealing though, not in school.
It was an expensive endeavour, this networking and favour gathering and one that Hondo had been happy to fund, in the short-term, owing to Diller’s connections to the constabulary through his dad and the impressive sales he’d clocked up over a short time. It looked like Hondo had just decided that Diller had been giving away too much or not selling enough, either that or he’d decided that Diller was gaining too large a network and wanted him shut down. There was also the possibility that Hondo simply wanted a return on his investment. A hundred grand, though? Surely Hondo’s been a bit heavy on the interest there, I couldn’t have done in that much coke in six months, could I?
Lighting cigarette number nine, Diller noted that it was the ‘lucky fag’ from the packet, the one that everyone always turns filter side down when a fresh pack is opened. Smiling in acknowledgment at the absurdity of the ubiquitous smoker’s habit, he sparked it up. As he smoked his way down to the shite at the end of the cigarette, almost to the filter, an evil smile spread across his face and a plan tickled the cold recesses of his brain. It’d be tricky, but it just might work.
Flicking the butt into the pile he’d made, Diller straightened his shirt and headed up to the assembly hall just as the bell rang, signalling that lunchtime was over. As part of his ‘Special Duties’ he regularly delivered a short motivational or informative speech at some of the junior kids’ assemblies. It was fourth year today and a talk on health and wellbeing. Diller would be advising the junior pupils on the evils of drugs, alcohol and smoking. To be fair, he wasn’t exactly short of experience on the subjects. He’d have to remember to ‘thank’ Jordan for his lucky fag if he saw him in assembly.

Leaving the school grounds within ten minutes of the final bell ringing, Diller turned off of Main Street, passed Riley’s pool hall, which was in the process of closing for good, and along Thorn Road towards the railway bridge. Having grabbed a Superdry hoodie from his school locker, Diller pulled he hood up over his head. His old man still worked in the police station. He rode a desk these days, but still had a finger in every pie. Diller needed to slip past unnoticed, he could do without a conversation with the old man at the moment; he had places to be.
Continuing along towards the little tunnel under the bridge, he slipped through and took the short walk to ‘The Sandy’ a shitehole of a park where all the local Neds gathered. One Ned in particular interested him, Tommy McTavish, aka Tawttie.
Tawttie appeared with a small crew of his ‘team’, a bunch of local losers who Diller had known for years. Each of them had been a pupil at Bellshill Academy.
Noticing Diller lurking on the periphery of the park, Tawttie, left his four comrades and shuffled over in Diller’s direction. Dressed in typical NED attire; tracksuit, trousers tucked into socks, scabby-looking, ingrained mud on white clothes offset by sparkling white trainers, Burberry cap and a brace of sovereign rings, Tawttie and his crew looked like every other wee fanny in Lanarkshire. Their clothes were practically a uniform and the trademark ‘dug’, normally Rottweiler or Pit-bull, was a given.

Not being the academic type, Tawttie had left Bellshill Academy in fourth year and been quickly recruited by Diller. Amongst other things, he couriered items and substances, but essentially did Diller’s dirty work for him, allowing Diller to maintain his facade. The pair had first spoken business after a particularly vicious playground fight that Tawttie had won quickly and clinically with a boot to the balls and a stamp on the prone head of his opponent. Diller had watched with interest as Tawttie had dismantled the other boy, moving aside only as Bowie pushed past him to break up the fight, admonishing Diller with a hard stare for standing watching the display. Within a week of the incident, Tawttie was permanently expelled from school and working for Diller.
Guy’s like Tawttie were far from rare in Lanarkshire and easily made use of; a few free bags of Charlie here, a few quid there, some opportunities to make some easy money and build a bit of a street-rep; They weren’t interested in getting a job; all they wanted was some money and some drugs in their pocket and their hole occasionally.
Fear was another excellent tool to make these guys comply and one which Diller was expertly skilled in wielding. Physically, any one of these guys could easily overcome Diller, but he’d been patient in his younger days, Overheard conversations between his dad and a variety of colleagues; greasing the right palms with drugs and money, the threat of Hondo in his corner; these things had served to place Diller into a position where these street-mugs respected and feared him. As the son of a teacher and a copper, convention would dictate that he’d be the last type of boy to involve himself in this world. His desires, connections, insight, skills and inherent badness had meant he was a natural.
By far the most difficult part to date had been keeping up his mask of normality in school and at home, but he’d turned it into a game in his mind, considering the roles he played as his secret identity; like Batman, but a bastard-Batman. Every so often though, violence was required by circumstances and demanded by his true self, the pressure of hiding his inner-bastard built up and needed to be released.
He’d learned to pick his moment over the years and selected people that no-one would miss; those who would serve as a warning to others. Junkies, dealers, people who owed dealers money, nobodies. He always cleaned up after himself, burning every fibre of clothing he may have worn in the act. Each victim attributed, on the grape-vine, to young Hondo.
Of course, with Tawttie, there was the added incentive that the guy had seen the monster hidden under the mask, when he’d walked into a dark close on Lawmuir Road in the early hours to find Diller crouched over a forty-year old man, knife in his eye socket, eye on the ground. No stranger to cutting a man himself, Tawttie had nodded, turned around silently and left Diller to his work, but he’d never looked him straight in the eye again and never argued when issued a task.
“Eh, awright, eh… Diller.” Tawttie’s voice was nasal and he used exaggeratedly long and faux cheery notes, again, part of the NED persona. He was nervous, he always was around Diller. This showed that he was smarter than he looked.
Diller ignored Tawttie’s eloquent greeting and threw a fifty-gram bag of Charlie in his direction. The coke, Hondo’s finest was cut generously with glucose from the school’s Science stores and cost Tawttie one hundred pounds per gram. Diller had ‘paid’ Hondo eighty pounds for it. The effective downgrading of the Charlie made it go a whole lot further and usually went unnoticed by the kind of mutant who opted to purchase their drugs from the likes of Tawttie. His clientele would still be thrilled at the quality despite the glucose; it would most likely be a nice change from their nose-powder being cut with bathroom products. In all likelihood when Tawttie’s coke made its way down the supply chain a few levels, from the odd banker and lawyer, to Hipsters to bored housewives, to deadbeats; it’d probably still be destined to mingle with a variety of household powders until the junky at the bottom of the pile and the peak of some junk withdrawal was snorting about one percent coke, ninety-nine percent fuck-knows what.
“Money.” Diller barked at Tawttie who hurriedly fished a scabby-looking brown bag stuffed with what Diller expected would be even scabbier-looking notes of all denominations from one of his pockets and placed it in Diller’s hand.
At that, Diller left without another word and headed to five more similarly engaging appointments with several variations on Tawttie around town. The money was stacking up, for sure, but a hundred grand in a week just didn’t seem possible. Diller suspected that was the whole point. Hondo liked to make an example of someone from time to time. It was becoming apparent that Diller’s moment had arrived. Hondo had abandoned his corner and become his opponent. Fuck it. Had to happen eventually; bring it on, Hondo.

Head Boy will be published by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in July 2013

 

Mark Wilson’s Other Novels are available now on Amazon

headBoy-final-cover

The Fix by Keith Nixon

You had me at “I am Fucked “

Any Book that starts with that opening line and goes on to describe its main character being robbed “same time, same place” every Wednesday by a Tramp/undercover KGB agent, cannot fail to grab your attention.

This is a trick that seasoned authors regularly fail to utilize effectively and set the tone for the rest of this fine book. That the author, Nixon, keeps up this level of attention grabbing and sheer entertainment for the next 200-odd pages is to his credit. It’s a difficult thing to sustain pace of this intensity in this kind of novel without confusing or overwhelming the reader but Nixon pulls it off skilfully. The first person narrative used is spot on. I normally detest this sort of narrative but Nixon’s use of this perspective lends the book a nervous, edgy feel and enhances the feeling of action.

Keith takes a main character in Josh Dedman who’s a bit pathetic and should be utterly unlikable (and would be lesser hands) and has you laughing along, shaking your head and cheering the cynical bastard on; mostly because his man voices your own twisted thoughts and makes you grin at them. There are elements of early Carl Hiassen insight and humour in this book as well as a pinch of Brookmyre intelligence in the plot. The last book I enjoyed with this kind of pace (and finished also in record time) was Incompetence by Rob Grant . The Fix shares Incompetence’ irreverent and very accurate observations of the world it’s set in but despite these observations, never descends into a rant.

I’d read another of this author’s books in a heartbeat and would recommend this novel to anyone. No matter which genre you frequent, go hang around with Josh in Margate, you’ll be glad you did.

If words were drugs, and Keith Nixon my local dealer, you’d find my sweating presence waiting for my man on a street corner.
Buy The Fix now on Amazon