Blog Archives

Guest short story reblog … A Killer in the Mist by Tom Benson …

As regular readers of my blog will know, many of my flash fiction and regular short stories have karma and retribution themes to them. Another author who also writes some of the best revenge/retribution you could ever hope to read is multi-genre writer/author, Tom Benson.

Tom’s first book of such short stories, Smoke & Mirrors, is a real classic of the retribution genre … At around the 750-word mark, Killer in the Mist falls into the longer end of the Flash Fiction category, but like all good flash fiction, it packs in way more entertainment and content than it’s relatively short length would suggest.

Am delighted to say, Killer in the Mist will be appearing as a ‘guest’ story in my Flashbulb Moments F/fiction collection later in the year

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A Killer in the Mist

 

picAThe evening fog was getting heavier, so Philip flicked his headlights down to dipped beam. Unknown, unlit countryside and the earlier incident had been bad enough.

“You agree, don’t you?” Philip glanced at his passenger. “We couldn’t have done anything else.”

“Whatever ….” Lauren said, not looking at her married lover.

“What do you mean, whatever? If I’d stopped, there would have been questions, and names would be required.”

“I’ve got nothing to hide.” The teenager peered into the illuminated grey mass ahead.

Click HERE for Tom Benson’s original post and full story …

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A double-bill book Review – The Spider’s Web & Carnival of Death, by Tom Johnson

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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:

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Author website:  Tom Johnson: author

Blog:  The Pulp Hermit

Blog/Books:  Fading Shadows Books

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The Spider’s Web

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 A fun-filled, action-packed, masked-avenger tale

– A must-read for pulp-fiction fans!!!

TJ1zThis 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.

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Carnival of Death

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A worthy tribute to the pulp-fiction and comic book style genre – absolutley loved it!

TJ2zWhat 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!

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See HERE for Tom Johnson’s Amazon author page and his fascinating and extensive back-catalogue of books.

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More about the author …

TJ5Born 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 …

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Look out too for Tom’s latest workNEW PULP HEROES 

Click  HERE  for Amazon US purchase link 

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What are the odds on that? – Flash Fiction short story

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What are the odds on that?

highway2 Howard Jackson was a careful man. He had to be to have gotten away with his twenty-seven murders to date. Today he was hoping to add number twenty-eight to the tally. The young man sitting alone at the table in the service station diner looked a promising candidate. Howard estimated him to be in his late teens, or at most, his early twenties. He doubted if the young man had enough money for another coffee, having watched him nurse the one he had for over an hour. It wouldn’t be long before one of the staff insisted he buys another or be on his way. With the rain now pelting down outside, Howard was optimistic, knowing the weary hitch-hiker wouldn’t relish the prospect of walking however far to the next rest-stop. He had a knack for spotting the most vulnerable and trusting ones.

 

“Another coffee or something? Howard asked, having strolled over to the young man.

“They’ll be asking you to leave otherwise,” he added by way of reassurance.

“Uh? Oh right. Yeah, thanks, mister.” This was going to be so easy, Howard thought to himself.

“So, how far you going? I’m driving south if that’s any help?”

“Yeah, sure would be … and thanks for the coffee too. I was dreading having to start walking in this weather to wherever the next truck-stop is.”

Howard and the young man drank up and made their way to Howard’s car in the customer parking lot.

“Grab yourself a candy bar or a soda from the glove compartment if you want?”

“A soda would be good. And you? You having one too?”

“Nah, I’m good thanks, I had enough in the diner.”

highway3With the rain at full pelt, Howard was driving slower than he usually would. The young man continued to sip at his soda. An hour into the journey, the young man looked like he was nodding off. Howard pulled into a layby, confident the sedative had done its job.

Howard had long since discovered strangers were more ready to accept food and drink from a stranger in their car if it was in a sealed container or wrapper like a soda can or candy bar. The screw cap soda cans were of his own design, practically indistinguishable from the real thing, and the candy bars had each been injected with a liberal dose of etorphine, a powerful animal tranquiliser. Administering it via a soda or candy bar reduced the speed with which it took effect, but it was a safer alternative to risking the recipient putting up a fight if Howard failed to inject the drug at the first attempt. Howard hadn’t forgotten the one that got away, his only failure some six years previous when the sixteen-year-old intended victim hadn’t accepted either the soda or a candy bar and escaped after managing to block the etorphine-filled syringe with his rucksack. From that day on, Howard made it a rule not to proceed if the victim didn’t accept one of the drug-filled sodas or candy bars.

With his intended victim seemingly fast asleep, Howard got out of his car to retrieve certain items from the trunk: a length of rope chord, some industrial strength duct-tape, and a surgical scalpel. As expected, the young man still appeared completely out of it – Etorphine was a thousand times more potent than even morphine. With that in mind, Howard felt quite confident it was safe to proceed. He intended to strip his victim naked, and then use the rope and duct-tape to fully restrain and gag him. And then there would be Howard’s favourite part, a brutal assault and mutilation of the vilest kind of the victim’s lifeless body. First though, he reached down to begin unbuckling the young man’s jeans. What followed was most definitely not part of the plan that had succeeded on 27 previous occasions …

 

highway4“Not this time, mother fucker!” the young man said, ramming a solid uppercut under Howard’s chin before dragging him out through the adjacent car door. Though not as effective as Howard’s etorphine-filled soda can, not that the young man had actually drunk any of it, the upper-cut had highway5stunned his would-be killer sufficiently for the young man to quickly bind and gag the weaker and older Howard with the minimum of fuss or resistance. Oddly, the tone of his voice wasn’t loud, angry, or the outraged sort you might expect from someone unexpectedly finding themselves in that situation. If anything, it was eerily calm and controlled, much like the way he went about slitting Howard’s throat before dumping his body in the trunk of the would-be killer’s own car, sending both to a watery grave several hours’ drive later.

*

Oh, he’d been careful alright, but just a little too careful this time … it never occurred to Howard that someone else might have similar thoughts on their mind, and the same obsession with not getting caught. After all, what were the odds of a highway-driving serial killer picking up his opposite number among the waifs and strays of the hitch-hikers?

highway6The twenty-two-year-old young man had been killing the likes of Howard along the highway from the age of seventeen, barely a year after hitching his first ride at the tender age of sixteen. It was Howard’s attempt at adding the young man to his tally of victims six years before that had set the young hitch-hiker on his path of seeking out and slaughtering men like Howard … Howard’s fate had been sealed the moment he’d been recognised in the diner … by the one that got away.

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For more stories like this and a whole host of other genres besides, stay tuned for … Flashbulb Moments, scheduled for late 2019 …

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Battery Bob … Short story

Another taster story from my upcoming Canine Tales, Book Two in the Creature Tales collection. As can probably be assumed from the cover, many of the stories sit firmly in the blood and gore horror category, but sitting alongside them are several softer and more heart-warming ones. This is one such story …

 

Battery Bob

3D2Billy Marston had been a butcher’s boy before volunteering for France. At only 15 yrs. old, he’d lied about his age to join up, not that the recruiting sergeants inquired too closely when they suspected something amiss about a barely five ft tall youth claiming to be 17. They would inwardly smile at the would-be recruit’s naivety at thinking they had fooled anyone yet admiring their decision to try. It was just the sort of courage that would be needed for what was facing them

Billy wasn’t alone in doing that, so eager were most young men at the time wanting to go fight and for their country. But then, the real fighting had barely started yet, they still had no idea; everyone thought it would all soon be over and they’d be home in time for Christmas.

After a mere twelve weeks’ training in some god-awful cold army camp along the South coast, Billy was passed out as ready and fit for action, a junior Gunner and assigned to an artillery battery.

Mum and dad, his little sister, Ruby, and the family dog, Bobtail, were all there to see him off for his journey to France.

Although the family dog, everyone knew Bobtail was really Billy’s dog. The two had been inseparable before Billy had gone away for his basic training. In fact, Billy’s mum and dad had joked he’d miss that bloody dog more than them.

Whether that was true or not, the little terrier had whined and moped around the whole time Billy had been away and seeing him once more was the first time since the little dog appeared happy. The truth was, Bobtail had no intention of being separated again from the boy who had raised and loved him from the first day he had opened his eyes as a tiny hand-sized puppy.

 

“Hey, boy, be home before y’know it, Bobtail,” Billy was telling the dog, stooping down on one knee to clasp his arms about him in one last hug before boarding the troop ship. Bobtail was licking at the boy’s face and hands, furiously wagging its tail just like he used to as an excited puppy before reluctantly having to give up his attentions as Billy rose to his feet.

Like countless other parents that day, Billy’s mum and dad watched tearfully as their young son, still more boy than man, proudly marched across the gangplank with the last of his comrades to board the troop ship bound for the war in Europe.

Billy’s parents weren’t the only ones with tear-filled eyes. Bobtail too watched anxiously, seeing the figure of his beloved master disappearing from sight. He’d already spent twelve long weeks absent the boy’s loving hugs and playful belly rubs, determined not to be so any longer…

A sudden and unexpected pull of the leash that Billy’s little sister was holding him by saw the dog break free. Cheering roars of approval accompanied Bobtail’s mad dash across the gangplank just moments before it was pulled away for the ship to set sail.

There was no way the captain or anyone else was going to delay the troop ship’s sailing while they searched it just to return one little dog. For better or worse, master and dog were both now bound for France …

 

“Well, Gunner Marston, this is a fine fucking mess, ain’t it boy?” the young soldier’s sergeant was bellowing at him, trying to mask his amusement with his sternest face and tone. Billy stood fixed to the spot, sure that he was more afraid of his sergeant than he would ever be of the whole German army.

Bobtail stood beside his master as if to attention too, his sorry ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ soulful brown eyes looking up at the human making all the noise. Despite the shouting, Bobtail could see kindness in the human’s eyes, sensing this was a good human beneath the stern exterior.

Sgt. Rickman looked down at the dog, their eyes meeting. He also had a dog back home and understood the bond that existed between Billy and the sorry looking dog looking back up at him. Still, he had to at least make some show of punishing the young gunner for the dog’s presence aboard the ship …

“Well, Marston, if you think the ship’s crew are gonna look after yer pet mutt y’can think again, laddy!” The sergeant paused for effect …

“I can tell y’now if this were a longer trip, the little fella would be fish food now!” Billy took an involuntary swallow, convinced Sgt. Rickman had some horrible punishment in mind.

“Still, what’s done is done. He’ll be your responsibility. You’ll be the one feeding and cleaning up after him, and sharing your bunk and rations in case yer thought the army was gonna pay for his grub?”

Relief swept over the trembling young gunner, much preferring to keep Bobtail with him than be locked up in some room out of the way. Still, all he could think to say was: “Yes, Sergeant!”

“Okay. Be on yer way then,” the sergeant huffed, and then just as Billy was about to turn away, Sgt Rickman gave him a wink, and a hint of a knowing grin before he left. A beaming smile swept across Billy’s face as he and Bobtail made their way back to the troop quarters.

“Thanks, Sarge,” Billy had answered before closing the door before him, anxious to be away before the sergeant changed his mind.

Sgt. Rickman sighed and shook his head gently from side to side, wondering what would become of the two of them once they got to the front. He wasn’t hopeful about their chances …

 

scottie2They were a bit cramped in their bunks, but the boy soldiers all gave quite a cheer seeing the two of them come in. Little Bobtail had become a firm favourite among the lads, many of whom were no doubt missing their own dogs. Perhaps Bobtail was a little reminder of home for them? Needless to say, they all chipped in with scraps and titbits from their grub for the little dog that had become their unofficial mascot.

Bobtail absolutely loved all the attention and fuss he was getting. Of course, he still loved Billy the best, but this was like a whole new family for him, and he loved them all.

 

It wasn’t long before the troop ship was docking, and they all were marched off the ship to waiting trucks for the short drive to where their real soldiering would begin.

Bobtail was clearly becoming a little agitated, the sound of guns and artillery already in earshot even before they’d boarded the back of their transport. Billy held him close, and Bobtail seemed to calm down, safely wrapped up in his master’s arms.

“It’s okay boy, nothing’s going to hurt you, you’ll be safe with me, I promise,” Billy said softly, though far from sure he’d be able to keep that promise. Billy had been overjoyed to see Bobtail across the deck, but only now was he beginning to realise how much danger the little dog had put itself in by dashing aboard the ship to be with him. If it had been in his power to do so, Billy would have whisked the little dog right back home that moment. Unfortunately, it wasn’t; whatever the enemy had to throw at them, they would face it together.

Billy doubted the little dog would ever be totally at ease with the sound of the guns and artillery shells, the sirens, or any of the deafening sounds of frontline warfare. He was immensely proud though of the way Bobtail was coping, no longer whining or barking at them now. In fact, Bobtail seemed to be coping a lot better than he was. Until now, Bobtail had pretty much kept out of the way other than to follow behind his master.

No one seemed to mind the extra couple of feet the unofficial battery mascot took up among them in the trenches and had now taken to calling him ‘Battery Bob.’ Even a few of the officers had taken to throwing Bobtail the odd titbit from the scarce rations, grateful for the morale boost he seemed to be giving the men.

After what they’d seen and done in the few days they’d been there, they had long since left their ‘boyhood’ behind them, however much they might have lied about their ages.

 

“We need a volunteer to run a telegraph wire to our forward battery trench to coordinate our advance,” Sgt. Rickman said as he addressed his troop. It wasn’t the sort of assignment anyone wanted to volunteer for. The trench the sergeant was referring too was some three hundred yards across the field of fire of snipers and the constant bombardment of the Jack Johnson artillery shells, so called for the black billowing smoke that accompanied their detonation.

A man made for too big a target running across the no man’s land, and stealthily crawling made him too slow a one, either way making for an unenviable task. Nonetheless and knowing full well the danger, Billy stepped forward …

 

“Good lad,” Sgt. Rickman said.

In truth, Billy was the last one he wanted to volunteer. There were older and more seasoned soldiers better suited to the job, but he didn’t have time to argue and wouldn’t have been doing Billy any favourers showing him favouritism.

“Pass me the wire-roll end as soon as I climb up top,” Billy told the sergeant. Unnoticed by anyone, Bobtail trotted after him as Billy edged himself up and out over the top edge of their trench before someone passed him the wooden rod to which the one end of the telegraph wire was attached. Billy’s job would be to keep hold of it while it unfurled from the wire-roll back in the trench as he crawled through the mud-soaked and barbed wire strewed land. No one had any illusions as to Billy’s chances of making it, but equally, he had to try.

“Shoo, get back down, back in the trench, boy” Billy urged the little dog that had followed him up, trying to shoo him away with his hand too. For once, Bobtail ignored his master’s commands. Bobtail had seen others of the ‘family’ he’d grown to love try crawling across the no man’s land with such things … they hardly ever came back.

Bobtail lunged towards him, grabbing the rod and wire between his teeth before scurrying off into the night. Being little, Bobtail was no greyhound, but he could still run and dart in and out of the tiniest holes in the ground way faster and effectively than any human could.

Billy wanted to shout out to the little dog to call him back but knew that would only attract enemy fire in their direction. Sgt. Rickman too had popped his head above the parapet to see what was happening …

“What the f…?” Sgt. Rickman started to say.

“I’m sorry, Sarge, he just grabbed and run off with it before I could stop him.”

“It’s okay, lad, he’s going in the right direction. And honestly, he’s already got a lot farther than I thought you would, Marston,” the sergeant added, giving Billy a gentle nudge of the arm.

Bobtail completed the task like a seasoned professional, darting this way and that, occasionally stopping to take cover in one of the bomb blast craters before continuing. The whole operation took less than five minutes.

Through their field binoculars, Sgt. Rickman and Billy watched Bobtail make it all the way to the forward battery trench. Five minutes later they watched the plucky little pooch start on its return run, this time carrying a letters pouch, probably containing more detailed communications from their forward battery.

“Good, good dog, great job, love you little fella,” was all Billy could blubber over and over again, hugging and stroking Bobtail the moment he landed practically in Billy’s arms from jumping back down into the trench. Sgt Rickman took the letters pouch from around Bobtail’s neck to take them to the officer in command.

scottie3From that moment on, Bobtail was regarded as much a part of the artillery battery as any human soldier, a canine combatant that had won the hearts and admiration of its comrades.

*

Following the latest offensive, Billy had been catapulted headlong into one of the abandoned makeshift trenches by an exploding artillery shell. Knocked unconscious by the blast, Billy just lay there for several hours, assumed to have been killed by the rest of his battery which had been forced to retreat …

 

Billy had no idea what was washing over his face. He knew it wasn’t the poison gas, he’d either be dead or retching up his insides if it had been.

 

“Urgh,” Billy exclaimed in mock disgust, yet he really couldn’t have been happier. He would have recognised that wet slobbering tongue anywhere, though he did have a moment of panic, wondering if he was, in fact, dead and now reunited with his beloved Bobtail in heaven? But no, the dog’s scent and smell were that of a breathing flesh and blood creature.

They were both still in the land of the living, though from behind enemy lines, probably not for much longer Billy feared. He may have been alive, but the pain in his leg and blood-stained uniform was a sharp reminder their chances weren’t good. He knew he’d lost a lot of blood, and the effects of that were causing him to drift in and out of consciousness.

Bobtail licked at his face for a few moments. It surprised him when a second later the faithful dog suddenly turned tail to run back in the opposite direction towards their own lines of defence.

Billy was confused, though pleased Bobtail might have a chance of getting back to safety. A moment later, Billy passed out.

 

By the end of their time at the front, Bobtail had saved dozens, possibly hundreds of lives from his many runs between the trenches and across enemy territory, carrying vital information, and locating wounded soldiers.

Bobtail hadn’t deserted Billy in running back to the battery trench. As he’d done many times before by now, Bobtail had been sent out to use his acute sense of smell to try and find the wounded Billy in case he was still alive. Bobtail hadn’t failed and led Billy’s comrades right to him before their return to the UK to treat Billy’s injuries.

*

Bobtail had no idea what all the fuss was about, other than he couldn’t remember being happier, having so many lovely people patting him, giving him treats, and smiling.

He wasn’t so impressed with being plonked on a podium and some human he didn’t know placing a ribbon about his neck. Some metal thing was hanging from it too, but Billy seemed okay with it given the beaming smile and look of pride across his face.

If Billy was happy then so was he, though he was tempted to pee over the other human’s arm to show his annoyance. Thankfully he didn’t.

 

“In honour of the brave actions of Bobtail, also known to his many friend and comrades as Battery Bob.” At that point, there was a spontaneous roar of laughter and approval from many of Billy’s and Bobtails’ comrades from the frontline. Bobtail gave a loud bark too, his tail wagging furiously in sync with his persistent yapping.

This was Bobtail’s moment, and Colonel Smythe who had been giving the speech wisely allowed the crowd their moment …

Smiling and giving a gentle rub and pat of Bobtail’s head before continuing: “I take immense pleasure in having presented our canine hero here with this medal for bravery in having saved innumerable lives and to express how proud and grateful to him we all are.” The villagers and crowd cheered their agreement.

Amid the cheering, Sgt. Rickman shouted in his loudest and most terrifying Drill Sergeant voice, “Three Cheers for Battery Bob.”

After several rounds of ‘Hip Hip Hoorays,’ Colonel Smythe concluded his speech with six simple words …

“Battery ‘Bobtail’ Bob, we salute you.”

***

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I Remember … Flash Fiction story.

I Remember …

I’d lost track of how long the fighting had been going on. The noise and carnage all around made the passage of time meaningless, our only clue to its passing being the sky getting darker or lighter with the setting or rising of the sun, though fire and smoke from the bombardments often made a lie even of that.

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grey and black cloud with a thick blanket of smoke high in the wAnother deafening blast from an exploding Jack Johnson artillery shell sent us all scrambling for the nearest slit trenches, diving headlong in regardless of the presence of however many others might already be taking shelter. Bodies heaped on bodies, complaints and groans of yet another landing atop those already there.  But no one complained too loudly. And why would they? Another layer of flesh and battledress provided added protection from the countless flying shards of torn metal from the discarded guns and tanks strewn about the battlefield. And even away from the abandoned weaponry, the landing of each additional artillery shell would hurl deadly stake-sized splinters from the shattered wooden fencing that dotted the national borders of the blood-soaked mud and ground for which we were dying, mostly to clutch a few more feet from the enemy. And though the trenches provided some physical protection, they were useless against the billowing black smoke from the shells and even less so from the stomach retching effects of the dreaded gas attacks. The one followed the other as surely as thunder followed lightning, the first to completely confuse and frighten us, making the donning of gas masks all the more difficult after the second.

*

“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” A voice was asking. I couldn’t make out the exact words; the noise all around was way too loud.

“I’m okay; really I am. See to the others,” I answered weakly, not knowing to who I was talking, or indeed if I really was ‘okay.’

I continued to huddle in the little area of space I had found for myself.

Playing soldiers“It’s okay, Granddad, it was the local kids letting off some bangers and fireworks,” I finally heard a familiar voice telling me. It was Patrick, my 15-year-old grandson. I became aware of him taking my arm, helping me rise to my feet from the doorway in which I’d crouched to take shelter.

“Children? Fireworks?” I questioned, still a little dazed and confused. Soldiers

“Yes. They were playing at being soldiers, pretending the fireworks were the sound of bombs and artillery fire.”

I nodded. Yes, it was making sense now, though I admit it takes me a little longer to grasp things these days. My mind isn’t as sharp as it once was, but my memory sadly is in this case.

It was coming back to me now. All that was a long time ago, November 1915.

It was still November but the year was different now, 1985 I think. 

It wasn’t just the children, it was the people too. Some of them like to start their celebrations a day or two early to coincide with the weekend, Patrick was explaining to me.  He’s a nice lad, kind to me, you know.

His gentle patience was helping me to remember and understand. Yes. It was the same last year, and every year as far back as I can remember.

It was Bonfire Night …

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2 Short Story Reviews – The Consuming & Survival by Rhonda Hopkins

 

 

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IASDpicHere are my reviews of two short stories written by Rhonda Hopkins, an avid reader and prolific reviewer as well as being a valued IASD member and contributor. Having already read and enjoyed ‘The Consuming’ I knew  I was on safe ground taking advantage of the free download of ‘Survival’ (though it has now reverted to its original price. Having said that, both are free to read if you have Kindle Unlimited).

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Amazon Description: Survival: Survival Series Prequel

When Sarah escapes from her brutal abductors, she promises to return to rescue her twin sister, but with the walking dead invading Fort Worth, TX, she is forced to rely on a competitive coworker who made her work life hell for years. With her coworker weakened by cancer treatments, her sister still imprisoned, and zombies looking for an easy meal, Sarah’s only plan, if she can pull it off, is Survival.

SURVIVAL is a 14,000 word (approx. 45 pages) short story and was originally published in the Let’s Scare Cancer to Death anthology.

 

Survival: survival series prequel

timberwolfamazonA great start to what could well develop into a gripping ongoing series …

Rhonda2I haven’t read all that much in the Zombie genre so I can’t say how this compares with similarly themed stories but it certainly sets off at a cracking pace with the fight for survival starting right from the opening sentence almost; it was a nice touch that the initial ‘survival’ efforts were quite unrelated to the Zombie apocalypse occurring. It’s probably premature to make comparisons but the opening scene could easily be one straight out of the hit tv series ‘The Walking Dead,’ though the cover does invite such comparisons, which given its current popularity, I’m not sure is such a good thing.

Although it would read quite well as a stand-alone story, I’m glad the author indicates there will be future instalments thus hopefully allowing the reader to explore the characters in greater depth. It’s impossible to tell what direction the story will take in the future but the story has been written in such a way as to leave open all manner of possibilities and a yearning to know the hows and whys of the current situation the characters have found themselves plunged into.

 

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Amazon Description: The Consuming

Serena knows her late uncle wasn’t crazy. So when she inherits his sprawling Carolina mansion and leaves the big city to restore both his home and his name, she uncovers a mystery that could cost much more than her sanity. As the house slowly reveals its dark secrets, and the extent of her peril becomes evident, she’ll settle for escaping with her life—if it isn’t already too late.

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The Consuming: A short story

WPscreenshotA classic ‘haunted house’ tale of long-dead restless family spirits … 

Rhonda1A supposedly haunted dilapidated old house you’ve just inherited, the sudden death of an uncle you haven’t seen since childhood, rumours of madness, the locals refusing to go near the place, and a psychic best friend who warns you not to go near the place … It’s hard to say too much about a short story without giving too much away but here we have all the ingredients of a spooky little ghost story, the sort that would make for a great episode of Hammer’s House of Horror. I liked the author’s style of writing, hints of a modern Edgar Allen Poe but obviously more current and without overdoing the gothic atmosphere, striking just the right balance at the beginning between outward normality while feeling and knowing something’s not quite right. Sometimes a short story will leave too many unanswered questions but in one such as this, a bit of mystery left to the imagination just adds to its enjoyment.

Taking just under an hour to read, this is the perfect story if you like a little mystery and the supernatural in your reading but aren’t in the mood to take on the challenge of a full-length novel. Personally, I would have preferred this to be a little longer, perhaps with more involvement of the psychic friend but overall a fine short story that horror fans will appreciate.

Peer reviews: 

 “The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the literary version of what films like Paranormal Activity tried to be. This has the bumps in the night flying off the page.”  ~~  TW Brown, Author of the Dead, and the Zomblog series.

“The Consuming is a wonderful, chilling tale that leaves you listening too hard in the quiet of a dark night, and jumping at shadows in mirrors. Definitely looking forward to more from Ms. Hopkins.” ~~ Stacey Joy Netzel, USA Today Bestselling author of Beneath Still Waters and Lost in Italy.

“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the perfect example of gothic horror…” ~~ Jennette Marie Powell, Author of Hangar 18: Legacy and the Saturn Society series.

“…Rhonda Hopkins’ The Consuming had me turning on all the lights in the house and checking behind doors.” ~~ Stacy Green, Author of Into the Dark and Tin God (A Delta Crossroads Mystery).

“…This tale will give you shivers up your spine, make you take second glances in mirrors…Superb!” ~~ Penelope Anne Bartotto, The Library at the End of the Universe.

More about the author:

Rhonda4Award-winning romantic suspense and horror author, Rhonda Hopkins, has learned firsthand that truth is stranger than fiction. Her two decades of experience as an investigator for her state and family courts give her characters a depth and realism that gives truth a run for its money. In addition to stories published under her own name, Rhonda Hopkins has also contributed stories to a number of other multi-author IASDpicanthologies. You can find out more about Rhonda at:

www.rhondahopkins.com.

@Rhonda_Hopkins

On Fb – Author page

 

 

See also Rhonds Hopkins’ Amazon Author page for all the author’s books

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Book Review – A Time for Courage: and other military stories

Tom Benson is a multi-genre author and artist whose work I’ve reviewed several times since first discovering his writing on his wordpress site (see link below).

In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army. Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992. He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.
Tom is a prolific writer and book reviewer and has been writing since 2007. He has published seven novels, five anthologies of short stories, a five-part novel, a five-part series of erotica novellas, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry. In addition to his own writing, Tom Benson has contributed short stories to several other multi-author anthologies both commercially and in aid of various charities.

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Tom is presently working on a number of other projects including helping manage and promote an international collection of indie authors on the indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com website which he helped create.

 

Tom’s other websites and contact details:
www.tombensonauthor.com 
www.tombensoncreative.com
www.tom-benson.co.uk

&

@TomBensonWriter

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 Amazon Description

A collection of 12 stories created using a wide spectrum of scenarios. Military experiences can be funny, heart-breaking and, everything in between.
This anthology is a blend of my personal experience and knowledge together with specially created pieces to highlight the highs and lows of service life.
These tales can be enjoyed equally by those who have served and, those who have never donned a uniform.

Humour, fact, fiction, and fantasy are used to portray service in theatres as varied as Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Ancient Briton, the Persian Gulf, Africa, and elsewhere.

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A Time for Courage: and other military stories

By Tom Benson

(Available as an eBook from Amazon – click on above title for link)

A Time for Courage - 2Of all the short story collections the author has written this is by far and away my favourite. Tom Benson has drawn on both his imagination and his considerable length of service to craft a poignant collection of short stories across a variety of military theatres. Unusually for a short story collection, not a single story here disappointed or fell even slightly below the high standard of every other.

Throughout this collection, Tom Benson has applied meticulous attention to authentic military detail but not to the point of overkill as to confuse the non-military reader. As anyone who has served will know, the army and other services practically speak another language with all the acronyms, slang and other assorted colourful phrases, but the author’s  clever use of dialogue and context give all the slang and military terminology clear and obvious meaning thus ensuring  the non-military is never left confused or wondering at certain words.

The opening story is a real ‘lump in the throat’ one of courage and self-sacrifice but it is immediately contrasted by the side-splittingly funny satire of the second, one that any military wife (or husband for that matter) will immediately identify with but its razor-sharp humour it cannot help but appeal to all. In the third, the author takes a somewhat personal trip down memory lane in a way that we can all relate to from some time in our lives when we were determined to prove our doubters wrong. Others in the collection highlight much of the military ethos of courage and protecting the weak and vulnerable but still providing the reader with a captivating story, and in the case of Photographic Memory, a real ‘punch the air feel good factor. In The Odd Couple we get a glimpse into some of the more covert activities of ‘The Toubles,’ bringing back painful memories for some of real events that mirror some aspects of the story. Another thing I liked about this collection was its sheer variety; from modern-day Afghanistan and  Northern Ireland right back to the 2nd Century, from Jungle warfare to covert missions in the desert, from the sadness of a family torn apart from being on opposite sites to the sort of comradeship that transcends family that can only be formed with those you would die for and they for you. One story that is particularly pertinent to modern times is that of Walking Wounded; with today’s modern medicine and better field facilities, many more servicemen and women are surviving the sort of injuries only a few decades ago would have spelt certain death. The downside to this, of course, is that we have a whole generation of soldiers returning from conflicts having to face and cope with life-changing disabilities, and it is easy to understand the increased cases of PTSD in many such people. In the Walking Wounded we see the beginnings of one such man’s journey in finding a reason to look to the future with some hope, and with an unusually heart-warming twist too.

In ‘The Afterlife’ the author once again uses mostly his personal experience to round off the collection, giving the reader some brief comparisons of his life since leaving the army with that of a younger man who has never served and through it we see just why so many ex-servicemen refer to themselves as such rather than simply accepting their post-service ‘civilian’ status.

Overall, a thoroughly entertaining collection that will not only entertain but give the non-military reader some rare insights into military service. For others, again it will entertain but also bring back memories, some good, others not so maybe, but if nothing else, for me personally they remind me how very much I have to be thankful for still being in a position to read such stories when so many others are not.

 

For further links to Tom’s many other books please visit his Amazon author page by clicking on the link below:

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Tom Benson Amazon author page TomB1 

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Screaming In Silence: Trauma Poetry and Short Story – Poetry Review

McNally2Tony McNally served in the British army as a Royal Artillery Gunner. At 19 years old he was sent to fight in the Falklands War as a Rapier missile operator where he shot down two enemy jet aircraft. After serving in Northern Ireland he left the forces and was diagnosed with PTSD (Post traumatic Stress Disorder) and told to go away and write down his thoughts and feelings.

This lead to him writing his No1 best selling book Watching MenMcNally4.jpg Burn. He now lives in the tranquil English Lake district with his wife Linda and their two Labrador dogs, where he continues to write, especially poetry, which he finds very therapeutic and helpful with his PTSD. His other interests are Rugby League and enjoying his family. He has now published his page turning new book of Trauma poetry and a short story about World War One titled Screaming In Silence as reviewed below, and is working on his first eagerly anticipated military thriller fiction novel about terrorism and the Special Forces.

For further links to the author’s writting see:

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Author website: www.tonymcnally.co.uk/

Tumbler: mack4619.tumblr.com/

Blog: rogue-gunner.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mack4619

Twitter: @Roguegunner 

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 Amazon Blurb:

Tony McNally is a Falklands War veteran and the best selling author of Watching Men Burn. A tireless campaigner for better understanding and treatment of servicemen and women suffering from mental health problems like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

After leaving the forces he was diagnosed with PTSD by a civilian doctor and was at first unable to talk about his War time experiences, he was told to go home and try and write down his thoughts and feelings. He soon realized that writing was therapeutic and began to write poetry and short stories, Screaming in Silence is his first book of poetry and a short story about the First World War. Written from the heart this is a powerful collection of works that can only be written by someone that has experienced the brutality of War and mans inhumanity, which is apparent with his colorful and brutal and then at times beautiful, poignant and gentle words. He covers a wide range of subject matter, Politics, murder, homelessness, divorce, Religion and obviously War, McNally hits the readers with the ferocity of an exploding grenade then the gentleness of a poppy petal blowing gracefully in the summer breeze.

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Screaming In Silence: Trauma Poetry and Short Story

By Tony McNally

(Available from Amazon in eBook & Print formats)

.timberwolfamazonAs accurate an insight into the mental trauma of front-line service you can get short of actually suffering it yourself…, 12 Jun. 2016 – By Rudders

McNally3There are many books and websites that describe and address PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from a clinical or diagnosis perspective but none that bring home the true reality and potentially devastating long-term effects more effectively than the words and thoughts here of someone with personal experience of it. Screaming In Silence is a collection of poetry high-lighting the grim reality and after-effects of being on the frontline of modern warfare. With over a hundred poems here the author covers every aspect of his personal experiences in both ‘The Troubles’ of Northern Ireland and the much shorter but equally violent and horrific conflict of the Falklands War. There is also a very personal introduction outlining the author’s childhood, early training experiences as a sixteen year old ‘boy soldier’ recruit in the British army, and his subsequent marriage break-ups and suicide attempts, all of which hints at and sets the tone for the poignant poetry to follow. In this introduction Tony McNally also emphasises, almost apologetically, that he is not a professional writer, that his reasons for writing this collection was to help him and others deal with their war-related PTSD. There are a few grammar and typo issues in the introduction but beyond that the quality of writing in the poetry is nothing short of superb.

The poems here are relatively short but every word is carefully chosen to convey the author’s feelings and thoughts, snapshots as it were of his experiences. Tony McNally doesn’t choose his words to contrive a consistent succession of rhymes simply to entertain or produce what we expect from more traditional poetry, but those which most aptly portray his feelings and what he’s trying to say. In some of his poems there is a prose style to relate a story such as in ‘Sticks and Stones’ where he tells of being a six-year-old boy with a pretend gun to a cadet with a rifle, and then from firing a Howitzer at sixteen to shooting down an enemy plane with a missile at nineteen, to finally looking back on being a little boy again. Some also reflect on his and others’ post army careers, alluding in once instance to the contrast between the pride of being a British soldier only to find oneself homeless or in a prison cell for shooting the enemy, an indirect reference to the highly publicised and controversial case of Marine ‘A’ now serving a prison sentence for a supposed war crime. In others he pays poignant and humbling tribute to the fallen of such conflicts. In parts there is understandable regret and bitterness about his experiences, condemning both governments, politicians, and religion for the needless loss of life, as well as the lack of care and treatment of those who return home from such conflicts, often ill-equipped to cope with the trauma they’ve suffered or the transition to civilian life. In contrast to the poems  the author concludes his book with a moving and tragic short story about a young man  serving at the front during the First World War.

If I were to compare Tony McNally to any of the more historically well-known poets it would have to be Wilfred Owen rather than the more romanticised works of Robert Brooke, perhaps not in style or technique but certainly for impact; and of the more current war poets, some of the poems compare with the more prose style of Tom Benson’s equally emotive collection Military Matters.

For those who have served, particularly in the same theatres of war as the author this collection will no doubt be a difficult read, likely bringing back painful memories of their own experiences. Despite this warning I have no hesitation in recommending it; in his writing the author has confronted and come to terms with many of the demons that form an integral part of his own PTSD, and if his words help others do the same I can only applaud the author on producing such a thoughtful, powerful, and well-written collection here.

Dirty Sixth Street – Short Story Review

Felipe2

 

Felipe1Felipe Adan Lerma is a prolific author, having written numerous books in IASDpicnumber of genres ranging from short thrillers, as reviewed here, to poetry, photography, travel, and many more. He is also a prolific book reviewer, contributing to a number of online Indie author review and writing groups as well as offering help and advice whenever and wherever he can. On a personal note he has also proved to be an invaluable and valued member of my Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group and website of the same name, having blogged a number of posts in support of the IASD anthology You’re Not Alone in support of the cancer charity, Macmillan Nurses. 

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Click IASD thumbnail for website:           Click thumbnail for Felipe’s blog post.  

Dirty Sixth Street, Austin by Felipe Adan Lerma is the second of the author’s stories I have read and reviewed, the first being his novella One Night in the Hill Country

Felipeonenightinthehillcountry

       Click on thumbnail for link to Blog Review:  

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Amazon Blurb:

Part of a series of short stories, Texas Shorts.

“Dirty Sixth Street, Austin”

This short story is a first of several shorts.

My first story that takes six of my cast of characters in my fiction, the young cousins traveling and hanging around with each other, down into one of Austin’s most well known party streets.

Another first, is their involvement in a minor, but nevertheless, scary crime.

And a mystery, also of a sorts.

Besides the six children, Antone, Cherise, Simone, Tabitha, Buzz, and Zilker, two new characters, from Vermont, are introduced. Sam (Samantha) and her brother Matt. They’re adults. 🙂

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Dirty Sixth Street, Austin

By Felipe Adan Lerma

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

5Starscropped
timberwolfamazonNice little thriller … Moves along at a cracking and entertaining pace. By Rudders on January 10, 2016

FelipedirtysixthstreetAnother short thriller from Felipe Adan Lerma but again one that packs a lot more into it than the relatively short word count would suggest. In his writing, the author strips away every superfluous word of needless padding, once again putting me in mind of Hemmingway. What’s left is a short hard-hitting thriller that moves along at a cracking and entertaining pace.

For a short story there are more than the usual two or the three characters, in this case there being six young cousins as well as police officer and child advocate Sam (Samantha) and her geeky brother Matt. At a little under eight thousand words the author manages well to bring to life the settings and busy atmosphere in which the story unfolds. The central character, Sam, is visiting Austin, Texas, to attend a law enforcement conference and job interview. Right from the start there are hints at Sam’s background, and some of the traumatic events she’s witnessed in the past. To relax and get away from things, she goes for walk in the evening along the busy Sixth Street. During that walk she encounters a group of six children of varying ages, the youngest being a boy of about eight who happens to be crying at the time. It turns out there have been a recent spate of robberies, one of which involves the children; being a police officer, and one particularly interested on the effects of crime on children, she sets about her own investigations, getting to know the children better along the way.

Another aspect of the author’s writing that impresses is the authentic characterisation and dialogue of the children and their interation with the adult police officer, Sam; quite often when writing children’s dialaogue, it can be difficult to get it just right or believable but the author succeeds in this area better than most, especially given the varying ages of the children in the story, a testament possibly to the author’s own extensive family background and interaction with his own children and grand children. The writing is actually quite enchanting, and though a thriller that doesn’t shy away from reality and the criminal undertones of the story, it does not rely on excessive violence, making it a suitable story for reading across most age groups and tastes.

An engaging and quick read, and one that will particularly appeal to fans of the crime, thriller, and short story genres. I won’t say more other than that as well as enjoying the story you may feel the urge to eat a spicy taco too… Why? You’ll have to read ther story to discover that ….

 

Author Profile:

Born and raised in Texas, and now a young senior living in Vermont, his wife Sheila’s home state, Adan brings a gentle infusion of yoga and fitness to bear on life long interests in writing, painting, dance, photography, and the arts in general.

Determined to learn about the ideas of Western Culture that have informed our civilization, Adan put himself through college with the help of his GI Bill benefits. More recently, he has added certifications in fitness and yoga.

His self stated mission on his website, reads, “a Beginner’s View : Integrating Yoga Fitness and the Arts.”.

NEW: Over 50 titles available FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

Fiction, photography, poetry. Family, mystery, and (new) thriller fiction. Set in Austin Texas, Paris, and Vermont.

Images and poetry from all three locations.

 

Further links to the authors numerous novels and poetry collections can be found at:

Felipe2

www.felipeadanlerma.com 

Felipe3

https://twitter.com/FelipeAdanLerma

Felipe4

Felipe Adan Lerma’s Amazon Author page

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And lastly, a few words from Felipe Adan Lerma himself …

As the oldest of six, a father of three, and a grandfather of five, and married over thirty years, I believe, in writing stories and poems, I’ve found a perfect outlet for my years of living.

I have been writing and creating pictures since high school in the sixties, and began writing more seriously in the late 70s and early 80s.

One of my more recent surprises has been to read a definition of Romance that seems to generally fit the majority of both my poetry and fiction: a central story involving the relationship of two people, and a generally optimistic and satisfying ending.

With that revelation, I now view Romance fiction in a whole new light. 😉

But if I had to give one word about most of my fiction and poetry, and even my images, it’s relationships.

The interactions of people, especially couples and among family, seem to have the strongest hold on me. That would also help explain why even in my poetry about teachers and nurses and others, it is the relationship aspect that usually is my focus.

The Processing my Fiction series on my site has more detailed specific articles that might be of interest.
http://felipeadanlerma.com/category/areas/arts-area/fiction/processing-my-fiction/

 I hope you can take advantage of the half dozen or so titles I offer free for downloads, and will also consider and enjoy my other work. Thanks so much!

Sincerely,
Felipe Adan Lerma

Felipedirtysixthstreet

Bangkok Z – Short Story Review

 

stephen carterStephen J. Carter is not one of my Fb IndieAuthor group members this time (yet) but one I discovered via Twitter. He is a Canadian writer living in Mai, Thailand, who spends much of his time travelling in Thailand and Malaysia, and the rest of it travelling in the world of his imagination. Bangkok Z is book one of a two book series (so far, a third is in the offing for later this year). I must admit this story left a few too many questions unanswered for me but intrigued me enough to prompt me into reading part two in the series to see if they would be answered, and so my review is partly written with hindsight of what follows in the second part of the series. A review of the the sequel will feature here in the very near future…

As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…

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Further links to Stephen J. Carter’s writing can be found at:

Stephen J. Carter’s Amazon Author page:

www.stepehenjcarter.com

Stephen J. Carter on Fb…

www.twitter.com/StephenSCIFI

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Amazon Blurb…

In a bleary-eyed state of shock Toey Cholwasa and three friends arrive back in Bangkok, a city engulfed by a zombie plague, a choking miasma of flesh rotting in the tropical heat. As their Airbus lands Toey witnesses another in a rolling series of mass turnings. A freshly-risen horde throws itself at the still-moving plane, and gets plowed under … leaving a blood-trail of body parts in the plane’s wake.

It would have been a mercy if the plague had merely killed its victims. Zombie death would be the least of its effects. As a researcher in consciousness and trance states Toey is one of the few equipped to piece together what the zombie rules of engagement will have to be. Failing this, the fallout from such a fight won’t bear thinking of.

The new airport they pass through is a morning-after war zone, an arena of death playing host to lifers (survivors), infected, the dead, and the newly-undead. Later, the silent city they pass through echoes with the screams of the infected who died there only hours earlier. Most of those have not yet turned. But as new convulsions wrack the city they realize they’re in the opening skirmishes of an undead global war.

The struggle begins.

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Bangkok Z: A Horror Novella

(Bangkok Z – Zombie War Book 1)

By Stephen J. Carter

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

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J.Carter1Set against the intriguing backdrop of the far east, this zombie themed novella quite literally lands you in the action and mayhem of a post pandemic zombie apocalypse right from the start. The action is fast paced and constantly driven forward by good use of dialogue interspaced with just the right balance of narrative to allow the wider story to emerge. As with most short stories and novellas the number of characters is kept to a minimum thus allowing the first person perspective to work well here. Rather than trying to convey a conventional self-contained story within the constraints of a novella, what we have here is more an isolated snapshot of events as four friends do the best they can to cope and survive amid the surreal circumstances they suddenly find themselves. There are few clues as to what might have brought about the pandemic and the emergence of the zombies but there are hints that they may be able to gather more information in the future, allowing the reader’s imagination to go into overdrive.

This is quite an original take on the zombie theme, and one that doesn’t rely on gory detail for its impact. There’s enough going on both action and plot wise to keep the reader hooked. The story also features strong female characters as opposed to the usual lead macho man. Were this a stand-alone novella I would say it leaves too many unanswered questions, hinting at the characters’ pasts without giving the reader enough to even speculate on them. Thankfully that isn’t the case, being part one of a two part series. As a stand-alone story I would give this a four star rating for the reasons I’ve mentioned, but having read the second part I was pleased to see a lot of the wider story emerge, so for that reason and for the enjoyment value it gets a well-deserved five stars.

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Books by Stephen J. Carter: click on thumbnails for Amazon links…

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