As most of my friends and family know, I’m quite the boxing fan and enthusiast, though of an age now that that enthusiasm restricts me to whacking a punchbag, yelling from the stands, or in the case of the recent Fury/Wilder fight, shouting at the telly. Like a lot of people though, watching that fight prompted me to scroll through a lot of old YouTube boxing-related vids … it was then I stumbled across the story of bogus boxer, Charlie Zelenoff, a wannabe that puts most of the deluded and untalented contestants of the American Idol, X-Factor, and Britain/America’s Got Talent shows right up there with the cream of the showbiz entertainment industry.
*One of my rare posts that isn’t a book review, short story, or anything else to do with the wonderful world of writing other than a brief reference, so if Boxing isn’t your thing I’ll happily forgive you for scrolling past. Otherwise, sit back, relax, put your feet up, and have a little chuckle while chillin’ with a beer…
Living the Delusion, Pt1 …
Here in the real world
Following Tyson Fury’s dramatic TKO win over Deonte Wilder, boxing is once again dominating the news and media. Everyone from network commentators, former champions, and those still aiming for their shot at Ring Greatness to the seemingly endless legion of armchair experts and Vloggers, they’re all saturating the boxing community, social, and mainstream media with content: if you didn’t already know Deonte Wilder and Tyson Fury’s impressive fight stats, unbeaten records, number of knockouts, and just about everything else right down to what they eat for breakfast and the colour of their underwear, you probably do now.
For Deonte Wilder, those brutal knockdowns will be digitally archived forever, being replayed time and time again. They will be constant reminders of the once formidable man’s emphatic defeat, haunting him just like Muhammad Ali’s ‘Rope-A-Dope’ tactics of the Thrilla in Manilla still do likewise with George Foreman nearly half a century later.
Let’s not feel too sorry for George though: he sensationally regained his title twenty years later, and, even if he hadn’t, probably made more money from becoming the face of the George Foreman Grille than he ever did from boxing. Whether or not Deonte Wilder achieves the same post-defeat success remains to be seen …
That’s the thing about social media, Google, Wiki, and God knows what else, they put every last detail of our lives just a click away. Venture so much as the most tentative tiptoe step into the world of entertainment, commit some indiscretion in public life, or suffer some slight embarrassment that gets caught on film and before you know it, there’ll be ruddy great size-ten online digital boot-prints of it forevermore.
Therein lies the double-edged sword of social media fame; what seems like a good idea at twenty or thirty often isn’t so great a few years later when you’re applying for a job or trying to explain to your kids why you were once such a total and moronic asshole, something which will later bring us onto the bizarre story of Charlie Zelenoff …
Now, be honest, how many of us haven’t at one time or another imagined ourselves in the shoes of any number of sporting, music, or other iconic figures? Every weekend, millions of us regular mortals trundle down to the local park to play a game of Sunday League footie, our middle-aged footballing prowess on a par with embarrassing dodgy dad dancing, but, nonetheless, imagining ourselves scoring the winning goal in stunning and spectacular ‘Pele’ style fashion. For others, it might be strumming an out-of-tune guitar down the local bar, pub, or club, but enjoying the experience so much that in their head, they’re Jimmy Hendrix headlining Glastonbury.
Returning though to the eventual theme of this blog post, it’ll likely as not be pounding the speedbag at the local gym, all the time secretly wondering what it would be like to be Mike Tyson climbing in the ring at the MGM arena for his umpteenth world heavyweight title defence? But whatever your passion, you get the picture I’m sure …
Now let me say from the start, there’s absolutely nothing with any of the above – it’s as harmless, normal, and innocent as any five-year-old pretending they’re Spiderman, Wonder Woman, or when they’re a bit older, the next winner of American Idol whilst miming with a hairbrush in front of the mirror in their bedroom.
For me, my own youthful, sporting, and musical ‘what if’ and ‘what could/might have been’ daydreams have long since given way to more literary ones, though still every bit as fuelled by an over-active imagination as I tap away at my keyboard in the belief I’m writing the next best-seller.
I guess that begs the question, do I ever dream of being the next Stephen King, Lee Child, or Thomas Harris? Hell, yes of course I do, but not to the point where I start mocking up my own imaginary writing awards or membership of non-existent writing organisations just to fuel some daft delusion I’m really in that league let alone convincing anyone else. Maybe one day, yes, I’d love that, but right now I’m happy to settle for the satisfaction I get from the occasional ‘like’ on a blog post, or better still, a great review on Amazon for one of my books, either of which brightens my day.
Having said that and in common with a certain Charlie Zelenoff I’ll soon be introducing in more detail, I’ll admit I’ve had my pugilistic dreams too; I fought a few regimental and inter-battery bouts in the army and then, years later, reached the dizzy heights of my one and only televised charity fight in the world of White-Collar Boxing: stepping into the ring, spotlights shining on you, and then the cheering spectators, they all amount to one of the most incredible experiences imaginable (even if as in my case it was mostly just a few friends and work pals turning up), so much so that it’s easy to understand the attraction of the reality of such a life or even some social media-fuelled fantasy … speaking of which …
Living the Delusion, Pt2 …
Meet Charlie Zelenoff …
Forget all the unbeaten records, double-figure lists of battered opponents, ninety-five-per-cent knockout rates, and other seemingly impressive fight stats of the WBC, WBO, WBA, IBO, and IBF world champions. Prepare instead to be astounded by the greatest pugilistic genius of them all, and indeed, of all time … meet thirty-two-year-old Charlie ‘the GOAT’ Zelenoff, the undisputed UBF multi-weight world boxing champion with a never before, and likely never to be equalled again, current undefeated fight record of *324-0-0.
*For those unfamiliar with the presentation of boxing stats, that’s 324 wins, no, losses, and no draws. (… and for those that are, no, that’s not a typo, but 324 straight-up wins, and don’t bother trying to work out how someone of that or any age ever managed to accumulate that number of fights, let alone wins, you’ll just give yourself an even bigger headache than the one Tyson gave Deonte in their last fight. And if you’re wondering too what the GOAT nic stand for, it’s … wait for it … (drumroll, please)
* (Charlie’s ‘greatness’ and that ‘unbeaten’ record could be even more impressive by the time you finish reading this blog given that Charlie adds to his ‘Win’ column tally with weekly, daily, and even hourly victories as the mood takes him).
Now, if your initial reaction to Charlie Zelenoff above was ‘What the F***? (and likewise about the UBF given that you’ve probably never heard of either), let me explain. The UBF is the Underground Boxing Federation, a boxing organisation completely of Charlie Zelenoff’s creation and as fictitious as the fake world-title boxing belts he can be seen posing with above. Most (un)impressively though, our Charlie lays claim to an ever-increasing 300 plus unbeaten fight record, albeit as make-believe as pretty much everything else about his practically non-existent bogus boxing career.
In all fairness, I do have to reiterate my use of the word ‘practically’ here, for to dismiss Charlie Zelenoff entirely would be a mistake; this is a man who’s shared a ring with the likes of Deonte Wilder, Floyd Mayweather Sr, and counts Tyson Fury among his greatest fans, admittedly that last little nugget being firmly tongue in cheek. Returning to reality though, Charlie’s ‘actual’ boxing career does fall ‘just a tad short’ of his imagined one, standing as it does according to www.BoxRec.com at 0-1-0, ie, no wins, one loss and no draws on account of being disqualified in his one and only ever officially sanctioned welterweight fight against Andrew Hartley, a boxer whose own fight record credibility of twenty-eight losses out of thirty is on a par with Mr Bean’s likelihood of being cast as the next James Bond.
It’s worth noting here too, Andrew Hartley was considerably shorter than Charlie, and, despite his appalling fight record, in between having to chase Charlie around the ring was beating the shit out of him prior to Charlie’s disqualification for spitting out his mouthpiece (for the third time) towards the end of the first round (for full-fight footage, see 2nd link down at the end… approx 32-36 minutes in).
Now, the thing about our Charlie is that he really believes his own delusional view of himself as the world’s greatest boxer, that belief fuelled by the literally hundreds of sneakily contrived ‘victories’ he’s accumulated over the years – seriously, this guy tots up his wins like a schoolboy accumulating marbles or conker fight scores in the school playground.
His usual modus operandi is to invite innocent gym-goers around the gyms and studios of West Hollywood to ‘lightly’ spar with him, usually offering some financial incentive to seal the deal. Thinking they’re onto easy money, most agree … and that’s when Charlie shows his true colours: no sooner do they touch gloves, Charlie goes nuts, pounding on his unsuspecting opponent without warning while either his dad or a mate films the encounter. By the time Charlie gets round to posting another ‘boxing win’ on his YouTube channel and elsewhere, the footage will have been edited to show Charlie in the best possible light, and of course, minus the context in which the supposed ‘fight’ actually took place. As an added touch, Charlie also likes to claim most of his opponents are retired US Marines/Special Forces, or some other ex-this, that, or the other to emphasise the scale of his latest win. Naturally, of course, things don’t always go to plan, and the bogus boxing bully sometimes comes a cropper such as when he’s occasionally been stupid enough to take on real boxers (that never ends well, trust me). Mostly though he gets away with what, in reality, are nothing short of criminal assaults; Charlie Zelenoff is quite young, reasonably fit and in shape by the looks of him, and trains regularly in his basement so it’s not as though he doesn’t possess some fighting skills, certainly enough to overcome most unsuspecting opponents with a sneak attack or a ‘sucker’ punch (the latter definitely backfired on Charlie when he tried the ‘sucker’ punch tactic on Floyd Mayweather Sr). Still, just to stack the odds even further in his favour, another of Charlie’s tricks is to remove most of the stuffing from his gloves prior to a ‘fight,’ thus having the effect of landing his blows with much the same effect as if fighting bare-knuckle … yep, a real piece of work is our Charlie.
On the domestic front, Charlie Zelenoff was at one time supported by his ex-wife, Daria Zelenoff, which in itself is a little odd given that several years ago, Charlie regularly posted genuinely creepy online footage that it was God’s Will for him to marry the love of life, Kim Kardashian, and for her to bear his children (phew, lucky escape there, Kim, lol).
Charlie is also actively encouraged by his father, Eugene Zelenoff, in his strange and bizarre life and boxing ambitions, both often joining Charlie in his online victory celebrations.
To conclude …
Whilst I’ve tried to present an overall picture of bogus boxer, troll, and all-round deluded fantasist, Charlie Zelenoff, I’ve barely touched the surface here. They say a picture paints a thousand words, and if that’s true, then the documentary video of him by Cloud5146 on YouTube (2nd link below) must amount to several volumes of insight into what can only be described as a very strange and disturbed individual, though watching the footage of his father, Eugene, it’s clear where at least some of Charlie’s delusional belief and aggression come from.
It would be too easy to simply dismiss Charlie Zelenoff as a young man with some delusional mental health issues or lacking the usual social skills. In truth, this is a man with quite enough of his wits about him to carefully pick/deceive most of his ‘opponents’ (i.e. mostly victims), then beat the living daylights out of them before posting said assaults online for all the world to see. Watching further footage of Charlie’s online rants also reveals him to be racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and to possess borderline levels of violent aggression, i.e. an all-round nasty piece of work.
Does Charlie need help? Abso-fucking-lutely, yes he does, but with his supposed friends and family encouraging him in his bizarre antics and the local authorities doing nothing, unless the online community shame or deter his behaviour, Charlie Zelenof is going to get himself seriously hurt. I mean, calling up the likes of Deonte Wilder and making racist comments to him before saying equally vile things about his daughter isn’t a recipe for a long and happy life. Neither is sucker-punching a sixty-six-year-old man as he did Floyd Mayweather Sr (among others). Not only that, Charlie bragged about it online and threatened to do the same to Floyd Mayweather Jr, actually threatening to put him in a wheelchair, you know, the real undefeated and possibly one of the best pound-for-pound fighters to have ever lived, I kid you not!
Again, many will argue that Charlie Zelenoff is to be pitied, is in need of psychiatric help, and should not be ridiculed online. Well, if all Charlie was doing was posing in the privacy of his own bedroom with his Toys-R-Us boxing belts, pretending to be the boxing champion of the universe for anyone cares, no one would really give a shit – but that’s far from the case: despite getting the odd battering himself, Charlie launches into some pretty violent and dangerous attacks on innocent people. What if he one day sucker-punches a sixty-six-year-old man who doesn’t possess the defensive skills of Floyd Mayweather Sr and actually kills somebody as he so often brags he’s capable of?
My advice to Charlie: give up this daft boxing lark, get some psychiatric help, and ffs, don’t post any more bogus fight shit on YouTube.
See/click below for further info/links to the YouTube boxing sensation that is … Charlie ‘the GOAT’ Zelenoff:
What a glorious day, I thought. Already I had seen performing acrobats, listened to the sweet melodies of musicians, and taken in the salivating aromas of tradesmen selling the most delicious smelling pies and pastries. Many had brought their children to enjoy the numerous entertainments accompanying my own starring role.
It couldn’t have been far, no more than a few feet, but I remember hurtling downwards, swaying and spinning as I went. The pain was indescribable, admittedly for just a moment, so no need to dwell on that bit, at least not for now.
I had tried to keep my eyes closed at the start to avoid being blinded by the glare of the sun directly overhead. But curiosity compelled me to witness the event in its entirety. And why not? I was, after all, the star of the show.
The previously baying crowd were united in a rapturous thunder of applause. Many were in attendance, everyone from wealthy merchants, farmers, and the soldiers, of course, to the most wretched peasant.
People were enjoying what some might call a carnival atmosphere, encouraged by the warm weather and grandness of the occasion.
It did anger me that despite being at the centre of the celebrations, I was somewhat restricted in my ability to enjoy the occasion to the full. Still, I guess I shouldn’t be too disappointed, I’d had the best view of all during my brief attendance. Had those in charge had their way, my last sight of the world would have been the insides of the cushioned wicker basket in which I, or rather my head to be precise, was meant to land – and stay.
The force of my landing, or rather my head’s landing, had sent the flimsy basket tumbling over on its side and me, my head that is, rolling two, maybe three feet, leaving it in a sideways position, skewing my view of the surroundings. I was just thankful for not having additionally suffered the indignity of my head rolling a little farther and bouncing down the wooden steps leading up to the platform. Given the mood of the crowd, I’m sure they would have taken the opportunity for an impromptu game of football with it.
I had a perfect if oddly angled view across the town square. Unfortunately, I could also see the thick puddle of red, viscous liquid forming about me, no doubt the waterfall of blood flowing from the neck of my decapitated body. I was quite worried it might reach me and that I, my head that is, would roll over into it face-first.
I needn’t have worried. The Judicial Executioner reached down to retrieve it, grabbing and lifting me up by the hair. I would guess this was an easy task now that that part, the bit that was still me, probably weighed no more than two or three kilos rather than my previous eighty.
I was suddenly aware of the panoramic view of my audience while the executioner turned 360 degrees to give everyone a good look at me. Once more, the crowds cheered their approval.
Without warning, the executioner suddenly thrust me – my head that is – down over the top of a sharpened pike, the business end slicing through the underside of what was little was left of my neck, rising straight up through the brain and out the top of my skull. Oddly enough, that hardly hurt a bit, something to do with the brain not actually having any pain receptors of its own, just the ability to process pain signals from elsewhere about the body … well, that was hardly an issue for me now.
I was further enjoying my birds-eye view of the world as the executioner hoisted the pike aloft and vertically into the air. I was afraid I, my head, might slide down, but several protruding ridges along its length held me in position.
Shortly after, one of the soldiers carried the pike (with ‘me’ still on it like some piece of skewered kebab meat) all the way back to the Bastille.
To this day, the pike and my now embalmed head remain there, embedded at a 45-degree angle from the prison walls for the public to come and gawp at like some cheap tourist attraction.
It’s not so bad now, well, except for the pigeons and other pests that use me as a landing perch (and other unmentionable things), but I do feel a little aggrieved. Admittedly I made my victims suffer quite horribly, but at least they all died … eventually.
I had expected a quick and relatively painless death. It was anything but … time had slowed to an incredible degree, much like all those stories you hear of your life flashing before your eyes immediately prior to death. I was sure that was what was happening with me, and as such, I was also experiencing a lifetime of pain in that same moment.
Perhaps this endless persistence of awareness in my decapitated head is to be my eternal punishment for ending the lives of so many others in my own butchering activities … I guess there’s a certain perverse karma in that.
Arguments had raged for years about how long the victim retained consciousness after decapitation. The notorious Parisian serial killer, Henri Boucher, otherwise known as The Butcher, had been the clearest indication to date supporting the idea that life lingered on for somewhat longer than the few seconds advocates of the guillotine claimed. The Judicial Executioner and many in the immediate crowd swore on the lives of their nearest and dearest to observing Boucher’s eyes rolling from side to side in response to those watching, and movement of the mouth and lips in the manner of a scream when the head was forcefully thrust onto the pike.
Perhaps La Guillotine wasn’t the quick and painless death they imagined it to be?
No one could imagine the real truth of the matter … except perhaps, Henri Boucher.
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read many more like it, check out my latest collection of short stories on my Amazon author page links below:
It was reasonable to assume Melina Jackson was her name given that was the only female name on the list of doorbells.
The flat-capped, raincoat wearing man liked to stalk his victims first. He deliberately cultivated an unassuming, almost invisible appearance for the initial stages of his work for obvious reasons, ensuring that any possible description of him would be as nondescript as that of the nearest lamppost. The knife-wielding sociopath was most meticulous in his planning, proud indeed of his attention to detail. But then, of course, he had to be otherwise his career would most likely have been a short one …
The mere presence of Bartholomew Brown was enough to make the skin crawl – if he wanted. Mostly though, he was the most affable and charming man you could ever hope to meet.
He preferred to be called Mr Brown rather than Bartholomew – Bartholomew sounded too Bohemian, too pretentious, he thought. Mr had more of a cold and enigmatic feel to it, for, beneath his superficial charm, Mr Brown possessed the most twisted imagination ever; perhaps that was what compelled him to do what he did?
If you were foolish enough to ask Mr Brown about his interests, just five minutes into the reply would be enough to have the strongest of stomachs heaving and ready to expel their contents in a fit of projectile vomiting. You see, Bartholomew Brown was no ordinary man.
Over the past twenty-five years, he’d been responsible for the bodies in the canal murders, the butchering of seventeen prostitutes, and the cold-blooded murder of six unfortunate serial killer hunting detectives. And those were just what he considered his most notable successes; there had been many others, but they had been when he first started out, so he forgave himself for those initial somewhat sloppy and amateurish efforts. He’d long since perfected his craft though and was again looking forward to satisfying his darkest fantasies.
The next one was to be a woman by the name of Melina Jackson. Oh yes, she would make a fine victim, he thought, what with her sun-kissed red hair, those ‘come to bed and ravage me’ eyes, and the short, slutty skirt and high-heels that just screamed whore from head to toe. This one deserved a slow death, as painful and bloody as any to date. Mr Brown was determined to excel himself this time.
… Melina Jackson left the upmarket hotel by the back entrance, her business done with her latest trick, her third of the night. With a bra stuffed full of cash, she walked along the dark side-street, intending to call a cab from the nearby taxi rank. It was only a short distance but enough to provide her assailant with sufficient cover to hide in the shadows before stepping out to confront her.
The serrated knife entered her breast at the same moment he looked into her eyes. A hand clasped her mouth before the merest hint of a scream could escape her ruby red lips. Her mutilated body would probably be found by an early morning street cleaner or perhaps even earlier, some late-night reveller turning into the dark street to take a piss …
Oh yes, Mr Brown was happy with his efforts with this one, of creating a scene of bloody carnage to rival that of the very best efforts of Jack the Ripper.
Thank god it was just Mr Brown’s vivid imagination, that the details of Melina Jackson’s death were simply the ones staring back at him from a computer screen, and later, some anonymous reader’s Kindle or while scrolling a Dark Web fiction forum.
Finally satisfied with the level of detail he’d achieved in his latest serial killer story, Mr Brown typed … The End.
Finishing a story always gave Mr Brown another craving too, an almost ritual one of making himself a sandwich. He was about to cut himself a couple of slices of bread when he stopped himself … Mr Brown frowned, silently annoyed at himself; there was still blood on the serrated edge of his carving knife … even after twenty-five years, Mr Brown could still be sloppy.
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read many more like it, check out my latest collection of short stories on my Amazon author page links below:
Bob Van Laerhoven is a 66-year-old Belgian/Flemish author who has published (traditionally) more than 45 books in Holland and Belgium. His cross-over oeuvre between literary and noir/suspense is published in French, English, German, Spanish, Swedish, Slovenian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Russian.
My review of:
Return To Hiroshima
Steeped in intricacy and too many horrors waiting to jump out of the shadows as each element of the story begins to find its place, it would be impossible to do justice to any sort of plot summary here. Suffice to say, the reader is taken on one hell of a dark and often upsetting journey: a seven-foot woman haunted by either real or imaginary memories of childhood horrors and abuse, an investigation into the murder of a newborn child, a secret and clandestine wartime medical experiments, and Japanese suicide cults are just some of the pieces of this internationally flavoured noir thriller.
Despite this being a translation from the original, the writing is fluid and well-crafted, with clearly a great deal of effort having gone into maintaining the tone and feel of the original text. The complexity of the story is cleverly broken up into short, easily digestible chapters, each with their own little prelude as it were. I liked too the way the author alternates the point of view between that of the central and mysterious female character, Mitsuko, and the third-person perspectives of the other characters amid the wider story and sub-plots going on.
This is a book that challenges the reader to step outside their comfort zone in terms of what they might be familiar with culturally, and perhaps their perceptions of Japanese culture and society. Quite apart from the story of Mitsuko, the author skilfully contrasts the western view of Japan (or Nippon as he refers to it in the narrative), managing to incorporate the Japanese fascination with Karaoke bars, manga comics, and the deeper philosophical and religious beliefs that underpin people’s lives in that part of the world, alongside an enduring sense of nationalism even among its younger generation. The reader gets to witness Japanese society from the perspective of its native population, visiting westerners, and, as in the case of police inspector Takeda, who despite being half-Japanese, doesn’t quite fit in with or enjoys the full ‘acceptance’ and respect of his peers. As can probably be guessed from the title, the historical significance of Hiroshima and the aftermath of the nuclear blast are a recurring influence in how the story unfolds, though more as a historical backdrop and vehicle in which it has shaped the current story being told. Set in the mid-1990s, many of the characters still possess first-hand experience of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima while the next generation are equally affected by the resultant and continuing birth defects and associated cancers. Alongside the inevitable darkness such elements bring to the story, there is plenty of equally dark and horrific content emanating from the characters themselves: rape, violence, torture, murder, and a number of grizzly death scenes are described quite graphically at times, ironically almost on a par with how they might be portrayed in a manga comic. Like any good writer, the author doesn’t show his hand too soon in the story, encouraging the reader to reasonably draw their own conclusions and assumptions before allowing the real truth and direction of the story to emerge.
The farther and deeper you progress into this often disturbing and yet captivating tale, the more you will be rewarded as the different and complex strands eventually draw together. Be warned though, this is no easy story to read and one that demands the reader’s full attention and concentration. Nor as I’ve intimated is this a book for the faint-hearted or those who prefer neatly packaged happy endings or a book filled with easily identified characters you’re supposed to either like or hate. Nonetheless, a powerful and multilayered story for those willing to stray from the more conventional thriller style and setting.
Reduced Kindle price for the duration of the Blackthorn Book Tour promotion, and FREE to read for Amazon KU subscribers
Bob Van Laerhoven’s social media links:
More about the author …
In Belgium, Laerhoven was a four-time finalist of the ‘Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year’ with the novels ‘Djinn’, ‘The Finger of God’, ‘Return to Hiroshima’, and ‘The Firehand Files’. In 2007, he became the winner of the coveted Hercule Poirot Prize with ‘Baudelaire’s Revenge’, which, in English translation, also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category ‘mystery/suspense’. His first collection of short stories ‘Dangerous Obsessions’, published in the USA in 2015, was chosen as the ‘best short story collection of 2015’ by the San Diego Book Review. The collection has been translated into Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. ‘Return to Hiroshima’, his second crime novel in English, was published in May 2018 by Crime Wave Press(Hong Kong). The British quality review blog Murder, Mayhem & More has chosen ‘Return to Hiroshima’ as one of the ten best international crime novels of 2018. MMM reviews around 200 novels annually by international authors. Also in 2018, the Anaphora Literary Press published ‘Heart Fever’, his second collection of short stories. ‘Heart Fever’ was one of the five finalists of the American Silver Falchion Award. Laerhoven was the only non-American finalist. The collection has been translated into Italian and Spanish. A German translation is currently in production.
See HERE for the author’s US Amazon author page:
Another new ‘creature horror’ author I recently discovered, Richard “Rich” Rumple currently resides in Lexington, Kentucky, after having grown up in Indiana, with New York, Chicago, Mobile, Baton Rouge, and Europe all mixed in between. “Gabriela…” is his third release, following the highly successful “Horror Across The Alley” and “They Lurk In Summer.”
My review of:
Gabriela: Tales From A Demon Cat
I must confess to a certain bias here: as a huge fan of short stories and creature horror, be it cats, rats, bugs, or bats, this feline-themed anthology excels in both, just as I knew it would from the introductory story. The way the tales are introduced and their connecting thread, namely the perspective from which they were told, i.e.Gabriela’s past lives and experiences, owe a debt to the anthology format of films like the 70s Amicus Horror ‘Tales from the Crypt’ and its Grim Reaper like narrator – in this case though, the narrator is much more interesting, taking the form of a mouse-munching, demonic cat … what’s not to love about that!
Anyone who’s ever owned a cat (supposedly), or more likely been at the beck and call of a feline companion, will immediately recognise the traits and characteristics of many of the diabolical traits of our deliciously demonic narrator, Gabriela. The stories veer between more subtle and creepy horror as in the two opening stories ‘Why Didn’t I Get A Dog’, and ‘Kind of Handy’, to more traditional blood and gore orientated tales such as the humorously titled ‘Big Feet Minus Expensive Shoes’ and ‘Damned Whiskers.’ Oddly though, the central character in the stories isn’t usually feline as you might otherwise expect, or in some cases, any sort of creature at all, with the story simply being told by Gabriela, either having witnessed or heard it from another cat. Given the way the author links each tale through the continuing and darkly humorous dialogue between Gabriela and her latest ‘owner’, they almost read like the chapters of a novel amid Gabriela’s observations of her periodic trips to Hell.
This is creature horror at its best, combining lashings of claw, paw, and nail scratching savagery, a fair helping of all sorts of other creepiness, touches of light-hearted humour, and a page-turning sense of continuity with each individual tale. The stories are as dark, imaginative, and varied as I could have hoped for … so many good stories, but I think the author saved the best till last with ‘Cat’s Paws’, a tale of voodoo, spells, and a touch of savagery, quite my favourite I think … can’t wait to read more from this author, especially Book Two as the author promises, featuring more demonic tales from Gabriela.
RC Rumple’s Social media links:
Author website/blog: Richrumple.com
Facebook Author page: @RCRumple
Click HERE for Richard Rumple’s US Amazon author page …
Lucy Brannen simply adored Tommy, and why shouldn’t she? He was a handsome fella, what with his thick, jet black hair, and eyes that could entrance the most reluctant heart.
Everyone loved Tommy; Lucy’s parents, her friends, and even complete strangers too immediately took to him. It was something Lucy understood and accepted, having fallen for Tommy’s charms more than two years before. Yes indeed, Tommy was something special, even if his demands and attention-seeking sometimes made her feel invisible. She had some sympathy now for how new mothers must feel when everyone’s attention and compliments were all directed towards the baby, like the mother wasn’t even there other than as some glorified slave … where was the appreciation and attention she deserved? Whatever her occasional misgivings though, Lucy continued to dote on him, attending to Tommy’s every whim, everything from preparing his meals right down to even trimming his nails, nothing being too much trouble for her. All she asked in return was the occasional show of love and affection, to be treated as something a little more special than his personal servant.
It wasn’t entirely true of course; Tommy did treat her to the occasional glimmer of attention, snuggling up to her when she least expected it or gazing into her eyes, enchanting her all over again. But such emotional shows were few and far between, and invariably seemed to coincide with when he wanted something, like a snack from the kitchen; as smitten as she was, Lucy was not stupid, fully aware the relationship was utterly and completely on his terms, and not hers.
The truth was, Tommy treated their home as little more than a hotel, often lounging around all day while she went out to work. The least she could have expected was for him to be there for her after a hard day’s work, but no, Tommy was a law unto himself, coming and going whenever he pleased, and at all hours of the night.
Lucy often wondered if Tommy would even notice if she just left, walked out and never came back, at least apart from the need to get himself another dogsbody? She knew she never would though; Tommy meant too much to her, and besides, what would have been the point? Tommy knew his worth and would have been sure to land on his feet elsewhere, perhaps even with that little blonde next door, the one always paying him compliments and attention.
There was one person though who wasn’t seduced by Tommy’s charms, and that was Lucy’s best friend, Clara. She treated Tommy with the same indifference he pretty much treated everyone else. When Tommy and Clara were in the same room, you could almost feel a literal drop in temperature, such was the coldness between them. It was not surprising then that whenever Clara visited, Tommy would either make himself scarce all together or at best, somewhat rudely go and feign sleep in another room.
And so it was today when Clara called, Tommy just huffed his annoyance and flounced out past them when Lucy opened the front door to her friend.
“Sorry about that, he’s in a bit of a mood,” Lucy apologised.
“Don’t apologise for him, he’s always in a mood,” Clara reminded her in reply. “If he wants to behave like a spoilt brat, that’s his problem.” Lucy just shrugged, her loyalties torn as they always were.
“Look, Lucy, I’ve no sympathy,” Clara bluntly told her. “I told you at the start … if you wanted slobbering affection, undying loyalty and the rest of it, you should have bought a dog … Cats are different.”
Tommy surveyed his kingdom from atop the mahogany bookcase, having snuck back in via the cat flap. Satisfied that all was well, he looked down on his devoted human.
Even though Clara had now left, Tommy was in no mood to jump back into Lucy’s arms. No, he would make her wait for another snippet of the attention she so desperately craved and needed from him, and why not, she was after all his slave, as all humans were to their feline owners.
Clara on the other hand, she clearly had no understanding of the honour and privilege it was to belong to some feline God or Goddess, never having shown him the deference he was entitled to, not even so much as kneeling before him to present some delicious offering. Her presence or lack thereof was therefore of little interest to him, assuming her to be one of those evil creatures that didn’t bow down to their feline masters or mistresses, or worse still, she might even be … a dog person … urghh, was all Tommy could muse to himself at the thought …
Tommy leapt down from the bookcase, landing beside Lucy on the sofa. He had kept her waiting long enough, a suitable penance he thought for giving some of her attention to another. Nonetheless, he snuggled beside her, again gazing up into her eyes, allowing the soft touch of his fur to brush against her bare skin. He even allowed her the rare privilege of stroking and caressing him.
Any thoughts of replacing Tommy with some slobbering little puppy as Clara had suggested instantly evaporated, Tommy’s mastery and ownership of her once again more assured than any cage or set of chains could ever do.
Enjoyed this story? Would like to read more? Then stay tuned for the publication of Flashbulb Moments towards the end of this year …
James Watts is a US/Alabama based horror writer and author. In addition to his debut novel, THEM, he has had short stories appear in several horror anthologies while writing for the horror publisher, HellBound Books.
When not writing himself, he is also an Administrator for the highly active and successful horror promotion and discussion group, Realms of The Damned Horror Society, helping to discover and promote new writers, news, and events in the genre.
Following the success of THEM, James Watts is busy working on his next book, Beast of Sorrows …
To keep up with and follow the author, see below for his social media:
Author website: www.james2go33.wixsite.com
Facebook page: @Southernhorrorwriter
Goodreads: James Watts
With ancient malevolent forces occupying human bodies, innocent looking creatures morphing into hungry life-draining parasites, and a history of evil dating back millennia, these ingredients alone are a recipe for an intriguing horror tale. Added to the mix though are family secrets and rivalries, murder, and an emerging horror triggered by the main character’s return to his childhood home and town to attend his mother’s funeral.
I liked the dramatic start to this book i.e. the events and horror that prelude the opening scenes of Ray Sanders’ return and his mother’s funeral as already mentioned. Having said that, once past the dramatic opening, the book adopts a slower pace while it lays the groundwork for the wider story that follows; James Watts does an excellent job of setting the scene, creating the characters and relationships of a small town, and of relating old rivalries, friendships, and family secrets. Even before events start to take a more sinister turn, the author’s impressive descriptive skills have already conjured up the perfect setting and surroundings in which they unfold … one can almost hear the sound of banjos playing on a southern porch while picturing the image of cabins in the woods, and a character out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre lurking behind every corner, though there are horrors here far worse than any human monster
Apart from a well-constructed story and a rich array of characters, the nitty gritty of the writing was also first class, not shying away from explicit and graphic language at times, but not over-doing it either. Although set in the present, in some ways, ‘THEM’ reads much like old-style horror – not in a dated or old-fashioned way, but in the tradition of, say, Dennis Wheatley or H.P. Lovecraft, though with a healthy resemblance to the blood and gore of some classic 70s/80s’ horror too – in terms of more modern writers, ‘THEM’ would sit quite comfortably nestled among the works of Stephen King and James Herbert … a great debut novel and addition to the horror genre, and hints too of more to come …
Video trailer for THEM
Click HERE for James M. Watts’ Amazon author page:
Another little taster from my up-coming under 1000 word flash fiction stories, Flashbulb Moments …
Luke Thompson was as nice a young man as you could ever hope to meet, the sort of boy parents hoped their daughter would bring home to meet them. In Luke’s case though, it was correctional officer Vince Zackery introducing Luke to his parents. It was okay though; Vince’s parents took to Luke the moment they met him. And likewise, when Luke introduced Vince to his own family, they were delighted Luke had found himself a boyfriend who obviously adored him, and given Vince’s 6’3” height and build, one they knew he’d be in safe hands with.
It was an unlikely pairing; they’d met and fell in love during Luke’s monthly visits to his older brother serving a seventy-five-year sentence for armed robbery at the penitentiary where Vince was an officer.
Luke was attending a staff Christmas dinner and dance night. He had thought about not going what with Vince working nights, but Vince had told him to go and enjoy himself, and besides, Luke would have felt guilty letting Kathryn down. Being a popular guy, Luke had no shortage of girls happy to dance with him, which was more than could be said for Nathan Morrison. Nathan was your stereotypical homophobic racist, and a jealous one to boot, given that the girl he fancied, Kathryn, was more interested in limp-wristed Luke, as Nathan called him. Luke and Kathryn were best friends in a brother and sister sort of way. All night the girl whose knickers Nathan wanted to get into had spurned him, preferring to chat and dance … with some nancy boy … instead. Afterwards, Luke and Kathryn left together, Luke insisting on walking her the half-mile to her house.
Along with two of his knuckle-dragging mates, Nathan followed at a discreet distance before taking a shortcut in readiness to confront the pair …
“So, what’s girly little Luke got that I ain’t?” Nathan demanded to know as he stepped out from the shadows.
“Maybe she’s a dyke and reckons on Luke providing some girl on girl action,” one of the other Neanderthals suggested. Had it just been Nathan on his own, Luke would have taken his chances and struck out at him, but he had Kathryn to consider, and was fearful of what they might do to her if he angered them in any way? In that respect, he needn’t have worried; the three Neanderthals had no intention of raping or hurting Kathryn, knowing full-well what the consequences of that might be. But Luke was another matter – they figured he’d be too ashamed to complain given just what they had in mind for him, and even if he did, they’d say he tried to touch one of them up, that they were fearful of his homosexual advances … sadly, it was a defence that was often successful in some of the ‘less than liberal’ states of America.
Nathan and another of the trio slammed Luke up against the wall, unbuckling his pants at the same time, while the third one kept hold of Kathryn, making her watch. Nathan then produced a bicycle pump he’d stolen from a bike while following them.
“I bet this is what you want, I mean, a hole’s a hole, and you want it, don’t ya?” Nathan whispered, “and if ya scream out, ya little girlfriend here will be getting the real thing from all three of us,” he added, knowing Luke wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise Kathryn’s safety.
Nathan had been right in assuming they wouldn’t report the assault, though not because Luke was ashamed. Luke was worried what the others might do to Kathryn if Nathan went to prison. Nonetheless, Kathryn pleaded with Luke to go to the police, but ultimately, she respected his wishes not to.
A month later, Nathan was convicted of a similar assault against a young girl. Hearing the news, Kathryn finally told her father, who just happened to be the judge trying Nathan’s case, what had happened. She also told Luke’s partner, correctional officer, Vince Zackery …
Nathan Morrison entered the three-man cell somewhat nervously to begin the first day of his ten-year prison sentence for sexual assault. He nodded to the two man-mountain sized figures looking across at him from their bunks, one from a single bed, and the other the lower one of a set of bunk beds.
“What’s ya name, boy?” asked one of them while the other returned to flipping the pages of his porn mag.
“It’s Na … Nathan … Nathan Morrison,” he finally managed to blurt out.
“Well young … Nathan … your pit will be on the top bunk above me, though most of the time you’ll down here keeping me happy … oh, and it’ll be me on top.”
“Don’t be greedy, Jim, there’s more ‘n’ enough of that sweet little ass ta go around.” The two cellmates both laughed. Unsurprisingly, Nathan didn’t see the funny side of the crude interjection.
“Too sweet an ass t’be called ‘Nathan,’ that’s for sure … I think we’ll call him Natalie instead.”
“Look guys, I mean …” Nathan began, “I’m … I’m not gay or anything, not that I got owt against anyone who is or anything …”
“Neither are we, but unless you’re hiding a pair of tits and a pussy under that jumpsuit, you’re all we’ve got … and besides, what was it you said … A hole’s a hole?” Nathan didn’t know what to say, too terrified to even notice the flow of urine soaking the front of his prisoner jumpsuit.
“Luke Thompson’s my kid brother … and if you’re thinking of yelling out to the guards, ya know that mean looking muthafucka of an officer that’s in charge of out wing, his name’s Vince,” Jim revealed, brandishing an officer’s nightstick in a somewhat obscene manner before adding: “… and he’s Luke’s partner.”
It was going to be a long ten years was all Nathan could think … that’s if he even survived the night?
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read many more like it, please stay tuned for my up-coming anthology later this year, with guest stories from an additional six authors (3 more still to be confirmed)