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)
Tom Johnson spent twenty years in the military, and after retirement, he and his wife, Ginger, went into small press publishing for the next 22 years. Tom continues to write and Ginger edits and proofs his work. They also review books from numerous publishers.
Following the author’s social media links immediately below, it is my great pleasure to provide my reviews of just two of Tom Johnson’s extensive library of books …
Click on links below for Tom Johnson’s social media:
Author website: Tom Johnson: author
Blog: The Pulp Hermit
Blog/Books: Fading Shadows Books
The Spider’s Web
This is a super novella-length story from the pulp-fiction author, Tom Johnson. A straightforward ‘good vs bad, hero vs villain,’ type story, one where the reader just sits back, suspends disbelief and enjoys the fun.
For first-time readers of Tom Johnson, this a fine introduction to his stories and style of writing, and indeed to the genre as a whole. What we have in The Spider’s Web is a tale of masked avengers and vigilante-style crime-fighting heroes and villains; yes there’s lots violence, killings etc, but the author doesn’t dwell on explicit descriptive detail in that respect, preferring instead to concentrate on writing more of a gasp out loud roller-coaster of entertainment.
Although of novella length, content-wise there’s as much going on here as in many a longer book; Tom Johnson constructs the background of the ninja-like ‘Spider’ character extremely well and succinctly, wasting no time in incorporating it into the wider story. The other main character here, the mysterious crime-fighting ‘Black Ghost,’ is one that features elsewhere in many of the author’s earlier books so there is less explanation of his origins and character, at least not initially though still enough detail to make for a satisfying stand-alone story; having said that, if you already enjoy this style of writing/genre it might be worth scrolling back through the author’s previous books for a more chronology-based decision as to which one to read first. Related to what I’ve just said, there is a bonus story/material, The Black Widows, at the end that expands on the Black Ghost’s character and youthful origins and background. I must say too say, the bonus story has a somewhat darker feel and tone to it, but every bit as enjoyable and complementary to the first story.
I’ve not read much in this genre and style of writing before, or rather not since I was a boy, so it’s hard to make comparisons with current authors. If I were to make a film or tv analogy, think along the lines of a modern-day Fu-Manchu or Bruse Lee’s Kato character in the Green Hornet for atmosphere and overall feel, though there are several others I could quote too … older readers will know exactly what I mean.
For anyone looking for gritty realism, lashings of sex and/or gratuitous violence, or the sort of plot complexity to rival the De Vinci Code, this certainly won’t fit the bill. For those readers though looking for a romping good read, good fun-filled and escapist storytelling, and where you don’t have to scratch your head every five minutes wondering what’s going on, The Spider’s Web provides exactly that.
Carnival of Death
What a cracker of a wee tale this is – a body count not seen the time of the Black Death, masked crime fighters, ninja assassins, British secret agents, rogue ex-military, and an equally dynamic supporting cast to complete the package. It’s a novella length story, but one that packs in way more content than its 82 pages would suggest. This could easily have filled the pages of a full novel, but Tom Johnson has stripped away every superfluous word or bit of character background building. There is a prequel to Carnival of Death, The Spider’s Web, featuring the same characters and set-up, which is probably why the author allows the story to hit the ground running so to speak; having said that, although this is a sequel to a previous story, it reads surprisingly well as a stand-alone story too, though it will inevitably leave the reader curious to know more about the characters. The ending does leave open the likelihood of further stories in the series I’m pleased to say.
Without spoiling or giving too much away, it’s basically a story of vigilante crime-fighting justice, but more in the style of The Shadow, Doc Savage, and Zorro rather than Michael Winner’s ‘Deathwish’ character. As the author himself says, the main character here, The Black Ghost, is his homage to such characters and the pulp fiction magazines of the 30s and 40s. Another comparison I would add to the author’s own references is to Warren Murphy’s Remo series in which the main crime-fighting character, though not super-human, seemingly borders on it. Unlike those of his literary heroes though, Tom Johnson has set his story in a modern-day setting, combining that pulp-fiction feel with just the right blend of high-tech and reference to the present.
Whilst I would say one has to suspend disbelief to some degree, it’s a fast-paced and action-packed story, one that takes me back to the sort of comic book style stories I enjoyed reading as a boy, but which I once again find myself enjoying as an adult. Overall, a fun, entertaining, and escapist tale of good guys versus bad. Will I be reading more from this author? Absolutely yes!
See HERE for Tom Johnson’s Amazon author page and his fascinating and extensive back-catalogue of books.
More about the author …
Born July 26, 1940, in Seymour, Texas, located in West Texas, US veteran Tom Johnson has been a voracious reader since childhood, beginning with the Golden Age comic books to classic literature. Exciting adventure stories entertained him until he discovered science fiction and hardboiled detective mysteries. By his early twenties, he discovered The Shadow and Doc Savage pulp reprints in paperbacks and was hooked on the fast-paced action novel. This led to collecting and research, which eventually interested him in writing. Today, he still loves an exciting action novel over movies and television. Tom and his wife, Ginger, have received numerous awards in the field for their work in keeping the old stories in the spotlight for new readers seeking escape in a thrilling adventure novel.
Please click HERE for the author’s full biography and writing history/links …
Look out too for Tom’s latest work … NEW PULP HEROES
Click HERE for Amazon US purchase link