I had a rum and coke to my lips when a call pulled me from some standard joke I’d reheated for the VIPs at this posh party. Outside, Jim emerged from the shadows of the City Hall’s pillars and grabbed at my sleeve as if social isolation had frayed his etiquette.
“Did you get them?” I said.
The little bird’s head jerked here and there for predators on the rooftops, down the side streets, in open windows. “He got ’em all.”
I struck a match to light the darkness in his eyes. Wells of despair.
“What exactly do you mean?”
“He killed all my men. Every one of them.”
“And yet here you stand, your bad breath in my nostrils.”
He opened his mouth to protest but a bullet cut him down. I scanned the city’s dark patches for Kevin Berg, but he used those zones well. I shook my head, stepped over the red pool which gathered round my feet, and rejoined the party.
I had a Philly cheese steak stuffed in my mouth, my family all around me in the diner, when Frank waved at me through the window, all frantic.
I excused myself and met him by the dumpster. The stink didn’t help me chow down the remaining mouthful, but what could I do?
“Don’t tell me,” I said. “You lost all your men?”
“How do you know?”
“I can read the lines on your forehead. How did you lose them?”
“He … I … He funnelled us into this warehouse – and … and then kaboom.”
“And yet, here you are.”
He stuttered, backed away from me, and cracked the windscreen of the car which plowed through him. I could have swore I saw Berg in the driver’s seat.
I sniffed and rejoined my family for dessert.
I was about to putt an eagle on the golf green when I noticed my caddie had changed shape, colour, and height. Ah, Brandon had come with the news. I hate golf and I took the chance to escape these collar-shirted athletes by putting the ball into the rough so I could huddle with my man out of sight.
“How did your men die?”
Before he could even answer with a What, a Wha…, or a goldfish W…, Brandon lost his brains and crumpled to the floor. A golf cart sped away to the eighth hole. The sun glinted off Berg’s glasses. I charged back to the golf party, pissed we had eleven holes of this left.
I entered my office early next morning and blacked out from the cosh to my head. I woke up in some basement hanging upside down with my feet tied to a beam.
Kevin Berg sat on his haunches before me, his hands on a golf club for balance. He tutted.
“You only had to ask and I’d have sent you the answers you want,” he said.
I smacked my lips, thirsty for water, or better yet, rum and coke. “Now you tell me.”
He stood and readied the club as if the 18th rolled out ahead. “I’m going to read you the answers, then I’m going to beat you with the golf club.”
I nodded. “Well, your stance is all wrong …”
Kevin Berg writes gruesome, painfully dark fiction. One commentator said of his work, “The whole range of human emotions is on display, with the notable exception of happiness, joy, satisfaction and love.”
But if you like your coffee strong and unsugared, Berg is your man. Mark Wilson called him, “Simply the best kept secret in US indie publishing.”
A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that. What words do you have for such a philistine?
Kevin Berg (KB): I think each one of us has at least a story or two, and some are more interesting than others. Some people like to share and heal, or to frighten and entertain with their tales. Maybe his is just one of the boring ones.
What must a protagonist have to make you read on?
KB: The protagonist needs to be interesting in some way. Different from everyone else. It is difficult to find originality and unique characters or new ideas anymore, but I am always entertained when I bump into a character on the journey that stands out as unusual among the rest.
Do you need a likeable protagonist?
KB: No way, as long as the struggle to get what they need is something I can identify with, even if just for the story. Great writing doesn’t always have to be pleasant.
Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.
KB: Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello is my favorite antagonist. By far. To me, he seems the most manipulative and effective type of enemy to bring total destruction, while entirely human.
What makes you throw a book out the window?
KB: I’m not a fan of flowery words. I read to experience something great with the characters the author has introduced to me, not to hear the writer walk through the thesaurus of shit words lodged in their brain from time spent obtaining whatever useless piece of paper they have hanging on the wall.
Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?
KB: Definitely. An intriguing plot and good writing can pull me through a novel in one sitting. Those are the type of stories that stick with me, and I will find myself thinking later of scenes or twists that caught me off-guard, and recommending my favorites to anyone that will listen.
What gets you writing? A great novel? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?
KB: It’s tough to pinpoint when an idea hits, or when a story really takes hold in the imagination. It’s probably a bit of everything, but usually inspiration keeps me from sleep. It shows up right when my mind is finally trying to calm down and is ready for some rest. The spark hits, and I spend the rest of the night thinking and rethinking different plot points, or characters, and what I want them to say.
What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?
KB: That I am not done learning, and will keep going. I doubt anyone that chooses this path ever stops learning something new, trying a different strategy, or using a new method to tell people a story. And make it fun. I had a blast writing Daddy Monster. If it feels like work, it is never fun. Write what you want, and enjoy it. Or fuck off to another hobby.
What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?
KB: The Dead Girl Beside Me is about a man who investigates the latest victim of a serial killer, after he wakes up next to her corpse.
Where can readers connect with you?
KB: Thanks for asking. If someone wants to find me, here’s how:
Author Website: https://kevinbergauthor.wordpress.com
Amazon Page: https://author.to/kevinberg
You can buy City of Forts for the special pre-order price HERE.