The Tanzanite Ring – A Valentine’s Horror Short.

The following story comes from Mark Wilson and Ryan Bracha’s Exquisite Corpse and is unedited. (Previously published as an advance peek on Mark Tilbury’s blog). Happy valentine

The Tanzanite Ring by Mark Wilson.

Paris, 2020

The high and muddy Seine slid beneath the bridge, hurriedly winding through the city; no care for its residents, its beautiful buildings nor an appreciation of a stunningly crisp winter evening. Sebastian checked the deep pocket in his overcoat for perhaps the seventh time in the last fifteen minutes.

The shape of the box within settled his nerves and caused his eager heart to skip a beat. Eleanor would be here any moment. Memories of their last visit to this spot together simmered to the surface warming Sebastian more thoroughly than the steam venting through the nearby grates.

He and Eleanor, in Paris. Walking the streets, loving the city. Right here on this very bridge they’d locked their love alongside hundreds of other metal declarations, giggling at the cheesiness of the act but brought closer somehow by it. As though a little padlock bought for two Euros from an opportunistic vendor, could deepen their love. But, somehow, it had.

Have three years really passed since last we had been in the city together?

So many other cities and countries explored together since.

Sebastian clutched at the box in his pocket once more as he scanned the padlocks and their messages to pass the time. A rough vibration from his phone shook Sebastian from his reverie. Checking the face, he confirmed the alarm he’d set.

Time to meet Eleanor by Notre Dame.

∞∞∞

I see her long before she notes my presence. Content to watch her for a few moments, I step back, cloaking myself in the deep shadows of a nearby statue. She’s right on time.

Eleanor.

Ten years we’ve had each other. A decade of travel, city to city, country to country. Each place we visit holds a significance known only to us. A special site where we’ve shared a moment together.

Where she’s given me her heart.

A few feet from the Trevi Fountain in Rome, huddled in a doorway where no prying eyes could penetrate.

Fleshmarket Close in Edinburgh. In my arms she descended the stairs with me, ducking into a secluded garden for a secret clinch.

Beneath the bridge at Camden Lock we indulged in perhaps the most intimate moment of my life.

The list goes on. Each moment a gift. Her time, her heart and her soul; given to me in a moment of purest connection etched for eternity into my memories.

Pride swells in me as I watch the familiar cadence and gait of her steps. She radiates goodness, this woman of mine. My heart beats so violently inside my chest I almost expect her to whip her head around to seek out and fix on the sound. Once again, my hand closes around the ring box in my pocket.

Inspiration flashes. I consider stepping out into the square to present her with the ring. Right here, right now. Removing the symbol of my unending love from my pocket, I rotate it a few turns, idly making a decision.

Recognising the rush of excitement for cheap impetuousness, I take a few deep breaths to compose myself.

Stick to the plan. Somewhere private, just for us.

Never one for making an exhibition of myself, I shove the box back into my pocket and step into the light to greet my love.

∞∞∞

One arm around Eleanor’s waist, the other pressed protectively…affectionately around her abdomen and curling round her hip, Sebastian led his love from the main square along the banks of the Seine. Eleanor shivered making the man who loves her pull her closer into his side. He kissed her on the cheek feeling the chill in her skin. He hoped his own body heat lessened her chill. Sebastian halted their brisk pace. Smiling at Eleanor, he removed his scarf with his left hand, keeping his right arm protectively around her waist to better share body heat. Looping his cashmere scarf around her slender neck, he asked, “Better?”

Eyes misting, she nodded her gratitude. They set off once again at a clip, crossing Pont Saint-Michel. Huddled in tight together against the nip of the wind, they walked along the Seine to Pont des Arts. Eleanor looked along the bridge to where the love-locks dangled, covering metres of the bridge’s railings.

Noting an older man at the half-way point of the bridge, she cut a sidelong look at Sebastian’s contented face, before jabbing a sharp elbow hard into her captor’s ribs. Sebastian was unhurt nor even moved by the blow. His response was to loop his left arm from around her back, up behind her head. His iron grip clenched her mouth and nose. Sebastian allowed a moment’s disappointment to show on his face. His sorrow was genuine but did little to alter his plans.

Sliding the short blade he held to her hip in deep enough to grate against the bone millimetres below- catching Eleanor’s scream in his leather-gloved hand, he moved his lips near to her ear.

“Oh Eleanor,” Sebastian whispered. “Why does it always have to end in an argument?”

Sebastian scanned along the length of the bridge, noting that the elderly man had not turned to look at the couple, and had continued along on his way, heedless of them.

Sebastian rotated the knife several millimetres, placing pressure on a nearby nerve cluster. Eleanor went limp as he withdrew the blade. With practiced swiftness he caught her before her knees bent.

“You will not ruin my plans for this evening, my dear.”

Scooping an arm under her armpit, Sebastian carried her off of the bridge as one might a drunken friend. Taking the stairs down the walkway to the river banks, Sebastian propped her against the wall, deep in the shadows.

Digging deep into his overcoat pocket, Sebastian retrieved a set of small keys and unlatched the padlock on a nearby shed. Tucked away under the bridge, the shed was used as a storehouse for seats and deckchairs, placed along the Seine banks during the summer months so that city workers mat enjoy the sunshine during their lunchbreak.

Nodding his approval at the preparations he’d made to the shed’s interior late that very afternoon, Sebastian retrieved his love, lifting her up onto this left shoulder, he entered the shed, pulling the door tightly closed behind them.

∞∞∞

“How many times do I have to say it?” She screams into my face. “I am not her!”

I shove the oily rag back into her mouth, securing it with heavy tape and storm away from her, barely stopping myself from punching the shed wall in my anger.

This won’t do at all.

Leaving the little shed, I stride the few steps to sit on the banks of the Seine, dangling my legs high over the dark waters. The frozen stone beneath is a sharp prompt to cool the heat in my veins.

Why must she always do this? Each and every time.

I breathe deliberately, allowing my stomach to expand as my diaphragm pulls and pushes, inhaling and expelling the chilled air. I feel my characteristic calm return and the stinging disappointment leave me as fog breath on the night air. Once more in control, I return to the shed, taking a kneeling position at her side.

Bound at wrists and ankles, propped against the shed wall, she glares up at me, unjust anger and fear taint her beautiful eyes.

She can see that I am calm once again and relaxes her shoulders a minute sag. She is very far from happy, but this little display of trust regained warms me. Slipping the box from my pocket, I creak open the hinged lid and slide the ring over her wedding finger. The light inside the shed, weak as it is, dances across the gemstone. Blues and purples and violets frolic and play across its surface and reflect onto her pupils.

“Will you do me this great honour?” I ask.

Her eyes are wide in shock. Tears flow freely along her cheeks and across her gag. She’s shaking with excitement.

Finally, the joyful reaction I was hoping for.

Fighting emotion, Eleanor nods her head, forcing a softness into her eyes absent until this moment.

I love you Eleanor. Thank you for coming back to me. To this place, once again to share yourself with me.”

The tears increase in pace as she accepts my love.

Gratefully I hold her to me for many long minutes until her sobbing ebbs.

She’s calming. Her body softens against mine, melting into my embrace.

It’s time.

Pushing gently away I hold Eleanor at arms-length, committing her loving expression to memory that I may revisit this moment at some point in future. Perhaps in the midst of rough times, or during one of her many absences. Eleanor notes the pure love I’m emitting for her and her eyes fill with hope.

I smile warmly, nodding an affirmation that she is correct in what she sees in my eyes.

Sending every particle of endless love through my eyes to hers, I close my gloved hands and tighten the vice they’ve become.

Eleanor’s eyes widen and then haemorrhage and then glaze over as I throttle every scrap of air from her airways. She accepts the coming death very quickly. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes she fights against it. It’s her choice, I am but a witness to her death throes. Watching the life dim and vanish from her eyes I force a final few ounces of pressure into my grip, compelling the cartilage in her windpipe to buckle and then splinter. Finally, releasing her, I cradle her gently to the plastic-covered floor and proceed to untie her bonds and remove the gag.

As Eleanor lies peacefully, I retrieve my work bag, stowed away earlier in the day at the rear of the shed.

I pour myself a cup of coffee from the little flask within and fish out the almond Croissant I bought from a charming little patisserie in Saint Germaine earlier that day.

Seated with my back up against the interior wall, legs straight out in front to act as a tray for my snack, I fill my stomach and warm my bones whilst I wait for gravity to have its way with her blood.

∞∞∞

Groggy awareness crept on him. Starting as he realised he’d fallen asleep, Sebastian checked his watch. Two hours had passed since he’d strangled Eleanor to death. Thanking no-one in particular that he hadn’t slept so very long, Sebastian rose to his feet before moving towards Eleanor’s prone body.

Crouching low, Sebastian lifted the side of Eleanor’s top, exposing her side which had become striped with a purplish hue towards her back where the blood had pooled and clotted. He pinched her fingertips, watching for any flow to blanch the area.

Certain that lividity had taken place, Sebastian removed her top completely, followed by her bra.

Smiling sadly, he placed a hand gently on Eleanor’s abdomen for a moment, feeling the coolness of her skin before retrieving his work bag once again. Producing a rolled piece of canvas, Sebastian unrolled the bundle parallel to the left of Eleanor’s body, exposing rows of very sharp blades and saws within. The final item pulled from the bag, Sebastian placed alongside Eleanor’s right side.

Seating himself in a straddle across her hips, Sebastian selected a small-bladed electric saw the size of a hand drill. Positioning its blade where her ribs and breastbone met, Sebastian activated the mechanism sawing smoothly from lower ribcage to clavicles.

Sebastian nodded at the neatness of his cut before placing the little saw onto the plastic around them. Reaching into the canvas bag, he selected a mechanism designed to open the chest cavity, placed it into the opening he’d made and began the process of rotating the wheel, watching with interest as her chest began to open, resembling a large toothy mouth.

Sebastian smiled at his practiced, smooth movement. Leaving the retractor in place, he selected a scalpel with which he cut through the pericardium sac, exposing Eleanor’s heart.

Over the next few minutes, Sebastian’s sure hands and clever fingers worked with accuracy and haste, disconnecting veins and arteries and removing connective tissue until Eleanor’s heart finally lifted free of its natural place. Checking his watch, Sebastian noted that he’d performed the removal one full minute more quickly than previously.

Pride widened his face into a smile.

Transferring the heart to the little clip-lock Tupperware box at Eleanor’s side, Sebastian, stripped himself naked, carefully folding his clothes onto a little box nearby. Working from neck to toes, and with the aid of two mirrors, he checked for and obvious scratches or tears in his skin. He’d been unaware of any opportunity for Eleanor to have taken a swipe at him, but experience had taught him to be prudent.

Discovering a very shallow scratch on his right forearm that hadn’t even broken the skin, Sebastian sighed at the additional tasks now required.  Selecting a Japanese chef’s knife, Sebastian began with the right thumb. Fearful of any trace DNA scratched from his skin being found underneath her fingernails, Sebastian removed each finger from the second joint, placing them in a thick hospital bio-waste bag which he would later incinerate. The Tanzanite ring he simply removed from the ragged end of her finger, placing it back into its case.

Sebastian folded his latex gloves from the wrist, turning them inside out and over the end of his fingers. Absent-mindedly, he dropped them into the open chest cavity then clipped the lid onto the boxy Tupperware.

Moving around the room, the killer carefully cleaned and packed away all of his tools, placed the Tupper-ware into a waiting ice-box, then set about the task of preparing Eleanor’s body for disposal.

His face took on a hint of disdain. He’d got what he came for and was done with her, but tasks remained to be done, regardless of any distaste he felt for them.

Blank-face and in auto-pilot, Sebastian placed some lead weights inside Eleanor’s chest before reversing the Retractor, closing and sewing her chest tight, and then wrapping her tightly in the plastic, secured by more tape.

Eventually, he slipped her cocooned body into the Seine, relief plain on his face.

One month later…

I chew on the last of the dried meat as intently as I chew on the decision in front of me. With my back resting against the newly-clean sandstone of the Opera national de Bordeaux, I feel the warmth trapped from the afternoon’s sunshine inside the stone, seep into my back, relieving a few knots that have developed there these last few days.

My eyes dart busily along and across Place de la Comedie, searching for her. As the notion that I may have missed her floats to the top of my thoughts, I abruptly catch her from the corner of my eye.

Dressed for the pleasant weather, Eleanor looks a vision. Her hair, brunette with a hint of auburn, as ever, is loose and swaying with the familiar rhythm of her walk. She looks relaxed, happy. My heart spills over with love for her. My hand strays to rest atop my little satchel. I can feel the shape of the box inside. Reassurance floods me as surely as courage does.

The power love holds surely is a wonder.

Bordeaux, so unfamiliar to us. We’ve never had a moment together in this city. Never explored our love or its streets here. Idly I fetch another strip of heart-jerky from my lunchbox, laid on the ground aside me. Tearing a piece off with my teeth, I watch Eleanor as she leaves the open area where people congregate on a summer’s day such as today.

It’s a fine place, to people watch, but inadequate for a marriage proposal. That will come later today in a more private part of this fine, beautiful city. Eleanor’s heart will once again be mine.

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It’s Only a Moment – A charity project in aid of Alzheimer’s

It’s Only a Moment.

Auntie Lizzie found me on the main street of my hometown (Bellshill), despondent and crying over something I don’t recall, but I’m sure it seemed world-ending to fifteen year-old me.

Auntie Lizzie took me into a little baker’s, (Dalziel’s) gave me tea and cake and just let me talk at her.

When I’d finished moaning, and sobbing and snotting, she simply took my hand and gently told me that ‘It’s only a moment in time, son. It’ll pass.’ We talked some more, had a laugh about some things and parted. It was probably one of the last times I saw Lizzie.

Many times through my life, happy times, hard times, heart break and emotional despair, I’ve recited Auntie Lizzie’s words to myself. To remind myself that it will pass, that it was only a moment.

 

Moments are something that defines Alzheimer’s, for those living with the condition and for those supporting someone they love through it. Moments of lucidity, or joy or anger or despair. Moments where the person is lost, or trapped deep inside themselves under the weight of misfiring neurones and jumbled memories, when their very sense of identity seems a distant chink of light in a dark tunnel.

A series of moments, where the present world seems alien, and unfamiliar and cruel…perhaps. Sometimes it seems wondrous, but not often. Moments where they return to themselves and smile at someone who loves them in recognition. Just a smile, but that moment reminds you that they are in there and still love you. That moment returns part of your soul to you as surely as it does theirs.

Moments that pass. Moments that are excruciating; but beautiful moments also that, despite the maze they walk in, makes you rediscover that part of them you thought may be gone. A squeeze of a hand. A wink, a smile. The words, I love you.

Moments. They pass even when sometimes we wish they wouldn’t.

Mark Wilson

May, 2017

 

Today sees the release of Ryan Bracha’s Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn project. An ambitious undertaking, Ryan brought together a group of writers (me included) with the remit, ‘Tell a story about this man named frank who has just died’. At that point Ryan’s task was to weave these disparate voices and stories and writing styles into a cohesive, flowing novel. A task which he succeeded in, and with quite some flair.

By the project’s end, Bracha and I discussed which charities we’d like to receive all proceeds from the sale of this book. I proposed Alzheimer’s charities, as my aunt had died recently. Auntie Lizzie isn’t the only relative in my family to have endured this condition.

Whilst I hadn’t seen my auntie in a number of years, her death (as these things often do) brought back some long forgotten memories of a time when Lizzie helped me.

 

All proceeds from the sale of Prank Peppercorn will got to Alzheimer’s charities. You can find more information on Alzheimer’s here:

 

http://www.alzscot.org/

http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/

https://www.dementiauk.org/

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Blurb:

Thirteen ways to remember the dead. Thirteen histories of a loving husband.

Betty Peppercorn is burning her husband Frank today. Well, she’s burning her property. The corpse she was left with as a reward for loving somebody for better or worse. Frank exists only in her thoughts, anymore. To her knowledge, Frank had no friends. Betty’s not even sure he existed before they met. It comes as a major surprise, then, when several strange faces appear at the funeral, each of them bringing their own stories of what Frank meant to them. As the day goes on, it becomes increasingly apparent that Frank was not the man she thought he was. Thirteen new and established writers collide in this brand new novel-of-stories project from Ryan Bracha, the brains behind Twelve Mad Men, The Switched, and The Dead Man Trilogy.

All proceeds will be donated to Alzheimer’s charities. Featuring contributions from: Dominic Adler – The Ninth Circle Jason Beech – Moorlands Kevin Berg – Indifference Paul D. Brazill – A Case of Noir, Guns of Brixton, Kill Me Quick Robert Cowan – The Search For Ethan, For All is Vanity Craig Furchtenicht – Dimebag Bandits, Behind the 8 Ball Shervin Jamali – The Devil’s Lieutenant Jason Michel – The Death of Three Colours, The Black-Hearted Beat Allen Miles – This is How You Disappear Alex Shaw – The Aidan Snow series Martin Stanley – The Gamblers, Glasgow Grin, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum Mark Wilson (CP Wilson) – The dEaDINBURGH series, On The Seventh Day, Ice Cold Alice

 

 

The Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn is available now from Abrachadabra books at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

My Top 5 Indie Books

Independent authors are the new rock stars of the literary world. No doubt about it. From a slush-pile siege at it’s beginnings, the Indie-publishing revolution is beginning to see the quality wordsmiths and their publications rise to the surface.

If you’ve yet to explore the Indie publishing stable, I would urge you to seek out novels and stories by authors such as;

Craig Furchtenicht, Ryan Bracha, Keith Nixon, Gerard Brennan, Neil Cocker, Martin Stanley, the Near to The Knuckle team and Michael Logan, to name a few. These writers are producing excellent quality works and deserve an audience uninspired by the mainstream literature on offer.

If you simply need somewhere to start here’s my top 5 books produced by Indie/Hybrid authors.

N.B. (The books I’ve chosen are simply my personal favourites from an extensive list I’ve read over the last couple of years.

 

5. Eagle’s Shadow by Keith Nixon

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I’m a sucker for Roman history and Historical fiction. Nixon’s is one of the best I’ve read.

 

Blurb:

One man stands against the might of the Roman Empire. His name is Caradoc. 


In Rome a new Emperor, Claudius, accedes the throne. But he is politically weak, enemies who would take his place circle and plot. If he is to survive Claudius needs a triumph, one that marks him as a leader of men.

Claudius’s eye turns to the mysterious isle of Britannia, home of the supernatural Druids and brutal, wild-eyed warriors, reputed to fight naked. The place not even Julius Caesar could conquer.

AD43 and a massive invasion force, commanded by Aulus Plautius, lands on a tiny corner of Britannia. Caradoc, King of the country’s most powerful tribe, assembles an army to throw his enemy back over the water and into Gaul.

But divisions are rife and there are those who are secretly working with the Romans for their own benefit. The very future of the country is at risk and only one man can safeguard it…

4. Dimebag Bandits by Craig Furchtenicht

 

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Furchtenicht can do no wrong for me. He’s one of those writers you constantly strive to write like. Unpredictable, inventive and unafraid to buck convention. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by the big man. I’ve read Bandits 4 times now   

 

Blurb:

When Kori Woodson’s stepfather gives his entire college savings to a religious zealot’s campaign fund, he takes matters into his own hands. He steals drugs from his employer, who also happens to belong to the same church, and sells them to the bored housewives in the neighbourhood. When he is eventually caught he finds himself expelled from school, fired from his job and facing jail time.
Now his parents plan to travel the country on a mission to “Save the world from itself” with the church that has shunned him. With no other place to stay, Kori is forced to return to his real father’s home in rural Iowa. A place that he has not been to in over six years.

It is a far cry from the big city but his older brother, Brenden, and his motley crew of friends do not hesitate to take him right into the fold. Within hours of returning home, Kori gets caught up in the dangerous and potentially deadly trade of robbing drug dealers of their wares. He soon realizes that the people they work for can be even more of a threat than the people that they steal from.
Drugs, sex, money and death… It is all a day in the life of a Dimebag Bandit.

 

3. Life is Local by Des McAnulty.

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Des is the best kept secret in Indie-Publishing. In this single book he evokes more emotion and portrays more humour and callous, heart-breaking realism than many more experienced writers accomplish over a ten book catalogue. I’ve read and re-read Life is Local a dozen times and love it anew each occasion.

Do your soul a good turn and read Life is Local.

 

Blurb:

Motherwell 2002, College student Stevie Costello, trying to come to terms with the bizarre suicide of his ex-girlfriend Clare, dreams of a better life far away from his hum drum existence. First he must contend with his straight laced boss AlIistair, whose marriage to the breathtaking Marie is on the verge of collapse and his best friends Stubbsy and Lisa, whose hatred for each other explodes one night into an intoxicating love under a blazing Motherwell sun. Can Stevie somehow shake off the shackles of his surroundings or will he finally realise that love and life really is local?

 

2. Wannabes by Michael Logan.

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I stumbled across Wannabes whilst looking for another book. very grateful to have found it. excellent writing, insightful characters who are allowed to develop, great pace, music, angels, the devil, demons and God Himself. Awesome stuff.

Blurb:

From the winner of the inaugural Terry Pratchett First Novel Prize comes a new satire, which has been shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers Best E-Book Original Novel 2015 Award.

Celebrities are mobbing London’s laser clinics as a deranged wannabe bumps off A-listers, believing he can absorb their powers and become famous by taping their tattoos to his body. Washed-up pop star Jackie Thunder isn’t joining the stampede. Jackie figures that if he can get on the killer’s hit list, without the inconvenience of actually being murdered, he’ll gain the publicity needed to reignite his career. But there’s more at stake than Jackie can possibly imagine. Guiding the killer is Murmur, a minor demon with his own agenda to make a name for himself, and Jackie becomes an unwitting pawn in a decades-old plot to destroy great music through murder, mayhem and manipulation.

With humanity’s collective soul at stake, how far will Jackie go to reach the top?

 

  1. The Switched by Ryan Bracha

 

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The standout book for me. For creative fury, undiluted imagination and a complete lack of restraint, this book simply can’t be beat. Here’s my review.

 

Blurb:

What would you do if you were no longer you?

One summer morning, totally unconnected people wake up as somebody else. They have their names, their lives, and their problems. Nobody knows how or why it’s happened, and nobody knows if or when they’ll ever get their own lives back.

They must quickly learn to accept, adapt to, and in some cases embrace their new personas, if they are to survive in a world where the people known as The Switched will do anything to get their old bodies back from others who will desperately do anything to protect their true identity, and hide deep behind their new face.

Against the backdrop of a nationwide search for popular television presenter Francesca O’Reilly, whose very public breakdown and disappearance sparks chaos on social media, it quickly becomes apparent that the switching phenomenon is far more widespread than anybody could have known, and The Switched become the most famous people in the country.

Take a trip into the darkest corners of the darkest minds in this supernatural thriller, the blackest work yet by Ryan Bracha, the best selling author of Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet and the Dead Man Trilogy.

Mark Wilson is the author of eight fiction works and one non-fiction book. You can find Mark and his books at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing or at Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Books of 2014

2014 has been a breakthrough year for many authors, whether Indie, traditional, or the new breed of Hybrid authors who are dipping a toe in the old and new worlds.

I’ve discovered, rediscovered, read and re-read some quality books this year, written by  established and by new authors. For me, a new generation of writers- mostly, but not exclusively, British- are making their mark in the publishing world. Many without the assistance of publishing houses and producing literature that, for me, is the most exciting and fresh the industry has seen in years.

In no particular order, here’s my favourite reads of 2014:

1. Consumed by Kyle Scott:

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An easy pick for me. As well as being a former schoolmate, Kyle is a rare breed of writer, one who picks away at the scabbiest parts of your psyche. Kyle’s produced a few books this last year or so. Consumed was my favourite. here’s my review of the book.

You can find Kyle and his books at Amazon.

2. Fall of Night by Jonathan Maberry:

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Another easy pick. In the last two years, Maberry has become my favourite writer by a long way. Whilst his Rot & Ruin series was wonderful, and the reason I sat down to write my dEaDINBURGH series, the standout book for me this year from Maberry is Fall of Night.

Pacey, heart-felt, horrifyingly realistic, well-researched, prequel to Rot & Ruin and sequel to Dead of Night; this book showcases all of Maberry’s finest qualities as a writer. For me, Maberry’s greatest strength lies in his very strong characterisation, most notably his empowerment and realistic portrayal of his female leads.

When I grow up, I want to write like Jonathan Maberry.

You can find Jonathan Maberry and his books at Amazon.

3. Paul Carter is a Dead Man by Ryan Bracha:

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Probably my favourite Indie book this year and my favourite Indie Author. Yes he’s a hairy, goggle-eyed borderline alcoholic with personal space issues and an irrational fear of soap-based products, but the Bracha bloke is simply the most imaginative and ballsy writer on the Indie scene. Always uncompromising and experimental, with Paul Carter, Bracha finally reigned himself in just enough to give his storytelling the structure to match its quality. Wonderful stuff. He is a bell-end, but don’t let that put you off form taking a trip through his dirty dystopian masterpiece.

You can find Bracha and his books at Amazon.

4. Wee Rockets by Gerard Brennan:

wee rocketsGerard’s Wee Rockets is a belter of a book and ne that I’ve revisited twice already. Hailed as Irvine Welsh-esque, I’d rate this addition to Brennan’s catalogue as much, much better than anything Welsh has produced of late. I’ve read and enjoyed a few of Gerard’s books this year, but this was the standout for me. here’s my review of Wee Rockets.

You can find Gerard Brennan and his books at Amazon.

5. Glue by Irvine Welsh:

glueFor me, Glue is Irvine Welsh’s best book by a mile. Full of friendship, hardship, families, victories, humour and betrayal, Glue showcases everything that’s good about Welsh’s writing and Scotland’s infinite capacity for humour and heart-felt sentimentality. Not just my favourite Welsh offering, but my all-time favourite book, full stop.

6. This is How You Disappear by Allen Miles:

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Depraved in parts, gentle and insightful, Miles short story collection was a high point of 2014 for me. Here’s my review.

You can find Allen and his books at Amazon.

7. The Search for Ethan by Robert Cowan:

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An absolutely lovely wee story of growth and friendship, riddled with emotion and gritty realism. Lovely work from yet another new writer from my hometown. Here’s my review of The Search for Ethan.

You can find Robert Cowan at Amazon.

7. Dimebag Bandits Craig Furchtenicht:

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Lovely, lovely book that oozes class and shocking realism. One of those reads that as a writer you’re insanely jealous you didn’t/couldn’t write.

You can find Craig and his books at Amazon.

8. Russian Roulette by Keith Nixon:

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As well as the fantastic and Bestselling, The Eagle’s Shadow, Nixon also produced one of my favourite crime books of the year in Russian Roulette.

In this collection, Keith doesn’t spare a single word or gesture in his writing and delivers a punchy, intensely-paced series of shorts featuring his now trademark character, Konstantin. Awesome stuff from Keith. Here’s my review of Russian Roulette.

You can find Nixon and his books at Amazon.

9. Amsterdam Rampant by Neil Cocker:

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Probably my biggest surprise of the year. I picked this up expecting another ‘lads on holiday’ type read, but found a lovely little story filled with great characterisation and a nicely-paced plot. Cocker also uses a skilled technique to relay the protagonist’s back-story.  Here’s my review.

You can find Neil and his books at Amazon.

10. Twelve Mad Men by Various, edited by Ryan Bracha:

Despite telling Bracha that he was a mad bastard, I was delighted to be asked to contribute to this novel of shorts, joining some of my favourite writers in helping produce an ambitious and seemingly-impossible novel from a collection of stories written by a load of very good writers, but who are very different from each other. I doubted that Bracha could meld the stories into a meaningful, flowing narrative, but he did. The bastard.

Twisted, imaginative, demented and wonderfully weaved into a true novel, you can purchase Twelve Mad Men here.

Featuring the contributions of:

Paul D Brazill (Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir)
Gerard Brennan (Fireproof, Wee Rockets)
Les Edgerton (The Bitch, The Rapist)
Craig Furchtenicht (Dimebag Bandits, Night Speed Zero)
Richard Godwin (Mr Glamour, One Lost Summer, Apostle Rising)
Allen Miles (18 Days, This is How You Disappear)
Keith Nixon (The Fix, The Eagle’s Shadow)
Darren Sant (Tales From The Longcroft, The Bank Manager and The Bum)
Gareth Spark (Black Rain, Shotgun Honey)
Martin Stanley (The Gamblers, The Hunters)
Mark Wilson (dEaDINBURGH, Head Boy)

Please do check out, Sant and Douglas’ Near to the Knuckle Anthologies,  Blasted Heath  and Caffeine Nights Publishing; sources of excellent books and support for the fledgling Brit-writing scene.

Thanks for reading, please do check out some of the books on my list, you’ll be glad you did.

Mark Wilson is the Amazon-bestselling author of five fiction novels and one non-fiction memoir. You can find him and his books at Amazon UK and US

Book Review – This is How You Disappear by Allen Miles

Allen Miles doesn’t fuck about. Jeezuz. I think he either hates his characters or loves them a wee bit too much.

Sadistically, he drops his characters into the brown stuff and invites all his mates round to watch then swim. Not to mock, not to judge just to observe. Maybe have a wee smoke or a beer and take in the mayhem.

It’s only as the reader staggers through the ragged-edged corridors of each story that it slowly becomes apparent that Miles has issues. The scenes unfolding, the dirty-filthy, wonderful emotions his characters have to suffer and the sheer hardship they endure are excruciating at times. What makes me worry about this Miles laddie though is how he gets the reader smirking when they know they shouldn’t and places you firmly on his characters side rather than laughing darkly at them, from beyond the fourth wall. My granny would describe the boy as ‘Just no’ right, son’. Miles lays bare each and every one of his neurosis for us to see in this collection, at least in my head he does. Simply because it’s much safer to assume the laddie’s ‘no’ right’ than to accept that he’s just this good.

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Allen Miles and his books (and neuroses) can be found at Amazon, UK and US

Mary Magdalene – Twelve Mad Men Excerpt

I’m not sure how Bracha talks me into these things. When he proposed the Mad Men project I rolled my eyes and thought, ‘that’s an impossible project’ luckily for me I’d had beer, lots of beer and my mouth ignored my brain, telling him, “sounds magic, I’m in.” I’m fairly certain he times his approach deliberately.

Taking twelve very different writer’s stories and merging them into a coherent narrative is an immensely difficult task and one that most writers wouldn’t consider approaching.

Ryan Bracha, in Twelve Mad Men, has taken the differing personalities, voices, morals, madness and writing styles and formed not only a coherent novel from them but an utterly original and compelling piece of fiction.

Without a doubt the maddest of the twelve, Bracha (the bastard), took each of us involved out of our comfort zone and gave us permission to indulge ourselves in a way we wouldn’t normally do in our own books. He brought the worst and the best out in my writing and pulled off his ridiculous project with gusto. Dick.

Here’s my contribution:

Suggested for over 18s only. Contains very strong language and very graphic violence.

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Mary Magdalene

By Mark Wilson

“Hello? I’m here to fix the lights. Can you get in the corner, please?” I press my ear up against the door, listening for shuffling to confirm that he’s done as I asked. All I hear is a rhythmic slurping, slap sound. I listen a little closer. The meaty slurp sounds like it’s coming from a distance away so I slip my key in the door, turn and push gently, keeping a firm hold of the handle, in case I have to slam it closed again.

Peeking my face through the grate, I see Wilson in the corner. More precisely, I see the back of him. He’s sitting in the corner like I asked, but I get the distinct impression that he was already there before I came knocking. He’s not that tall, and only lightly built but even from behind it’s clear that he’s powerful. He has that wiry, coiled spring musculature, I can see it in the movement of his shoulder. I can see his body quite clearly as there’s nothing covering it.

His right arm is moving with some force, repeatedly hammering away at something as he sits. He’s talking to himself, but I can’t quite make out what he’s saying. It’s not the accent, it’s his voice, so gentle. Like he’s talking to a lover. He’s facing the wall to his right, staring at a photograph. I move a little closer, just close enough to hear better and get a look at the image. It’s a tattered photo from some sort of boarding school. There are about a hundred kids, half a dozen nuns and maybe twenty priests, all standing in rows posing for the camera. I peer in a little closer and start counting.

Fourteen of the priests and two nuns have a very thick, very bold tick made with a red marker on their faces.

I cock my ear to the left and hold my breath. Wilson hasn’t made a move, just that piston he has for a right arm pumping up and down in a decidedly masturbatory manner. So long as he’s happy. I take another step closer, finally I can hear that gentle voice.

“Cotter, Docherty, McNally, O’Donnell, McGuire…”

He lists surnames, maybe ten, maybe twenty and starts again, tugging at his cock with each name whispered. I’ve somehow forgotten why I’m here or the danger present and lean in for a closer look.

Wilson stands and turns quite gracefully as my foot scuffs the stone floor a little louder than intended. The cock-bashing hasn’t stopped, or even slowed, it hasn’t changed pace, I’m suddenly very grateful that it hasn’t sped up. He tilts his head very slightly. His shaved head glints in the moonlight and his eyes widen as he takes me in. There are scars on his chest, low down just above the abdomen. They look nasty.

“Lalley, O’Malley, Foley..” His head straightens and the chanting stops, although the arm keeps perfect time.

“Are you fixing the lights or not,” he asks, never missing a stroke. His voice is softer than any man’s, he sounds like a woman, a pretty woman. I search for words, but my capacity to speak has been taken away by the sight of this very slight man with a cock like two cans of Red Bull stacked on end, wanking at me.

His arm starts to slow, so I start talking. “Yes, sorry Mr Wilson, if you could just stay in the corner, I’ll..”

“What’s your name?” He asks gently. His eyes are curious, but something else, there’s excitement there, and maybe fear as well.

I tell him my name.

His face softened, and he tilts his head again, throwing me a seductive look.

“Are you a religious man?” he asks, with a giggle.

Involuntarily, my eyes dart to the faded image on the wall and back to his quickly. Not quick enough though, he saw it. His eyes narrow, all friendliness gone.

“My sister asked you a fuckin’ question, cunt!” he roars at me in a booming baritone.

The change in him is staggering. The softness is gone, so has the curiosity. His whole posture has changed, all playfulness and grace has vanished and pure predatory aggression glares from him.

Fuck knows what the right answer to his question is but his arm has started pulling at that two-can cock with such ferocity that I’m genuinely frightened for its well-being despite the danger I’m in.

I blurt out, “No, I’m not. Used to be, but..”

“Shut the fuck up, ya dick.” He spits at me.

I do. I watch him transform again in front of me. The face softens, the eyes widen and the body becomes a graceful swan in movement once again as she returns.

Something’s changed in her though, she’s no longer throwing me admiring, curious looks. She’s looks friendly enough, and her wanking has returned to normal pace, but something’s shifted.

She moves beside me to get a good look at my face. I use my peripheral vision to make sure that I have an egress.

“I’m sorry about my brother. He’s a little overprotective,” she says gently. “I’m glad you’re not religious, I like the religious type, but Paul, my brother, does not.”

“Okay,” I sing, with false cheeriness as the lean man with the woman’s demeanour and voice wanks serenely in my direction. “Best get on then. Would you mind going back to the corner, don’t let me interrupt…” I nod down at her… his reddened cock.

“I’d like you to stay for a few minutes. I so rarely get to talk to anyone.” Her face darkened a little, the threat of Paul behind her eyes. “Paul gets angry if I’m not happy. Let’s talk, just for a little while.” I nod and watch her walk back to her corner and resume her previous position, only this time she’s facing me.

I sit a few metres away and ask. “So what’s a nice girl like you doing here?”

Her face drops. “I’m not a nice girl,” she says.

“I’m sorry,” I blurt out, it was just a joke, y’know, cos that’s what people say.”

She nods, but I can tell that I hurt her feelings because her cock twitched at me in response.

“Why don’t you tell me how you came to be here, you and your brother,” I suggest. “if you don’t mind, that is….” I suddenly feel ridiculous, but have to ask.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

The wiry little, very scary man with the huge dick, blushes, he actually blushes and pauses his wankery for a second in surprise.

“Nobody ever asks me that, not in all my time here. They just call us both Wilson.” She smiles with genuine warmth before resuming her stroking at a more leisurely pace than I’d seen her do so far.

“My name’s Mary. Pleased to meet you.”

“And you,” I say with a ridiculous little bow that makes me feel stupid, but it makes her laugh and the cell lights up when she laughs.

“Would you like to hear about how I came here? She asks

I shrug, “Only if you’re happy to tell me.”

She gives me a little bow of her own, mirroring mine in a gentle mock, making me laugh. Her eyes dance with light and she drinks in my happiness as she starts to tell her story. I sit and stare into the face of the scariest, most beautiful man I’ve ever seen as he-she, as Paul-Mary speaks.

***

My sibling and I had been in St Margaret Mary’s for around six months. We’d been to other schools, loads actually. We were good kids, but dad moved around a lot. Army officer. Came from money and gentry, couldn’t be bothered being a parent after Mum died. It was an alright school and was close to Edinburgh city centre which was awesome for a couple of fourteen year olds with time to kill and no parents around.

On our first day, the head teacher, Father Connelly, introduced us to our peers at the house assembly. He made a big deal of us being twins, we were the first twins to attend St Mags’. Father Connelly was a lovely man, I really looked up to him, to all of the staff, to be honest. That’s probably why I have a thing for the religious type, especially Catholics. Never works out though.

Paul played rugby, Mary studied hard. Friends were difficult to come by, most of the kids our age seemed withdrawn, sullen. We didn’t particularly care, we had each other after all, but it would’ve been nice to have some more friends.

Eventually we were invited along to one of Fr Connelly’s private dinners. He’d been telling us for months how special being twins was. He really liked that about us.

Mary wore a very white dress, one that father Connelly had remarked on at an assembly some months before. Paul looked as scruffy as always, but at least he’d had a shower. When we entered Fr Connelly’s quarters, a huge table filled the room. On it was a large white sheet, covering the food and around it sat sixteen of the school’s priests and four nuns. I remember our eyes fixing on the sheet. Paul took Mary’s hand and began to drag her back towards the oak doors we’d entered by, but Mary pulled free of his grasp. This was Mary’s big night, and Paul wasn’t going to spoil it.

I remember rushing to Fr Connelly and apologising. He smelled strongly of wine, they all looked a little drunk, even the nuns. Paul grabbed Mary from out of Fr Connelly’s hands, she let him this time. The elderly priest we had so admired smiled at us as we backed up to the doors. Doors that had already been locked.

Paul rushed at Father Connelly and rugby tackled the head teacher to the floor, clattering the old man’s head against a strong wooden chair leg as they fell. The room erupted, in laughter. Strong hands grabbed at Paul, grabbed at Mary also. Strong hands tore off our clothes and bound us and violated our bodies.

They passed us round. The tore our bodies as well as our clothes. They fucked the nuns, they pulled the sheet from the table and fucked each other with the implements of sex that lay there. They pushed them into us as well, those toys.

Hours passed I came and went. Some minutes passed torturously as years of pain and humiliation. Some hours passed in seconds of unconsciousness when I blacked out. Mary, Mary Magdalene. Fuck Mary Magdalene, they chanted as they passed us around.

I woke many miles from St Mags on a rocky shore of the Firth of Forth. I’d been tied in a mail sack, along with my sibling. I’d freed my head and breathed. My sibling had not. It was a mercy. I climbed out of the sack and onto the smooth, cold pebbles of North Queensferry, a wretched creature. I kicked the body of my twin, still inside the sack back into the water and blew it a kiss.

I didn’t go back to Edinburgh, instead I went home to Dundee and emptied my father’s safe at home. I went online with the black book full of passwords I found in his safe and emptied every one of his accounts too. The bastard deserved us for putting us in St Mags’.

I disappeared. I got a new identity, I travelled, I grew up. I came back to Edinburgh, but I’d changed. I’d grown, become a man. A strong man, younger and more capable than the elderly, filthy men who’d violated Mary and Paul. The first one, I took whilst he crossed Charlotte Square. It was pathetic how old he had become. The hands I remembered clawing at my thighs and pants, were sparrow’s claws, ineffectually pulling at my grip as I dragged the old cunt into the back of my van. I bestowed upon him every torture my sibling and I had suffered at his hands and the hands of his brethren.

I went so much further with him than even they had with Paul and Mary. I cut his eyelids and placed him in a room full of mirrors to watch as I sliced and pierced and fucked and ripped and gouged every ounce of fucking pain I could drag from the evil bastard. I did things to that creature that some would say makes me worse than all of them. It doesn’t though, because he wasn’t a child. That’s the bare truth of it. He and his brothers of the cloth, men of God, betrayed children. I tortured and fucked an evil old man into a bloody puddle, then I hunted some of his fellow holy men. I still have some to find, to punish. For me and for my brother.

***

My eyes are stinging and I become aware that I hadn’t blinked the entire time Wilson had been speaking. He’s still sitting in Buddha position wanking away in the corner.

“Your brother?” I ask.

“Yes, Paul, my brother.” She makes a sort of ‘duh’ face at me. Standing, she continues tugging on her cock and extends a hand for me.

“Thanks for listening. You should go now, Paul will be back soon. He doesn’t like you much. Go.”

I reach out and give the offered hand a little squeeze, similar to the one Benny had offered me earlier. As I let go my eyes go for a wander to Wilson’s feet. They are small, maybe a size four or five. The legs are lean and strong but long and slender also. Whilst Wilson’s torso is scarred the scars screamed a familiarity. I’ve seen scars like those on she wears on his-her chest somewhere else before. Maybe a TV show.

Wilson catches me scanning his body. That smile lights up the room again.

“You like it?” She asks. “I paid a fortune for it. Tits out and sewed up, vagina closed and this,” She jerks that cock. “This I’m delighted with. Nice and big, plenty of damage done tae a hole wi’ this big bastard, I can tell ye. Three piece titanium rod inside, hard whenever I want for however long I need it.”

I gape at the scars.

“Only problem is that I’m a dry-shagger. They cannae give ye baws, well wee rubber wans, but not working ones full of spunk.” Her eyes mist for a second as she loses herself in a rapey-reverie. “Och I’d have loved it if I could’ve had spunk tae splash over thae bastards,” she says, wistfully.

Suddenly her face begins to darken once more and her voice deepens. Half way between Paul and Mary he-she roars. “Get fuckin’ oot!”

She doesn’t have to tell me twice. I rocket through the door and lock it shut behind me. Peering in through the little trap, I watch Mary kneel back into the corner and her back straighten. Paul’s voice comes.

“Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene. She’s fuckin’ coming fur ye, ya basturts.”

End of Excerpt

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Twelve Mad Men features contributions from:

Paul D Brazill (Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir)
Gerard Brennan (Fireproof, Wee Rockets)
Les Edgerton (The Bitch, The Rapist)
Craig Furchtenicht (Dimebag Bandits, Night Speed Zero)
Richard Godwin (Mr Glamour, One Lost Summer, Apostle Rising)
Allen Miles (18 Days, This is How You Disappear)
Keith Nixon (The Fix, The Eagle’s Shadow)
Darren Sant (Tales From The Longcroft, The Bank Manager and The Bum)
Gareth Spark (Black Rain, Shotgun Honey)
Martin Stanley (The Gamblers, The Hunters)
Mark Wilson (dEaDINBURGH, Head Boy)

and is available now at Amazon US and Amazon UK.

 

Tomorrow’s Chip Paper by Ryan Bracha – Review

Yet another Bracha book and yet more evidence that this is a writer to watch. Ryan is a perfect example of why the indie-publishing route is so valuable. A writer like Ryan needs time to experiment, express themselves and to develop. Traditionally, in the world of publishing (essentially the music biz with posh accents) predominantly only those projects deemed commercial or marketable rather than genuinely quality stories are given a whirl in the machine, with this sort of development time rarely being offered.

In Ryan’s debut, Strangers are Friends you haven’t killed yet, we saw a fearless and enthusiastic Bracha, publicly popping his writing cherry, making mistakes, taking chances and ultimately producing a flawed but utterly brilliant novel which whilst in need of a tighter flow, demonstrated creativity and characterisation of the sort that makes other writers up their game in response.

With Tomorrow’s Chip Paper, Bracha has become a much more skilled writer. Having lost none of the enthusiasm, imagination or his ability to effortlessly take risks that other writers would balk at, Ryan has produced a much more coherent novel and taken his skill to another level.

With each book he produces, Bracha develops this skill and constantly pushes himself to not only improve, but to continue producing some of the most imaginatively daring contemporary fiction on the shelf.
Like all the best authors, Bracha explores new ideas with each offering and refuses to constrain himself to one genre. Bracha’s golden goose is his capacity for originality and great characterisation as well as his talent for presenting those characters to us with all their flaws, without judgement, leaving it to the reader to determine their worth.

With the innate originality, vitality, humour and intelligence of his writing, Bracha is developing a varied and astonishing array of skills with which to present the complex, funny and engaging movies he clearly plays in his head.

Tomorrows Chip Paper, with writing tighter than a bulimic’s sphincter and the inventiveness of a college dorm panty-raider, is a massive step forward in Bracha’s development which left me anxious to discover what more this new force for originality is capable of producing.

I ploughed through this book in a day and a half and would recommend it to anyone who loves good storytelling.

You can find Ryan Bracha and his books here.

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