Bowling Ball by Escobar Walker – Review

Disappointing use of obvious talent

I wanted to like this book, I really did. Escobar Walker is a very, very good writer with a massive talent for observation and for conveying those characteristic traits of people that make them so individual and entertaining. This is the kind of skill that has given people like Billy Connolly a long career and makes for a potentially great writer. Unfortunately Walker isn’t making the best of his considerable writing skill or his capacity for characterisation and cutting humour.

For me, Bowling Ball was one long exercise in relaying as many Scottish clichés as possible in 90,000 words. All the main characters speak with one voice, in that they’re almost indiscernible from each other, blending in to one long narrative throughout the book. To identify each character Walker uses the phrase “my cousin’s flatmate”, or a version of it dozens of times throughout, which is, I suppose, a clumsy way of letting the reader know which character is narrating but becomes annoying as the book progresses. Much simpler to give each character a distinct personality and voice or even stick the character name at the chapter heading.

Every character encountered was either a Frances Begbie (violent Neanderthal) derivative or a victim. None of the characters developed at all during their stories, and if being completely honest, the book didn’t really have a definite plot. This isn’t always a huge problem (see Trainspotting) if the characters have an interesting journey, but the characters Walker has created aren’t allowed any growth and are very much trapped and stunted by the stereotypical values, attitudes and traits that Escobar has saddled them with. Really, the image of Scots as a nation of violent, drunken, drugged up wife-beaters and hoors has been done to death and I was hoping for something a little more intelligent from a writer as good as Escobar. In many ways the image presented in Bowling Ball of the people in its pages reads like it was written by someone who has a trace of knowledge of the area and its people and has just taken all the most spiteful and reprehensible actions and characteristics to drive forward a very wearing and very negative, but often very funny story. This showed in the inconsistencies in the characters regional dialect, often mixing Edinburgh-isms which Glasgow patter. For me this was lazy and added to the obviousness of the plot and characters of the book.

I was incredibly frustrated reading this book because the writer could be an exceptional talent, but must plot an engaging story and populate it with believable and engaging characters who are allowed to behave badly, show moments of humanity in amongst the filth and most importantly to grow as the story progresses.

I will read the next book in the series, because Escobar has me invested in where these people will go despite making them predictable and dull; his writing is that good. Bowling Ball is a debut novel and is entertaining at points, I’ve certainly read debut novels that haven’t been anywhere near as good as Bowling Ball. The writer will have developed considerably in the process of writing it and with that in mind I’d love to see Walker stretch his legs and push himself to construct a story that displays how talented he really is and will follow his writing career and his development in future.

Bowling Ball is available Here.

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Head Boy by Mark Wilson Excerpt

The following excerpt is from Chapter 10 of Head Boy by Mark Wilson Copyright to M.Wilson2013

Head Boy is available as a paperback and on kindle on Amazon US and UK

headBoy-final-cover

 

Chapter 10

A Useless Five-Percent-er

 

Stevie removed his leather bomber jacket and threw it onto the ram-raid post to his left. Bloody warm tonight.

Having to wrestle two deadbeats out of Angel’s hadn’t helped him in staying cool either.

“Haw, Monkey,” he bellowed.

One of Stevie’s co-workers, a temp who had been hired from Rock Steady for the night, looked up at him. When temps appeared to provide an extra pair of hands on busy nights, Stevie didn’t bother to learn their names, but gave them nicknames based on their face or mannerisms. In the last few months, he’d worked with Mongers, Budgie, Nicki Minaj, Posh Spice and Django. Tonight’s guy was a bit simian-looking so had been christened, Monkey. Around an hour into his shift, Monkey had given up trying to tell Stevie his name, figuring that it was less trouble to simply answer to his new moniker.

“Aye?” Monkey asked.

“I’m going to stretch my legs and have a cig. You take over here Monkey-Boy.”

Stevie loped off, lighting a Marlborough as he went. Hearing his colleague huffing, he tossed over his shoulder. “I’ll bring ye a nice banana back.”

Monkey jabbed his middle finger at Stevie’s back as he left.

 

Half an hour later, Stevie was in a dark corner on the perimeter of the Tunnock’s factory. Leaning back against the brick, Stevie inhaled deeply on a Marlborough and craned his neck back to stare up at the sky, trying to enjoy the moment. All of his senses were sharpened but not in a good way. His nerves were shredded, every sound irritated him. The cold scratchy bricks on his bare arse cheeks chafed and Linda’s teeth, rather than stoking his lust as they gently nibbled and dragged back and forth assisting her lips, well, they just hurt. His semi had all but wilted to a five percent insult of an erection despite Linda’s finest efforts to revive it.

“Stop, hen, just stop there,” Stevie told her.

“What’s the matter, Stevie?” Linda looked up at him.

“Och, I’ve a lot on my mind, hen.”

“We could try something else?” Linda took a step to the wall, braced both hands on the brickwork and rotated her pelvis, presenting her peach of an arse to Stevie.

Stevie laughed, causing her to self-consciously straighten and cover herself over with her coat.

“Don’t ye fancy me anymore?” she accused him, looking ten percent hurt, ninety percent pissed-off.

“Och, it’s not you, it’s me, Linda,” Stevie offered, standing pathetically covering himself while his trousers lay around his ankles.

Linda poked a finger in his face. “Did you just say that? To me?” she screamed at him, overdramatically.

“I didn’t mean it like that, hen. I’ve really not been right.” Stevie had his palms open in a submissive gesture.

“Aye, well,” Linda told him, lighting a cigarette. “I’ve not got time for this. Gies a phone when it’s working again.” She jabbed a finger down at his crotch and departed, wobbling away on her fantastic legs and too-high heels.

Stevie sighed and lit another Marlborough. Holding the cig in his mouth he tucked away his soggy wee pal and did up his trousers. He’d been struggling badly to focus since he’d met with Hondo the previous day. Hardly sleeping at all the previous night, Stevie had tossed and turned, trying to figure out who and what he’d become. Had he really promised Hondo that he would help with Davie Diller?

Since he’d left the force, Stevie’s life had gone to shit. He’d lost and thrown away everything good in his life. The job, the house, his wife, their daughter; in an eighteen-month spell he’d lost the lot. Looking back, it was clear that in the months following his medical retirement Stevie had been badly depressed and in the darkest depths of PTSD. That one split second when the knife had slid into his thigh had changed his life forever and continued to define his actions now.

 

**********

DS Miller had been standing bullshitting about football with the boy behind the desk in the Shell petrol station when the call came in. An informant of his had tipped him off a few days previously that a substantial deal was taking place in The Orb, and that Hondo would be there in person, holding product. The call informed him that the deal was on.

DS Miller contacted the station, looking for the DCI to get the go-ahead, but Dougie was still down at Wishaw General visiting that nephew of his, the laddie with leukaemia. That meant that it was the Sergeant’s call. Relaying orders for a few uniformed officers to liaise with him on Hamilton Road, DS Miller went directly there on foot. Accepting a stab-proof vest from the attending DC, DS Miller briefed each of the half dozen officers, instructing them to go for Hondo first and then arrest any stragglers.

Almost as soon as the team burst through the door of The Orb bar, DS Miller spotted Hondo holding court at the far end of the bar. Team-handed they dragged him and three of his cronies to the sticky floor, cuffed and searched him. Nothing.

Hondo laughed at them throughout. “Better luck next time,” the old man had sneered at DS Miller as he was released from the barely-on cuffs.

“Just wait the now,” Miller told his team.

Stepping outside, he radioed the station. Five minutes later the dog team arrived. The station dog, a massive German Shepard named Kaiser, sniffed from man to man, finding nothing. The handler proceeded to lead Kaiser around the pub whilst Hondo and his crew laughed to themselves. Suddenly the mutt had leapt over the bar and begun scratching and barking at the cellar door.

“If there’s nothing else Sergeant? “Hondo laughed and left the pub. DS Miller had no excuse to stop him leaving.

Opening the cellar door, Miller had shouted down into the darkness, “Up ye come.” Suddenly a man flashed through the open hatch. Bowie knife in hand, the suspect had plunged the eight-inch blade into Miller’s leg and ended his career in a spray of blood and violence.

When he’d still been on active duty, Stevie had scoffed at other officers who had succumbed to PTSD after an incident on duty. If they can’t cope wi’ the job, they should fuck off out of it had been his assertion.

Like most officers he’d worked with, Stevie had considered mental illness a preventable and controllable condition. Just cheer up. Just don’t think about it. Just work harder.

Now he knew better. Stevie had spent hours crying for no reason. He’d slept for days at a time, starved himself and ignored everyone. He’d tried to re-engage but couldn’t face the simple act of talking to another person. Hell, he couldn’t even look at his own wife without suffering a panic attack. His daughter had cried at him, begging him to pull himself together. Don’t you love us anymore, Dad? It had broken his heart. Inside he was screaming “Yes! Help me!’” Outside, he rolled over and went to sleep whilst his broken-hearted family packed their things and left him.

He drank and did drugs. He gambled, and then, finally, eventually, he faced the world again. The doc had given him pills that helped him to face people, but the guy who emerged through the black fog with a medicine cabinet full of anti-depressants at home and a bloodstream full of whiskey and Class-As wasn’t really Stevie Miller anymore. He just wore him like a suit.

Who he was now – no family, reeking of cigarettes, alcohol and bitterness – would have sickened DS Miller. But he was who he was. He didn’t know how to be his old self anymore. The guy who’d laughed freely with people, who’d spent all of his free time with his family. The guy who people knew would do what he said he would and could be relied upon to back you up. The husband, the father and the police officer were all long gone and all that remained, it seemed, was the piece of shit, alcoholic, coke-snorting doorman who’d sell out his best friend’s son for the favour of a petty local drug dealer.

The old DS Miller would have detested Stevie Miller, but not half as much as he hated himself. Just like his dick, he was about five percent of what he should be.

 

Fuck it. Stevie tossed the butt of his cigarette at the wall. Five percent’s better than fuck all. Hondo can go fuck himself. Young Davie was a bit of a player but that could be sorted. Davie had never hurt a soul. He didn’t deserve what was coming to him.

 

Stevie straightened himself and headed back to Angel’s to finish his shift.

 

Head Boy is available as a paperback and on kindle on Amazon US and UK

Last Season’s Children: the debut novel that never was

The following excerpt comes from a book I started writing in 2009 and as yet haven’t been able to continue with. It was the first writing project I took on and would have been my debut novel if I hadn’t gotten distracted by four other books I had to write, and in all honesty, if I hadn’t been too scared and lacking in the technical skills to write it.

Last Season’s Children is Semi-Autobiographical but is a mostly fictional examination of how divorce and any subsequent marriages (for the kids or the parents) affects children. It’s a subject that has defined almost every aspect of my upbringing and early adult life.

Using the theme of seasons to represent the characters, in Last Season’s Children we follow siblings, Gus and July, every two years throughout their lives. The language used by the characters in each time period reflects their respective ages, education, situation, and mental state.

I will write the rest of this novel, but not yet: I hope you enjoy.

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Last Season’s Children 

2000

                                    August is 3 years old.

                                    July is 5 years old.

 

August:

I’m in bed and it’s past my bed-time. I should be sleeping by now but I can hear the angry sounds coming up from downstairs again. Can’t sleep.

My room has Star Wars wall-paper and I’ve studied every inch of it. Obi-Wan has a blue Lightsaber and is fighting Dart Maul. I picked it ‘cos I love the film and I like counting the droids when I’m lying in bed. My big sister July took me to see it at the Vue Cinema in Hamilton. We go there on the number fourteen bus every Saturday. July’s friends come too and she never goes without me. July always shares her crisps with me.

July says that Mum and Dad are just talking loudly, but I know that they don’t like each other anymore. They still like me, though.

 

July is here, with me. She always is if I can’t sleep. She’s helping me play the flag game. July helps me sort out colours from downstairs into the flags of different countries. She knows lots of flags and I do too. It’s how we put away the angry colours coming up from Mum and Dad’s talking. We play this game a lot. July sees colours too. All sounds make colours for us. Some colours are really nice, like music we like or nice peoples’ voices. Others are a bit scary but July always knows how to make the colours quiet.

 

It’s Saturday tomorrow and we are going to the cinema again and then to our Gran’s. I love my Gran’s house, it’s fun. She has a budgie called Jackie who says bad words and she always makes sugary tablet for us. Gran always makes us laugh, she’s the funniest person we know.  She lives with my Granda, my Auntie Betty and my Uncle Robert. Uncle Robert has no teeth and eats sweets called Odd-Fellows all the time. Aunty Betty is very quiet. Me and July go to our Gran’s house almost every day.

Me and July are always doing things together; even when I just want to stay in my room July says” C’mon Gus, we’ve got a busy day!”

 

Our front door has just slammed. Dad has left again. I’m really sleepy….

 

————————————

July:

Daddy has just left. It sounded really bad downstairs this time, but at least Gus is sleeping now. I kiss him on the forhead, slide out of his bed and go downstairs. Sometimes I skite down the bannister, but I’m creeping this time in case Daddy’s still here. Mummy is crying again and turns away from me when I walk in. I stand beside her leg and tell her I came for a drink of milk. When Mummy turns round she has my milk and a smile but her eyes are very red. We hug and talk for a while and then I go back to my own bedroom. I love my bedroom. It’s next to Gus’s room and has lots of pictures of my whole family, my soft toys and my dolls-house.

Gus and I are going to Gran’s tomorrow. Gran always gives us a lot of cuddles, and tablet.  It’s always better to go there after there’s been a big fight at home. It’s even better if we can go to school the day after a big fight. School always makes me feel safe.

I’m going into primary 2 soon but would like it better if my class could stay with the same teacher. Mrs Cooke is nice and doesn’t mind if I’m a bit too tired to finish all my work in class. She knows I like to read and gives me books to take home. I always take good care of them and give them back after I have read them.

I brush my hair for a while and listen to make sure that Gus hasn’t woken up again. He’s been sleepwalking again and I like to get to him before he wakes up Daddy or Mummy. It sounds like he’s quiet for tonight, so I decide to read ‘til I’m sleepy again.

I’ve got a newspaper in my room, The Herald, and I read it for a little while before I go back to sleep. I have always liked watching and reading the news. The people use words I don’t hear very often and I like trying to use them.  I watched a report on the news yesterday about an earthquake, which is when your whole house shakes. For a few days there’s something the man on the news called ‘aftershocks’ too. Sometimes the people evacuate until it all settles down.

 

Sleepy now…

2002

 

                                    August is 5 years old.

                                    July is 7 years old.

 

August:

I’ve got chickenpox and I’m stuck in bed. I’m not allowed to go anywhere for another week, and I’m bored. I want to go to school ‘cos I miss playing with my friends at break, especially Jim Gallagher; he’s my best friend. We get into trouble together sometimes but always back each other up. One day an old man who lives round the back from Jim told us to come in for ice-cream. I said we weren’t going but Jim was desperate for ice-cream so we went in. The man smelled of pipe-smoke and cherry tobacco and he had a massive freezer in his living room, like the one in the corner shop. He told Jim that he wanted to show him something upstairs and ‘cos Jim was following him I said that I had a sore stomach and needed him to take me home so that Jim would leave with me too. I walked Jim home and then went home to my own house. My Dad went round to see the man to tell him not to ask us in again.

 

My teacher is nice at school. Mrs Cooke says that I’m as good a reader as July but I don’t like it. It’s boring and I prefer sports. I walk to school with Gillian Foster who lives 2 doors down from my house.  She always turns up at my door and says that she is my girlfriend but she’s not. I’m never having a girlfriend, all they do is make you argue with them. I like Gillian but she’s very loud and tries to kiss me all the time and she still uses stabilisers on her bike so she can’t keep up with me.

 

It’s Saturday and I should be at the Cinema in Hamilton to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I’ve been so excited to see the new Harry Potter film. Everyone wants to be Harry in my class, but I like Ron Weasley better, he makes me laugh. July helped me make a Ron costume and I wore it last month to a birthday party and cast some spells on some ‘Slytherins’ that were there too.

On the way back from the party I was running through an alley July and I use for a short-cut. I fell over and my hand landed on a broken Buckie bottle. The green glass went into my palm and came out the other side. It was really sore. July took the glass out and took me to her friends’ house whose mum is a nurse. She gave me butterfly stitches and put a bandage on. It’s almost all better now but a have a big scar on my palm that looks like a big letter ‘J’. When-ever I see it I remember July pulling out the glass.

July is home with me today ‘cos she won’t go to the cinema if I can’t go with her. She’s helping mum to clean out the taxi. Mum drives a black taxi and works for a man called Peter McKenna at Maxi’s Taxis. She sometimes works at night-time when we are sleeping. Gran comes to sleep at our house if mum is working nights. Me and July go to a lady called Grace’s house after school and have our dinner there until mum comes home. Grace has a big fat ginger cat called Tiger. July always cuddles it but I’ve kicked it two times now ‘cos he scratches me and I don’t like him. Grace lives next door to a man called Donny Smith. My dad said I’ve not to talk to him and if Donny talks to me I’m supposed to tell my dad.

My dad has gone to Blackpool for a few days ‘cos he is fed up with my mum. July misses him and has phoned him three times this week, but I’m not bothered. We hardly see him when he’s home anyway so it doesn’t make much difference that he’s away.

I want to see my Gran today. She says we can go there because they have all had chickenpox before, except Uncle Robert. Gran says he will just have to stay in his room until we leave. I hope Gran has made some soup and some tablet for us.

I can see Alexander Goode playing in his garden next door. He still has a bandage on his wrist from when we were fighting two weeks ago. Alexander Goode is eight years old and much bigger than I am. Every day since I started school he has hit me on the way home. I don’t like fighting and July said I hadn’t to hit him back, so he continued to hit me for 6 weeks.

One day when he hit me I fell and tore the knee out of my school trousers. Dad saw them when I got home and I had to tell him what Alexander had done to me. Dad asked me why I hadn’t hit him back. I told him I was scared. Dad asked me who I’m more scared of, him or Alexander Goode. He told me if I didn’t go next door and batter him, that he would hit me hard for being a poof. Dad took me into the garden and kicked the fence to break it. He gave me a post and sent me next door.

I was really scared to hit Alexander but my dad fights all the time and I didn’t want him to hit me like I’d seen him hit some men. Dad has the biggest scar I’ve ever seen. It goes from under his belly-button, across his body and up to his neck. He said it’s mum’s fault he got it ‘cos she was talking to a man she shouldn’t have been.

I went next door and did what I was told. Alexander doesn’t talk to me anymore and stays out of my way. I feel bad but kind of like that the bigger boys let me hang around with them now.

I wish these chickenpox would go away…

——————————————-

 July:

I’ve been really busy at school recently, and at the dancing. I have hardly seen Gus ‘cos he’s been in the house ill for ages now. I miss walking to school with him and wee Gillian.  Mum and dad have been working lots and hardly speak to each other when they are in the house together. I miss my Daddy; he’s away just now. Gus doesn’t seem to mind but before he got ill he’d hardly been around either. I think he’s been hanging around with that big boy Tommy Stuart and his gang. I hope they don’t encourage him do stupid things. They are always in trouble with the police. Gus was sleep-walking again last night. He was talking too; about the colours from that day but he didn’t remember it in the morning. He is listening to music all the time just now cos he’s at home. That always makes his head busy at night and he lies in his bed sorting the colours instead of sleeping. Our cousin Davie Connell gives Gus all of his albums to listen to ‘cos he knows how much Gus loves them. I’m going to ask Gran later if dad will come home soon ‘cos I’m worried that he won’t…

 

End of Excerpt

You can find Mark Wilson and his books on Amazon US; Amazon, UK and at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing

Head Boy – A Preview

I sat down to write a chapter for my work in progress, ‘Somebody’s Hero’ and this wee tale came out instead. It feels quite similar in tone to my debut novel, Bobby’s Boy available here so I think I might carry on with it and see where it goes.

It’s called ‘Head Boy’.

Prologue

Davie Diller

What a fucking week, and here I sit in a community centre hall waiting for the guy who runs this anger management course to arrive. Collin Bottomley, there’s a name that has ‘target’ ingrained in it, is late as usual. I can absolutely guarantee you that his tardiness isn’t due to his being in the bathroom combing his hair or adjusting his clothing with loving pride. Collin is a loser’s loser. Dressed baldy-head to athlete-infected toe in Matalan’s finest polyester, Collin emanates beige through his every pore. From his Crocs and socks combo (beige) to his wee pocket protector that valiantly holds his pens and protects his short-sleeved shirt pocket from any wayward ink; every fibre of this guy screams out ‘I’m a forty year old man who shares a bath with my mother and still wets the bed’. Even his haircut looks like a tea-towel over the shoulders, pudding bowl on the head, mother’s cut. I imagine the kids in his street making his life a misery, throwing toilet paper at his house and chasing him along the street calling some imaginative nickname. Little kids are good at those.

Head Boy

Head Boy

The community centre is permeated with the stench of old people, babies, incontinence, Dettol, shite and death. I spot the leftovers of a poorly cleaned shite-stain on the wall by the door and peer closer to make out the faded message, written in excrement, long ago cleaned (poorly) but still visible. ‘Wullie shat here’. I sit wondering if ‘Wullie’ delivered his writing material fresh into his hand before leaving his touching prose, or if he brought his shite, wrapped neatly in some newspaper, ready for his next artistic project. I’m finding it difficult enough to believe that I have to attend this meaningless course, without having to read ‘Wullie’s’ philosophical musings whilst I wait for my counsellor. I mean, anger management for fuck-sake, what the fuck do I need with anger management? I’m the coolest fucking guy I know.

This Collin’s late again. Every fucking day he keeps me waiting here for up to an hour, like I’ve got nothing else to be doing but wait on this plastic-covered social incompetent deciding which coloured pen he’ll be using to note down my deficiencies and/or progress before coming to meet me. Part of me knows of course that it’s part of the process, a test to see if I can be patient. I can, on the outside. Inside I’m raging; I could’ve put another hour in on Call of Duty in the time I’ve spent here sitting staring at the formerly cheery, faded purple, woodchip walls adorned with quite literally the shittest graffiti man could produce.
When he does get here, this Collin, I’ll nod, look thoughtful and agree that I really should think things through before I act, that I should consider others’ feelings. I’ll tell him that I’ve been really upset since the incident and have thought of nothing other than how to control my temper. I’ll say all the things he wants to hear, tick all his ‘the offender has seen that there are consequences to his action’ boxes, and get the fuck back to school before this wee dick decides that he wants to be my boyfriend. Imagine my mates saw me sitting here wi’ this wee poof spewing phrases like ‘ thanks, Collin, that’s a big help’ or ‘Yes, Collin, I see how that technique would be a huge help to me’, through a haze of red hatred. Not that Collin would spot the venom in me; he’s lapping up my act of penitence. This guy lives to be needed, to be useful, to ‘fix’ people. What a fuckin’ loser.

Guys like Collin are all the same. They take comfort in the belief that people like me have a damaged background; that we don’t know any better or don’t understand society’s rules. We do, we just don’t give a shit. Collin and his type believe that with education or therapy we can be ‘rehabilitated’; that we can be fixed. We can’t, or more accurately, we won’t. Here’s the truth. People like me just enjoy being bad bastards. It’s quite simply great fun for us and we love how incomprehensible our actions seem to you. To us, you, the normal folk, are the walking dead and a source of endless amusement, to be manipulated, used and discarded by me and mine as the whim takes us.

Collin and his type take comfort in the belief that we have demons lurking, guys like me. Not true; I had a wonderful childhood. No deep-seeded angst hidden under my ‘fuck you’ attitude. No hidden pain forged in the furnace of some creepy uncle’s or some priest’s unwanted sexual attentions. No divorced parents, or violent incidents or sibling rivalry, or any of that shite. Nope, no-one tampered with me or beat me or called me useless or put unrealistic pressures on me to succeed on me, or ignored me, or over-indulged me; I was disciplined fairly and consistently by two parents who loved me and each other unconditionally. An ideal childhood really.
My mum’s a teacher and whilst I love my old Mammy, I can’t stand teachers. What a bunch of self-important wankers the teaching profession is riddled with. These people spend so much of their time talking down to those in their charge that a thin-lipped scowl and accusatory stare over reading glasses perched at the end of their alcoholic noses are as standard on most teachers faces as the ubiquitous mug of coffee in their hands and nicotine stains on their trembling, fingers. It’s impossible for someone like me to take a teacher seriously. Most of these people are straight out of school, into University, back into school again; and they stand there with a straight face giving the young team advice on how to succeed in life. They aint ever lived one, a real, full life that is, but it doesn’t stop them from telling other folk what they should be doing with theirs. Honestly, it’s like a nun giving Sex-Ed to a hooker. Imagine my despair that I’ve had to spend the best years of my life, so far, in a school surrounded by the torn-faced arseholes.

Dad’s the only thing worse than a teacher. A fucking copper. Good guy though my old man…for a copper.

It’s true that I had a very ordinary, and if being honest, boring early childhood. Happily for me and my monochrome wee world, I discovered by the age of around 9 that I find great enjoyment in fucking with and fucking over people at every opportunity. Vandalism, kidnap and shaving of small family pets, urinating in letter boxes, all innocent enough fun for a lad and a great way to learn the trade. These days, as an experienced torturer of the general populace, I have a vast array of strategies at my disposal, each designed to bring a little misery into my chosen victim’s day and a wee smile to my lips. Everyone’s fair game for my attentions. Pensioners, kids, teachers, polis’; all have provided me with my fun over the years. I’m usually pretty careful to maintain a sweet exterior though. I’m a fly bastard y’see. Never get caught. That bastard Bowie, though, he got under my skin. I let my temper get the better of me there. That was stupid, but I can’t beat myself up too much, ‘cos he had it coming and by Christ it was fun.

The bottom line is that I don’t want to change and no great tragedy has made me this way. I choose to do the things I do because it makes gives me a thrill to watch daft cunts squirm.
Thinking back, I maybe shouldn’t have hit Bowie with a chair, but he really had been asking for it for months, always on my fucking back ‘Have you finished this assignment yet, Diller? You have to take responsibility for your work, David. You’re not dressed very smartly, are you David?’ The guy’s voice went through me. He sounded like a cross between David Beckham and auld Jack Duckworth. Over the course of that one week I stupidly gave the fucker every excuse he needed to get me sent here with Collin. And here sits said Matalan-boy telling me how to live, when the prick’s still living with his mum.

Aye it’s been a hell of a week.

End of Excerpt

Mark Wilson’s Novels are available here.

Sneak Preview – Nae’body’s Hero, Chapter 23

The following is a pre-edit excerpt from Mark Wilson’s second novel “Nae’body’s Hero”; due for publication in late February 2013. Copyright Mark Wilson 2013

Kim has tracked down someone she’s been looking for for two decades:

Chapter 23 

Kim

Kim, back in her spot on the roof took aim at the first of the three agents/bums huddled around their fire. It was kind of them to huddle so close together, it made her task so much simpler. She looked down the sights, took a breath and squeezed the trigger three times rapidly. The three darts found their marks and the men lay huddled once more on the ground this time, their disguise looking more convincing than ever. The darts should put them out for eight hours or so. It was seven and a half hours longer than she needed.

 Kim pulled her black baseball cap down low, slung the rifle strap over her chest and descended the fire escape. A final check of the perimeter and she was ready to move in. Drawing her pistol, Kim stepped inside the unlocked entrance to the firehouse. She followed procedure and entered the rooms one at a time, silently checking each one and working her way to the room on the second floor. Kim encountered no one. The guys outside seemed to be the entire guard detail. This wasn’t unusual but she had expected to find someone inside the building. Perhaps an interrogator. Reaching the door without incident Kim wiped the sweat from her eyes with the back of her gloved hand then slipped the same hand into her small satchel, producing a flexible-fibre camera. Slipping the camera under the door she viewed the inside of the room on the little monitor.

Clearly once the firehouse’s bunk room, it was now empty except for one bed and some medical monitors. Strapped to the bed was a person, restrained in a fashion which suggested a highly dangerous individual. His head was covered with a dirty white cotton bag. This guy’s being lined up for some serious questioning. Almost the instant Kim wondered why the person on the cot wasn’t moving she noticed the mask protruding under the bag and the line to a canister with a name she didn’t recognise. They’re keeping him sedated.

Content that the room was empty save for her target; Kim took a few seconds to compose herself and try to slow her thumping heart. It didn’t work. This is it. Kim entered the room slowly, carefully, confirming that it’s restrained and sedated occupant was the only person present. Kim raised her gun; aiming at the bag-covered head she approached the sleeping man. Finally.

Kim approached him, pressed the gun to his temple through the bag, cocked the gun and whispered to him like a lover. “Goodbye you sick son of a bitch”. Kim Baker said a silent prayer of thanks and began squeezing the trigger.

Book Cover

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Mark Wilson’s Debut novel Bobby’s Boy is available now on kindle and as a paperback:

UK:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356892513&sr=8-1

US:

http://www.amazon.com/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1356892853&sr=1-1&keywords=bobby%27s+boy


 

Meet the Cast

I’m in the final 20 percent or so home stretch of my second novel Nae’body’s Hero and thought I’d give you a wee look at the characters. I love when they do this at the start of Star Wars novels, they call it their “Dramatis Personae”.

If it’s good enough for Lucas/Walt, It’s good enough for me:

Nae’body’s Hero

Dramtis Personae

Rob Hamilton, Gifted Scotsman and hero.

Arif Ali, English-Pakistani and double agent.

Kim Baker, Lead agent in CTA and badass.

Frank and Mary McCallum, Rob’s foster-parents.

Cara Hamilton, Rob’s twin sister and school teacher.

Mike O’Donnell, Homeland Security.

Mr Bendini, Mike’s boss.

Jack Foley, CTA agent.

Azam and Mimi Ali, Arif’s parents.

Latif Ali, Arif’s cousin.

Zulifkar Raheem, Handsome terrorist. Member of a fledgling Al Qaeda.

Frank McCallum Jr, Government worker.

Special guests:

Tom Kinsella, Rob’s childhood best friend.

Paddy Carroll, Infant

Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda leader and architect of 911 attack.

 

Nae’body’s Hero, coming early 2013.

You can read my debut novel Bobby’s Boy here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1354646802&sr=1-1

Working cover for Nae'body's Hero

Working cover for Nae’body’s Hero

 

Sneak Preview – Nae’body’s Hero- Meet Frank

Having just passed Chapter 38 on my upcoming novel I thought I’d preview a little more of the book. In the following excerpt we meet Frank McCallum, My main character Rob’s foster-father and all round great-guy. That’s wi I called him after the real Frank.

Here’s a preview from Chapter 4:

The following is copyrighted to Mark Wilson 2012

Two hours was plenty of time to complete the tasks he’d done this morning. They might take Mr McCallum all day, but he was a fit and healthy sixty five years old to Rob’s even more sprightly fourteen years. Besides, Rob had sprouted and filled out in the few years he’d worked the farm, standing well over six feet of broad and lean muscle. It was just another characteristic that set him apart and isolated him from his peers at the local school.

Physical tasks around the farm were so easy for him that it was laughable and helped him feel good about himself as he saw it as a small way to repay the love that the McCallums had shown him.

Rob had come to live with the McCallums, Frank and Mary, just over three years ago after being circulated through a couple of care homes and one foster family. The small, self-sustaining farm was near the city of Durham and felt like another world when compared to his memories of Bellshill. This was a good thing so far as Rob was concerned. He’d much rather never to set foot in his hometown again if he had any say in the matter. Frank and Mary had officially retired in their mid-fifties but as an ex-marine and a former teacher, Frank and his wife found it difficult to accept the slow pace of retiral and had bought the farm to keep them busy. They’d also been fostering kids on shirt-term placements for a few years before taking in Rob on a more or less indefinite basis. Mr and Mrs McCallum were wonderful and Rob was very grateful to have been found by such a patient, open and loving couple.

Cara had also been fortunate to be placed with a fairly wealthy family in Edinburgh. The Graham’s were lovely people and Cara loved living with them. The only problem was that the twins almost never had the opportunity to see each other. Weekly phone calls (always on a Thursday at seven o’clock), was the best that they could manage at present. The few hundred miles of A1 that separated them may as well have been a million miles, but Rob knew that time would pass and bring independence, a driving license a job and money. Cara and he would be together again soon enough and in the meantime they had both landed on their feet with the families they’d been accepted into.

Rob sighed as he watched the sun come up and thought again about whether or not he should talk to Mr McCallum about his fantasies. If anyone could help him it’d be Frank but it was too big a worry. What if the McCallums decided he was a loony and asked him to leave? No….he’d figure it out alone. Rob heard the cockerel crow which meant the Mr McCallum would be awake shortly. “Beat you again Lester” He laughed to himself and started the short work back to the farmhouse.

“So, you’ve been doing my work again have you, lad?” Mr McCallum asked in his thick Geordie accent, trying to sound angry.

Rob loved the local accent as it sounded like a more musical version of his own to his ears. “Aye, sorry Mr McCallum, you’ll just have to find something else to do with the day.”

Frank lowered his little rectangular reading glassed and shot Rob a disapproving look. “I’m perfectly capable you know, son. Ah’ don’t need you doing everything for me.”

“Ok Mister McCallum” Rob told him. “I’ll make sure you’ve plenty left to do tomorrow morning.”

“Aye, right, son” Frank didn’t believe a word…Don’t you sleep?…..And call me Frank for Christ sake.”

Rob smiled at the older man’s fake outrage, stuffed the last of his third bacon roll into his mouth, picked up his bag and headed for the door.

Mary who’d been sitting laughing began clearing plates, but Rob about-turned and took them from her along with all the others on the table. Smiling at Rob she told him, “Thanks, son. Have a good day at school.”

“Aye, try to actually talk to some kids today, eh?” Frank added with a grin.

Rob slung his backpack over one shoulder and headed out the door, “Aye, ok I’ll do that. Love you both, bye.”

“Love you too, son.” Both McCallums chimed.

Mary headed to the sink to begin cleaning the dishes, squeezing Frank’s shoulder as she passed. “Great laddie that one. When do you think he’ll tell wae’ what’s bothering him?”

Franks grunted in agreement as he finished the last of his coffee. “He’ll tell us when he needs to Mary. He knows we’re here for him.”

Mary watched Rob’s back disappear down the driveway from the window. “Hmmm. Suppose so. He’s deep thinker that boy.”

Frank pulling his boots on replied “He’s grand Mary, don’t worry about him.”

School was the usual exercise in patience for Rob it had always been. Even at his old school in Bellshill, surrounded by people he’d known his whole life and with his best friend at his side, Rob was the eternal outsider in his heart. Here in this Durham Secondary school full of kids he couldn’t begin to relate to, he’d retreated into himself more than ever. He’d become mister grey in the school’s corridors, unnoticed by most despite his huge stature. He was quite happy to drift through the days taking what he could from the day’s lessons and keeping to himself on the fringes of the various peer groups.

When he’d first arrived at the school, the kids had been friendly enough, inviting him along to sit with them or join them at rugby or football, but you can only turn down invitations so many times before they’d stop asking. His status as a foster kid, his size and his accent were all enough to set him apart, to make him different in an age group where being different, standing out, was the last thing you wanted; add those to his tendency to isolate himself and it didn’t add up to many friends. This suited Rob fine, he was content to be mister grey, mister unnoticed by the other kids. These days they left the big, weird kid foster-kid alone to sit on the stairs and read his books.

On this particular day Rob was quite happy to be at school instead of on the farm as the McCallum’s grown-up son, Frank Jnr was visiting. Over the years Rob had learned to stay out of Young Frank’s way and always made a point of being busy when he knew the man would visit.

Young Frank was in his late thirties and a government worker of some sort. Rob wasn’t really sure what he did for a living but guessed it was nothing good, probably a tax or debt collector. Whilst his parents were the warmest and most generous people Rob had known in his short life, young Frank was surly, rude, bad tempered and mean to his parents and to Rob.

He made a habit of making snide remarks to Rob whenever they were alone and flat-out ignoring the boy when the elder McCallums were present.  It was an odd feeling seeing the obvious malice and anger on a younger version of Mr McCallum’s face which itself was always so peaceful and kind. Young Frank always dressed in the same brown tweed three-piece suit and chewed vicious-smelling eucalyptus sweets continuously. The sickly-sweet smell lingered in the farmhouse along with a very obvious downturn in the mood of the house’s occupants long after young Frank’s visits ended.

On Frank’s most recent visit to the farm he’d had a massive argument with his parents in the living room. Rob listened from the staircase in the dark hallway outside. He did not like the man one bit but was most hurt by the disdain he showed the elderly McCallums. He was positively cruel to them and they were too nice to be treated by that by anyone, let alone their own son.

Needing a drink of water, Rob had crept through the darkness of the hallway towards the kitchen, but timed his trip badly as young Frank came crashing through the living room door just as Rob approached. Frank shoved him violently out of his way, Rob jumping most of the way in fright at Frank’s sudden appearance. Frank, who had continued barrelling towards the front door, stopped suddenly as something occurred to him then turned and walked menacingly towards Rob.

Reaching the boy he said quietly to him. “You’re the one whose parents left in the middle of the night.”

It wasn’t a question and Rob didn’t give a reply, he just looked at his own feet.

“Yeah, you’re that one. Smart people your parents. Obviously saw what a waste of space you are. Just a stray really, aren’t you?”

Rob’s eye’s misted but he wouldn’t give Frank what he wanted. To make him cry. Instead he just lifted his head to glare at the older man.

Young Frank nodded towards the living room. “Those two old duffers will see through you too eventually you know. Nobody needs a kid like you hanging around. Bad luck, that’s what your type always brings.”

Young Frank turned and walked towards the front door again, tossing one final remark over his shoulder as he left. “I expect you’ll be gone by my next visit.”

Rob went to bed that night mind racing. He knew that Frank was using his insecurities against him, that he’d just set out to upset him. It didn’t matter though, how many times he told himself that, the little voice inside him, the part that hated himself whispered to Rob that every word was true. The McCallums would ask him to go soon.

Rob had asked Mr McCallum after the encounter what he’d done to annoy young Frank. “It’s not you he’s angry at, son, It’s me. I wasn’t always a terrific father to Frank.”

Rob didn’t push for more. He could see that Mr McCallum was upset, so he decided to stay out of young Frank’s way whenever he was on the farm and give him one less target.

In a hurry to spend some time fishing with Mr McCallum, Rob took a shortcut home to the farm, after school had ended for the day, through Neville’s farm and Moses’ field. As he made his way to the edge of the bull’s enclosure he saw Frank’s tractor parked in his own field. Frank had a tool bag and was fixing the old water pump that supplied the cattle’s trough near the edge of the field nearest his own farmhouse. Lifting his head Mr McCallum noticed Rob heading his way and gave him a wave before turning back to the pump. Rob waved back and then stopped dead. The gate leading to the McCallum’s field was open. Broken off the weak hinges he’d spotted earlier it now lay in the mud covered in footprints. Moses.

Still walking towards the gate Rob scanned the McCallum’s field. He spotted Moses, still looking pretty steamed, behind a little knoll off to Mr McCallum’s rear and to his left. Rob wasn’t particularly worried at first. Frank would hear the bull coming from a good distance and get himself to safety. It was as he thought this that Rob noticed two things.

The tractor’s engine, right beside Mr McCallum, was still noisily idling away, drowning the noise of Moses hoofs. Worse, Moses had decided that Frank was a good outlet for his pent up frustrations and was hurtling towards the old man in a charge at high speed and Frank was oblivious.

Nae’body’s Hero is almost complete and wil be available by February 2013.

You can by my debut novel “Bobby’s Boy” on paperback or Kindle here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353085510&sr=8-1

Meet Kym Baker

My upcoming novel “Naebody’s Hero” is well under way so I thought I’d introduce you to one of my three main characters whose stories the book will tell. Here’s a short excerpt from My female agents’ introduction in Chapter 3. As always my character is named after or named by someone I know.

Kym Baker:

Kym is a badass and of my three main charaters is the one who is vital to moving the story forwards and the characters together. She’s a doer and a motivator. Thats why I named her after two of my favourite and newest friends who motivate me more than they know ith their support and encouragement.

Chapter Three

 Kym 

Kym took a deep, slow breath, the smoke from the last shot still stinging her nostrils. She looked down the sight, pictured his face, summoned the will and took the shot. Dead centre; head shot. Reloading the glock, she slid a fresh magazine calmly back into the handle and resumed firing stance. She’d been on the shooting range for three hours. Every shot was painful; each and every one a punishment for her as much as it was for the paper targets. She breathed. Her wrists and shoulders ached from the kick. Her eyes stung from the smoke despite the yellow safety glasses. Her soul ached for Scott.

She breathed in the noxious, burning fumes once more, using the sting to stoke her anger and bring the memories of him to the surface, allowing her once more to lift the dead weight of the glock, take careful aim and squeeze. Another head shot. She was sick of the gun. She was sick of the emptiness inside her. Year after year since all sense had left her world she had gritted her teeth and pushed on.  One thing in mind; one goal; one target. Terrorists. Any and all, she detected them, investigated them and hunted them at the pleasure of the United States government as lead officer on the CTA.

Kym Baker had pursued, detected, arrested and killed more agents of terror (both foreign and domestic as the saying goes) in the last ten years than any other agent in the States. Ruthlessly and restlessly she’d dedicated her whole life and purpose to hunting and stopping those who threatened peoples’ peace.  Barely sleeping four hours a day, Kym dedicated herself to becoming one of the country’s foremost experts in many types and sources of terrorist cells. Her knowledge and skills were unparalleled in the field. She was the only female agent to attain her current rank. She’d earned the right to lead her team, the relatively newly-formed Counter-Terror-Agency, but then she was more motivated than most. Losing your only child and husband to a terrorist’s bomb tends to focus a person.

“Still here Baker?”

Kym didn’t bother to lower her gun but looked over her shoulder long enough to nod an acknowledgement and throw a tight smile at Agent Foley who was, aside from her, the last person on the range. “Yeah.” she turned back, blew some stray hair from her eyes with an upward puff and re-aimed. Foley was a good guy and a very good agent, but she was too busy for his attempts at small-talk.

She thought of Scott and squeezed the trigger again, pushing her grief, her love and her hate through the barrel along with the bullet. Two more hours passed in this manner before, arms trembling, she reached for the handle to the exit and headed for a shower.

Nae’body’s Hero: Coming soon

Cover Image for Nae’body’s Hero

Sneak Preview – Nae’body’s Hero

The following is a preview from the upcoming novel “Nae’body’s Hero”. Copyright Mark Wilson 2012:

Cover Image for Nae’body’s Hero

Book Description:

Rob Hamilton hails from Lanarkshire and from a messed up family. As a result, he has an unshakable sense of right and wrong and is low on self esteem. Rob also has some very special gifts. If he can stop hiding from them and get his life together he may just be the greatest hero the world will never know. 

Arif Ali is a British medical student. Disillusioned with life in Britain he is now living and studying in Faisalabad, Pakistan.  He and Rob will form an unlikely friendship that will change the course of history.

Annie is an American agent with an undisclosed agency. She could be the worst enemy the friends have or their greatest ally.

…………………

Prologue

The first time it happened I was seven years old. Obviously I knew it had to have been a dream but it really didn’t seem that way at the time. I’d woken in the middle of the night face pressed to a hard, cold surface instead of comfortably against my pillow. At first I assumed that I had fallen out of bed again and landed on my bedroom floor but the contact on my cheek was hard; too hard to be the blue carpet which covered my bedroom floor in those days.

As I slowly came to it dawned on me that the surface was pointed too. There were loads of wee dry, plaster-like prickles pressing into my face, into my whole body actually. It was artex, which made no sense at all. Only the ceiling was artexed. I opened my eyes to see white artex as the realisation hit me that I was pressed to the ceiling.

Realising where I was seemed to break the magic and I clattered heavily onto the blue of my bedroom carpet, grateful for its thickness.

“Robert. You’ve fallen out of bed again. Get back to sleep.” Dad roared from the next room.

I did so and quickly. I didn’t want to anger dad again. I’d been in enough trouble this week. I wasn’t really sure what we’d done but mum and dad had been really annoyed with my twin sister Claire and I repeatedly this last week or two and both seemed tense over something. It was very unlike either of them to be so easily annoyed and tetchy with us.

“Sorry dad.”

“Right Robert. Shush. Sleep.”

Dad was the only one who ever called me Robert and he had many different ways of saying, shouting, laughing or barking my name depending upon how much trouble I was in. When I was a wee boy my dad taught me a rhyme about my name that I’ve never forgot, mostly because it reminds me of him and makes me smile. He’d told me that it was about a boy called William but he thought that it fitted my name better. I could recite it back to him by the age of three, the two of us laughing together as I did so.

Father calls me Robert

Sister calls me Rob

Mother calls me Robbie

 and the fellas call me Bob.

Dad has always called me Robert and I love that mum actually does call me Robbie (she pronounces it Rabbie) but nobody has ever called me Bob. Everyone else, including Claire, calls me Rob (or Rab).

Finally I did sleep once more, drifting off to the thought that it would’ve been really cool if that dream had been real and I really could fly up to the ceiling. That’d be crazy though. No-one can fly.

Chapter One

 1983

Rob

 

Waking from a long deep sleep, with all the usual dreams sleep brought with it, Rob sat up in bed. Leaning back against the old headboard he rubbed his eyes and took in the room. Something seemed……off. Dressed in matching Y-fronts and vest (Spiderman) Rob stepped out of bed and pulled on some jogging bottoms. He took in his rooms’ contents, mentally noting various objects’ positions. Everything seemed fine, nothing out of place. Claire hadn’t been in overnight to cuddle up with him (a twins’ habit they had yet to break which had increased in regularity recently), all his things seemed to be where they belonged, but something just wasn’t how it should be. The house was just too quiet.

Checking his bedside clock Rob noted that it was eight am. Friday morning, mum and dad are normally getting ready for work and pulling us out of bed by now. Surely they haven’t slept in?

The previous night Rob’s parents had both seemed in good spirits. The whole family had watched a film together, chatting their way through most of it with nobody really all that interested in what was happening on the screen. Both mum and dad had tucked them into bed with lots of kisses, cuddles and “I love you-s” exchanged. It’d been great having them back to their old selves after so long of being so tense at home. I’d better go see where they are.

Rob creaked out onto the landing, walking slowly and deliberately just in case he’d been daft and gotten mixed up; maybe it was Saturday. There wasn’t a sound coming from anywhere in the little semi-detached family home. Continuing across the landing he slowly cracked open Claire’s bedroom door. Seeing his sister still asleep he resisted the urge to go wake her up by jumping on her just in case her screams woke their parents and quietly closed her door over. Rob made his way downstairs to the kitchen with some quiet time in mind before the usual burst of activity started.

On autopilot Rob loaded eight slices of bread into the massive family toaster, prepared four cups for hot drinks for everyone. Coffee with milk and two for both mum and dad, tea with one and milk for Claire and black coffee for himself. Wandering through to the downstairs hall, Rob picked up the Daily record which had been lying on the mat. Confirming from the front of the paper that it was indeed Friday and from his wee calculator- watch that it was now 8:15 he decided that he’d better rouse everyone before they lay in so long that they’d be late for work and school. The only sounds in the house were of his own footsteps bending the old stairs as he ascended causing them to creak and groan.

“Mum. Dad. It’s time to get up.” Tom knocked softly on his parents’ bedroom door. He waited a beat and knocked a bit harder.

“Time to get up”, he sing-songed cheerily.

Again nothing came back in reply. He pushed the door open to his parents’ room and to what would be a new beginning. They were both gone.

Rob Hamilton was just like any ten year old boy in Bellshill in the  80s. Football, Kim Wylde and Star Wars occupied his mind. A relentless ball of energy was how most of his friends would describe him. Playing football, rugby, hockey and attending scouts took up most of his time. That and hanging around down Strathclyde park with his friends. On the surface he seemed a happy and contented kid with not a care in the world, in many ways he was, but Rob Hamilton rarely felt that he fit in with the company he kept. Not with his friends (not since Tom left the town) and not in his own home.

He’d lived in the small town most of his life but was slowly becoming a more detached soul. Rob rarely felt part of what was happening around him and struggled to understand the people in his life. He just felt so different to them. He went through the motions. Joining teams, socialising, school and seemed to be thriving but in truth the only people he’d felt that he really had a place with, who he felt accepted and understood him were his best friend Tom and his sister Claire.

Tom Kinsella had been Rob’s best friend since they attended nursery together. The boys had been as close as brothers, at times even closer than Rob had been to his own twin. Spending long hours days and weeks roaming woodland, building dens and fires, and playing football had developed their friendship. All these things had brought them so close and of course the talking. They were always talking.

They spoke of their families, of where Tom’s dad would be taking him on some adventure always asking Rob along. Rob could confide in Tom, telling of his own parents’ increasingly detached behaviour these past few years. They told each other about their dreams for the future, about how Tom would be a musician, or a writer, or a fireman; maybe all three. Rob just wanted to see the world he didn’t care what job he did to pay for it. A part of Rob just wanted to find somewhere where he felt at home and Tom was the only person who not only understood his desire to roam, but seemed to share it. Both agreed that they would leave their hometown as soon as they were able and made a pact to do so together; to always be best friends. When Tom Kinsella’s father Bobby died and his best friend moved away, Rob was completely lost without him and turned to his sister more often.

Despite being his twin Claire was quite different to Rob. More outgoing, less introspective and much less inclined to be quite as moody as Rob had found himself becoming in the last two years. Claire was one of those people for whom life’s surprises were just another chance to try something new. Claire never flapped, stressed or worried she just went with life, happily taking what came her way and making new friends easily. She and Tom were very alike. The three of them were close and had always been.

They spent most of their time as a threesome chatting, swimming at Bellshill baths, walking down and around Strathclyde Park, sometimes going on the fairground rides or climbing the trees in the woods, but mostly they just talked and laughed. They had a secret place that they’d visit daily either alone or together. They did most of their talking there in a den made of old tree branches they’d made months before and filled with three old tyres for seating. It was in a small bit of woodland behind the butcher’s shop and they’d named it “BHQ” (B for butcher).

Tom, Rob and Claire had found the location for BHQ after following a horrific smell around the back of the shop and discovering a sheep’s head. The two boys had poked at it with sticks for a few minutes examining its face, lolling tongue, milky eyes and rancid, maggot-filled mouth. The thing had started to become putrid. Smelling strangely sweet it had attracted the boys in their morbid curiosity. Claire kept her distance, hugging herself in revulsion, but giving Rob and Tom time to satisfy their interest.

“Let’s go you two, that things’ boggin’.” The boys laughed but quickly moved to join her and walk home together. The next time they visited the sheep was gone but they discovered the location for BHQ and began its construction.

These days, with Tom gone, Claire never came near it she was too busy with her friends, only Rob sought a little solace in their den. The days the three of them spent wasting hours happily together felt like years ago to Rob now and as though they’d happened to another Rob Hamilton.

Rob was happy his sister was so engaged with the world and full of life. He assumed that this meant that she had escaped what he knew he’d inherited from his grandfather and he could feel becoming worse each night, with every surreal dream of events and incidents that couldn’t have happened but his apparently damaged wee brain was trying to convince him had.

The vast reserves of energy he possessed were a result of his not wanting to waste a minute of the time he had in life. He wanted to see as many places, meet as many people and engage in as broad a range of activities as he could before his mental capacity degraded as quickly and completely as he’d been told that his Granda’s had. As these episodes had started to happen in the daytime as well now, when he was wide awake, he knew that his mental health had taken a turn for the worse.

By the time Rob knew his granda the old man was in a residential hospital having long since lost all capacity for reason. As a younger man he’d apparently been huge “built like a brick shit house” his own dad had told Rob. Working as a steelworker, like so many local men, his Granda, at six foot nine inches, not an ounce of fat on him and a tea-total-ler, stuck out like a sore thumb in Lanarkshire the land of the ubiquitous five foot five male. Rob, even at only ten, had taken a stretch in height this past year and was already towering over most of his year group in school. He’d have been happy to have inherited only his build from the old man.

Granda Hamilton had suffered a series of mental breakdowns from his fifties onwards, hallucinating and fantasising events that Rob’s father had told him couldn’t possibly have occurred. Granda had deteriorated to the point where he couldn’t tell what was real from what wasn’t in five short years and been confined to a hospital for his own safety by Rob’s dad. The phrase bi-polar had been used in Rob’s house when discussing his granda.

With his granda always in his mind Rob had vowed to ignore the growing detachment he was feeling and follow his best friends and sisters’ example, throwing himself into as many friendships and experiences as he could regardless of how out of place he may feel.

After finding his parents’ room empty Rob searched the house. He searched every room, every cupboard, drawer, pantry, bathroom and the garden and its shed outside. Rob even clambered up into the small attic. Initially he was looking for his parents but when he decided that they weren’t there to be found he began looking for a note. He didn’t find his parents or a note explaining their absence.

All of their drawers and cupboards still contained all of their belongings. Jewellery and toiletries, shoes and coats, dad’s asthma inhaler, all of it was where it should be. The house was exactly as it had been the night before when they’d all went to bed enjoying the afterglow of a much needed family evening full of affection. Even the car was still outside. The only thing that was missing from the house was them.

They must have had an emergency or something. With no close relatives in the area (apart from their granda) Rob could think of no one to call. Figuring that all would be fine later in the day he woke Claire, explained that their parents had got up and gone out early to work and that they had to get ready and go to school.  When the school day was over and the twins returned home the house still lay empty. It stayed that way for the next day and the day after that.

On Sunday evening Rob called the police. He and Claire left their little house on Liberty Road for the last time that evening. Claire holding a female police officer’s hand, crying for her mum and dad; Rob trailing behind, face of stone, completely certain (as only a child can be) that they had left because of him; because they knew like everyone else did that he wasn’t “right”.  That he didn’t belong.

Chapter Two

Arif

Azam Ali hurried through the busy, familiar streets of Battersea, SW London, gently pushing past and apologising to other commuters in his thick London accent as he did so. Normally, on any other day Azam would happily wander along, content to be carried along with the flow of traffic, usually on the journey between his little newsagents and home, a little ground floor, two bedroom rental. Today however was a not a normal day for Azam.

Sure for millions of others it was just Sunday; just another Sunday in the last days of March. Sundays were for relaxing, for reading the papers (in his case selling them) and having Sunday roast. Most places were closed on a Sunday. Maybe it was special for some people, an anniversary, visiting family or church  or whatever but really, what ever happened on a Sunday?

For Azam this Sunday was a very important day indeed and today he wasn’t walking the two blocks to his shop. Today he was taking public transport. Today, on a Sunday, the second generation of Ali to be born in England was on his way to meet his parents.

…………………………………….

Nae’body’s Hero will be published in December 2012.

In the meantime try Bobby’s Boy, Mark Wilson’s Debut novel where Rob makes a brief cameo. Available now as en Ebook or Paperback.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343918174&sr=8-1

Book Review-Life is Local by Des McAnulty

It’s not often I finish one book from an author and delve straight into another ( the last time I did so was with Jonathan Mayberry’s wonderful Rot & Ruin books)’ but as I enjoyed Des’s Novella “STRAIGHT” so much, don’t mind risking being labelled a fanboy when the writing is this good, and had time on my hands I went in with hungry eyes (not the Patrck Swayze sort). .
Now I’m not suggesting that McAnulty is anywhere near as accomplished as Mayberry, but in formulating flawed, weak very human characters whom he allows to grow, fail and shine throughout the book, Des shares some of Mayberry’s skill.
Presenting us with complex (in other words true to life) characters whom we like, dislike, love, hate and pity; Des skillfully peels away at his characters, exposing unsuspected depths in each one. He gives each characters motives without judgement, merely explanation and leaves it to the reader to decide on the characters’ worth.
Stubbsy is a fine example. Part Begbie, part Juice Terry, part Sam from Quantum Leap and the most complex character in the book. It’s ultimate hero for me, and I’m hoping for some early tales of the big man in future.

Des writes in the Scottish tongue (first person), in the style of Welsh I suppose, but switched between a very Scottish narrative and a more toned down version as suits the characters’ mental state at the time of the narrative. I’ve never been a fan of this in books and much prefer when writers keep the accented or colloquial phrases to the dialogue rather than narrative, but it never did Irvine any harm and it doesn’t detract from Des’s excellent story either. Merely a personal preference on my part. I think that Des is still experimenting with his preferred narrative and look forward to seeing how his work evolves in the next book.
Des’s book is reflective of the culture it is set in (North Lanarkshire) in that it’s rough, coarse In places, unpolished, unpretentious and beautiful in its heart and soul. It seems that Des loves and loathes his native county and presents it’s ugliness and beauty in equally engaging doses.
I loved this book. A little polishing of its charming rough edges from an editor would quickly make a very good book into a potentially great book.
I’d recommend this book to anyone with a heart and a soul, this fine story will enrich both further.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B005N1LWKS/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img