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Stuff I Wish I’d Written … Beau Johnson on The Dark Tower

Hi Beau, which book are we talking about?

The book I’d like to talk about is actually eight books, all of them combining to form Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

Were you already a Stephen King man?

I was, I was – ever since my younger brother wasn’t into a present (Misery) I gave him for his thirteenth birthday. Not wanting it to go to waste, I’ve been hooked (a Constant Reader in King-speak) ever since.

I’ve not read much King. I read Christine when I was young and literal, and the premise annoyed me. I loved the movies Misery, Stand by Me, and The Shining, but I haven’t gone back to the books. His horror books could be construed as twisted fantasy, but aren’t The Dark Tower books out-and-out fantasy? A departure in King’s catalogue?

I think that man is able to write anything, so no, I can’t see it as a departure for him. It’s his longest work by far, in pages as well as years, but it becomes as rewarding as it can get if you are a fan. But yeah, if I have to get concrete, a little more fantasy would populate those books than some of his others. As I’ve been told: there are other worlds than this.

Buy prints of the book via Michael Whelan’s website.

Your writing is gritty and planted firmly in the here-and-now. What attracted you to the fantasy of The Dark Tower series?

Ha – yup, I do love me some grit. As for what attracted me to The Dark Tower – it’s really two things. One, when my young punk self understood what King was saying about reality: that our world was but a blade of grass in a sea of grass, hence “there are other worlds than these.”

Second: when I realized how connected his books were. Easter eggs, guest stars, whatever you want to call them. But the connective tissue running under and through the spine of his stories … consider this the point in time when my youthful mind was blown.

Does each book in the series have a beginning, middle, and end? Does it leave a thread in, say book 1, and not pick it up again until book 6?

They are self-contained, sure, but each connects to the overarching narrative. It is basically a quest, to save the Tower, which stands as the nexus of all realities. If it falls, we all fall. Purdy cool.

Stephen King has told of the influence The Lord of the Rings has on the series. Do you see it?

For sure. Tolkien’s influence can’t be denied. Lord of the Rings is flat-out fantasy , whereas The Dark Tower has a good chunk of its time rooted in our world. A good mix, if I do say so myself. Mother Abigail would be proud.

Who is The Dark Tower’s main protagonist? What do you like about him?

Roland of Gilead. The Gunslinger, himself. We are all searching for something. Acceptance. Tolerance. This world is not so fucked up as we think it is. Roland’s quest is not only a hero’s journey but a redemption story as well. For whatever reason, those two ingredients have formed to become my Huckleberry and why I continue to come back for more.

What is Roland’s redemption all about? Has he failed someone. Has he committed a great sin he must rectify?

A great sin encapsulates it quite nicely. Roland chooses the Tower over a boy named Jake about halfway through the first book, the boy in turn falling to his death because of this decision. Heartbreaking, especially when it comes back in play later in the series. Hang on, I need a tissue. Okay – I am now ready for the next question.

Here’s a hanky, your face is all contorted. What about the antagonist(s)? As epic as Sauron?

I would say in league with, yes. Randall Flagg is one bad-ass dude. You may even remember him from that fine adventure called The Stand. That Dude, the WALKIN’ Dude, he gets around. More of the connective tissue I mentioned earlier. He even pops up as a Merlin-type in another book called Eyes of the Dragon. As for the Big Big Bad? The Crimson King? He was serviceable, playing his part , but if I had to, I’d go with Flagg for the win.

What does Flagg represent in the books?

Anarchy. Chaos. An agent of change. On the whole, a nasty piece of meat.

So he’s more Joker than Sauron?

Not so much a Joker, no. Purdy sure Flagg has more on the ball than Mar Napier. Bigger goals, too. Bringing about the end of all there is puts him in a different league, methinks.

What did you think of the film? A masterpiece? Good, but flawed? A miserable waste of everyone’s time?

Option 3. And to be honest, I couldn’t even finish it. I don’t mind Idris Elba as Roland, but McConaughey – man, was he woefully miscast. Grrr … aaargh…

Going back to the novel, King is a big advocate of pantsing. Does the series read like that? Does it go off on incomprehensible tangents, or does it have that shoot-from-the-hip thrill?

Doesn’t read like that at all. Makes me jealous, is what it does – me being a pantser as well. The man is just too good at his craft. You hit it on the head, too: it very much has a shoot-from-the-hip thrill. From the Tick-Tock Man to saving Eddie Dean, to Roland losing his own fingers, to what King calls Lobstrosities.

Do you pants from the start of your work? You have no thought of the end until you get there?

I think my writing process is maybe a beast unto its own. I sometimes get the ending first and work back from there. Sometimes it’s the opposite and the first line comes to me and boom – the story takes me where it wants. My least favourite is when somehow I start in the middle and find myself working toward both ends. As John Locke from Lost has been know to say: “It’s never BEEN easy!”

Have you ever pantsed to the end of a story and thought, “Sod that, I need to scrap it and start again”?

Nah, can’t say that I have. Now that’s not saying I haven’t switched perspectives when I feel it’s not quite working. I mostly write in first-person, but if I’m not feeling it I sometimes switch to third just to see what’s there. It has worked for some pieces, others not so much. When this happens I usually scrap the whole thing. Bottom drawer business, if you catch my drift.

I get your drift. Do you go into a story thinking of plot, or an emotion?

A little from column A, I guess, a little from column B. I’ve always considered myself a What If? guy.

Has The Dark Tower affected the way you write? Has King’s style influenced you at all? Is there a bit of Roland in Bishop Rider?

When I first began writing for sure I was influenced by King. I have always liked to write, but hands-down Uncle Stevie is the reason I put in the effort. I had limited success in his arena, however, and it wasn’t until I came upon crime fiction that I found my voice. That is not to say I am successful, far from it, in fact. I am having fun, though.

As for the Bishop/Roland comparison? Up until I read your question I would have said no. I can’t quite commit to that anymore, as both men are single-minded as a man can get, now that I think about it – Roland for his Tower, Bishop for every piece of scum his boots can crush. Looking back, then, yes – it would appear a seed had been planted.

That King – always looking out for me. Ha!

One reviewer said The Dark Tower is “high-falutin’ hodge-podge,” but “more than delivers on what has been promised.”

How would you sum up the beast?

One word – Epic. His magnum opus, for sure.

You’ve had some hot recommendations from highly regarded writers such as Tom Pitts, Joe Clifford, and Paul D. Brazill for your short story collection, A Better Kind of Hate. What’s next, and do you feel the pressure of such kudos?

I would say there is some pressure. I’d be lying if I didn’t. But I learned a long time ago I can only write for myself. If people happen to like my stories, hey, that’s the cake. If not, so be it. You can’t please everyone.

PS – Clifford, Pitts, and Brazill all made me pay for those blurbs. Three figures, too. Nah, I kid. Great bunch of writers to know, each one. I have been very fortunate to be accepted into this community of ours. The fact is not lost on me.

Beau, you’ve been a star. Thanks for your time and best wishes for your future work.

Jason, m’man, my thanks to you. Quite accommodating of you to give me time and space. Good luck on your newest work as well: City of Forts! For those of you who haven’t already, go grab yourself a copy. Have some fun.

Cheers.

You can get a taste of Beau Johnson’s work through the following links:

My Kingdom for a Fenceat Spelk Fiction

Hostile Takeoverat Shotgun Honey

Moments in Timeat The Flash Fiction Offensive

The following are other interviews he’s given:

Short, Sharp Interview with Paul D. Brazill

The Interrogation Room with Tom Leins

You can buy A Better Kind of Hate from Amazon US and UK


City of Forts

Moorlands

Bullets, Teeth, & Fists

Bullets, Teeth, & Fists 2

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You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Paul Heatley

I’m all business-like as I plant myself at his table, my hands folded over each other. “Join our organisation.”

Paul Heatley wipes his glasses, places them on the tip of his nose, and slides them back into place. He strikes a match, clocks the karaoke singer with the helium voice, sets the Sambuca alight – and downs it in one. Breathes fire across the table my way and grabs the bottle for round I’ve-lost-count. Not bad to say he doesn’t drink.

I grab his wrist and shake my head. “No.”

“Take your hand from me, Beech. I’m in a good mood. Party mood. Dancing on the ceiling mood.”

“I want my answers tonight, before you slide beneath the table for the evening. Will you join our organisation?”

He laughs and shakes away my hand. Swigs another shot. “We all want answers. My bank manager, my wife, my boss, and me. Are you who you say you are?”

I nod. The pub heaves and cheers the next karaoke singer. Heatley grins at the dodgy ABBA impression and throws his name down the DJs ear. A couple of songs later he’s up at the mic, a bad impression of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal spewing out his mouth. I grab the mic and perform The Police’s Murder by Numbers, though I can hardly remember, never mind hold the tune.

He pah’s and rocks out Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine. I encourage him by murdering Take the Money and Run by The Steve Miller Band.

We take a break and I’m easy with his next Sambuca. He runs a hand through his hair. “Your organisation is not my style. I’m a free spirit. And, I don’t do that kind of thing.”

I let the smile sit on my face. Makes Heatley shift his arse cheeks one to another. A new singer takes the mic, only he introduces himself with some godawful mid-Atlantic accent and plugs the band he sings for, The Bell Peppers, and where they’re playing this night. He sours my smile and winds Heatley up. The fella croons some Maroon 5 in a highly polished tone. Irritates the shit out of me, and more importantly, my target.

After that berk has finished, Heatley cleans his palate with Nick Cave’s There She Goes, My Beautiful World. It’s ballsy, it’s off-cue, it gets the crowd going. But mid-Atlantic Man ruins the mood again with a blander version of Mr Bland himself, John Mayer. It’s so slick Friends of the Earth would launch a boat against it.

Heatley screws his nose at the call to the man’s gig tonight. The laydees get in free, and drinks are cheap, apparently. Free wouldn’t sell cheap enough if we had to watch him. He lets the Sambuca buzz his head.

I have a word with mid-Atlantic Man, out of Heatley’s vision. Tell him I’m a huge fan and put in a request for his next song.

I make my way back to the table. Heatley shakes his head, his mind made-up.

“I’m not that kind of man. It’s not my kind of work, Beech. I’m sorry.”

I purse my lips and say my regrets. “Well, let’s part on good terms – how about a duet?”

“Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence.”

“Why not?”

We make for the DJ, but mid-Atlantic Man has hogged the night again. Faces dull around him. Heatley rolls his eyes, but they spin when the wannabe closes his lids and nods like he’s at the artisanal fruit juice counter. He places undue import on the words, “Hello darkness, my old friend.”

I turn to Heatley and nudge his arm. “Well, what a shame. Your favourite song and all.”

Heatley grabs the mic from the man, and pushes him in the chest. mid-Atlantic Man pushes back. The instrumental wafts through the pub awaiting its Simon and its Garfunkel. Heatley, a civilised man, has Sambuca in his veins and some primal ancestor shoots out his actions. They fight over the mic and as the crowd surges I rabbit-punch Heatley in the ribs. He’s furious. Swings at mid-Atlantic Man and knocks him to the ground. Batters him with the mic until pulp smears the floor. Hello Darkness, indeed.

It’s done. The crowd drag Heatley away and I step in to help him. I show my teeth and they back away. “Will you join our organisation?”

Heatley can’t believe what he’s done. I mean, you don’t mess with The Sound of Silence, but this … He’s alive. It has nothing to do with the Sambuca anymore. He nods. “I’m in.”

“Let’s get out of here, then, there’s a few questions you need to answer.”


Paul Heatley is the highly rated author of noir cult classics, including Fatboy and An Eye for an Eye. He’s in a bunch of anthologies and has sown his fantastic short stories across a bunch of online magazines. Check him out.

***

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?

Paul Heatley (PH): Oh, wow. I mean, how do you even tackle something like that? You either get it or you don’t. And if you don’t, well shit, there’s a lot you’re missing out on.

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

PH: The most important thing is having a story worth being told. If the protagonist has nothing going on then there’s no reason to keep reading.

An Eye For An Eye (Near To The Knuckle Novellas Book 5)

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

PH: Not at all. You need an engaging and interesting protagonist, but they don’t necessarily need to be likable. So long as they’re compelling, that’s the key. It’s not like you’re planning on becoming friends with this imaginary person and spending time with them outside the pages of the book. I just have to want to read about them is all.

Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.

PH: Lou Bloom of the movie Nightcrawler is a great antagonist/anti-hero. The scope of his ambition and what he’s willing to do to get the things he wants are thoroughly engrossing. He doesn’t even sleep! His means are highly questionable but there’s a lot to be learnt about pursuing your dreams and not letting anything get in your way.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

PH: Haven’t done it yet! Maybe I’m just selective about what I read.

Fatboy

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

PH: I do, in the hope there’ll be something redeemable to find. Luckily I’ve only really come across one or two dodgy books I felt were a struggle.

What gets you writing? A great novel? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

PH: All of the above. I write every day so that keeps me motivated, and I’ll search out the inspiration I can find in any situation.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

PH: Sometimes the story will dictate its own pace. You set out thinking you’re gonna write it one way, pace it a certain way, and the story says No, THIS is how we’re gonna do things.

The Pitbull

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

PH: A hitman passes time while his ex-girlfriend attempts to escape her oppressive father and elude the various killers he’s sent after her.

Where can readers connect with you?

PH: All the usual places – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@PaulHeatley3).

You can get a taste for his work with the following short stories:

Three, Two, One at Shotgun Honey

The Santa Clause at The Flash Fiction Offensive

Bo’s Burial at Spelk Fiction

You can buy his work from Amazon US and UK.

Thanks, Paul.


City of Forts is now available from most digital stores and in paperback. Buy it HERE.

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You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Ross Greenwood

Ross Greenwood comes out the coffee shop and stops dead at the look I give him. I’m here to take him to lunch. He wants to answer the questions I have for him face-to-face. He popped in the cafe to get us both a coffee, but he scans the busy street to see what I’m looking at. A man in a fedora leans on his car door, triggered.

I can see the “Shit” on Ross’ lips from here. I jerk my head and he explodes into a run, coffee in each hand. He jumps in and I slam the accelerator as soon as his arse touches the leather. Fedora Man screeches after us in his Audi. Ross hasn’t closed the door yet. He looks for a place to rest the cups but I’ve got both cup holders stashed with silver for parking meters.

“Are you kidding me?” Ross shoves a coffee in my hand and goes to slam the door, but Fedora Man smashes it from its hinges and attempts to push us off the road.

“I need my hands,” I yell and shove the coffee back in his claw. Fedora Man smiles death at us and I lean forward as if I need to giddy this old banger right up. I make a hand-break turn down a tight side road and check my rear-view for our attacker.

Shouldn’t have done that. I slam into the dead-end wall and the airbags smack us silly. We jump out, dazed, but Ross manages to hotwire the motorbike which rested against the wall. I now have the coffees he managed to save. He does a wheelie up Fedora Man’s bonnet and we’re away. I sip my coffee and I manoeuvre his to his lips to give him the adrenaline boost he needs.

“That man doesn’t give up.” Fedora Man is in the bike’s mirrors, closer than he seems. He’s in full reverse and spins out of the side road to face us again. Ross weaves us in and out of traffic, through red lights, and over bumps. I hold Ross with the sides of my outstretched arms, the coffees firm in my grip.

Our chaser smashes through traffic. A BMW obliterates a bus shelter after he nudges it from his path. An old Robin Reliant topples, meek, onto its side as if it’s given up. Police sirens come out of the distance, too far for us to stop yet. We miss a grandma by a hair’s-breadth and a bus by its mirror’s width.

Fedora Man pops a shot at us and blows a tyre. We wobble, we slide, Ross manages to control us into a safe stop – right outside a second-hand bicycle shop. The bikes are all padlocked, except for a tandem. We sip on the coffee and I take the front, which has no seat. Ross jumps on the back, now in control of the coffee. We pedal hard on the pavement. I have to stand as I pedal. The coffee forces Ross to pedal hands-free, but we escape, for now. Pedestrians dodge and tut and throw their hands in the air. Sorry, people, but we got to get out of here. We take an alleyway, and the corridor of some corporate building. We’re safe.

No. We’re not. The Audi bursts through the double doors and arrows after us. We speed through papers and folders thrown in the air from panic and make it out the other end of the building, down steps, over a bridge, and back onto the roads.

Ross shouts, “Nooooo.”

“What happened? What’s wrong.” But I can feel it. The bike is shaking and coming apart. A rivet shakes free and the bike splits in two. We’re back on our feet and exhausted. Can hardly move. The Audi prowls round the corner. He knows he’s got us on this lonely road. An old man drives past on his mobility scooter.

“Sorry, fella.” I drag him off and slip him a twenty in compensation. The man shakes his fist from the ground, but he can’t do a thing.

“You evil bastard.” Ross wrinkles his nose at me, appalled at the action. But he’s as knackered as me and hands me the coffees. Jumps on with me on the back. We crawl away and wince at the Audi’s rev. Fedora Man is about to pounce when flashes of blue surround him and coppers force his hands into the air in surrender.

We arrive at the restaurant, a little traumatised, but ready for the Q&A. We sip the coffee and spit it out. It’s turned lukewarm.


Ross Greenwood’s latest, Abel’s Revenge, is a serial killer thriller with an ending that’s had a lot of reviewers talking – in a good way. Ross is a Peterborough, England, native, and former prison officer. He also wrote the highly rated Dark Lives trilogy.

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?

Ross Greenwood (RG): They must have a lot of free time, although I find most of these people watch made-up stuff on TV instead and are poorer for it!

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

RG: They have to be believable; too cheesy, too strong, too skillful, too bad!

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

RG: Hell no. See above. Most people have at least one unlikeable quality, many of us loads. Actually, you could say yes, as we tend to like flawed people — people like us.

Name a great antagonist, novel or movie, and what they do for you.

RG: Leon, with Jean Reno. Awesome, sad, poignant, and full of action!

What makes you throw a book out the window?

RG: Cliché. Angst ridden detectives. Goody two shoes etc. I can cope with spelling mistakes but have more issues with poor comma use as you can’t get into any flow.

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

RG: I used to. Speedread if not great, now if I’ve only paid 99p/c for a book I’m more ruthless, although I’m sure I’m missing out on some good stuff that way, but generally it’s the right call.

What gets you writing? A great novel? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

RG: The main thing is getting a story in my head and thinking about the characters and wanting to get it down. I wrote a fair amount of all my books around 4-7 am, as that’s the only time it was quiet in our house. Now our puppy has even ruined that time for me.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

RG: I struggled for free time and I suppose you could call it relearned: Just get on the computer and tap away, even if you only do 500 or 1000 words, it adds up, and keeps you involved.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

RG: A woman leaves prison after fifteen years and struggles to rejoin this crazy world. She decides she doesn’t want to and takes revenge on those who wronged her before.

Where can readers connect with you?

RG: Facebook and Twitter are easiest. I love hearing feedback, good or bad, it’s how we learn 😊

Twitter: @greenwoodross

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RossGreenwoodAuthor/

You can buy Ross Greenwood’s books at Amazon US and UK.


You can BUYThe City of Forts for a special pre-order price HERE. It’s also available in paperback.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Jason Michel

The run up the Welsh hills had made jelly of my legs and as I peered over a crevice I could see myself stumbling all the way back down to the enticing little pub at the bottom. I’d need to get there soon, the flash of lightning said I didn’t have much time before a storm swept me off the mountain.

The next flash revealed a figure on a hillock, flick knife straight. I’m not sure what startled me more, the fact he wore sunglasses beneath those rolling black clouds, or the chainsaw he held aloft. I back-pedaled a step or two, put my foot through a ram’s skull, and danced to shake it off.

“Jason? Jason Michel?”

He ripped the cord and the chainsaw tore the night apart, more so than the roll of thunder which dipped and shot off the hill-ramps. He marched my way and I could already feel the chainsaw’s teeth grind through my flesh and bones.

“I got your answers,” I said. “I got them.”

His smile was all mouth, with no connection to his eyes – I could tell though I couldn’t see them behind the sunglasses. “I want them back. They’re not for you.”

“You’ve got to be kidding?”

I stumbled down the hill and hit my shoulder against a rock. A flash silhouetted Michel as he stood above me. He thrust the chainsaw at my chest. I managed to scurry to the side and tumble down a gully. I glanced back and swiveled to dodge the next thrust.

He lifted the chainsaw high and made it roar. “Throbbing head-bone, Storms electric hurt, inside, As the world shakes with rage.” *

Red rimmed the black clouds and skulls of ancient Welsh warriors lined the walls of this gulley. Michel swung the chainsaw. It growled for my blood and I almost broke my back when I arced low to avoid his next swing. He funneled me into an alcove where I fell over rubble and the ancient footsteps of Glendower.

He had me. But I didn’t understand. “Jason. It’s me. What is this all about?”

He leaned over me and frowned. I’d sowed some doubt in his intentions. He lifted his sunglasses and pierced me with his granite eyes. He razzed the chainsaw to trigger my final flinch, and smiled. This smile shot through his eyes.

“Beech? What the hell? You got my answers?”

“Yes. Yes I did.”

“I thought I’d sent them to someone else. I thought you were that someone else. Well … I feel a whole lot better now.”

He pulled me to my feet. Shook my hand until I thought my arm would disconnect from my shoulder, and whistled his way back up the gulley, pausing only to fashion a little skull from a rock with his chainsaw.

* From Jason Michel’s brilliant Instagram posts.


Jason Michel is the man behind the fantastic Pulp Metal Magazine which has showcased an army of authors, including a few of my own. It is, sadly, winding down as a going concern, and it will be missed. Jason’s work includes The Death of Three Colours, The Black-Hearted Beat, and The Blood Red Experiment, and his poems and artwork on Instagram are intense. You should check him out.

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?

Spot on, read about currency wars and the corrupt financial system, then some Zizek and Fisher and sharpen the guillotines, Comrades!

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

Flaws, lots of flaws. Oozing humourously from every pore and orifice.

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

That would entirely depend on your definition of “likeable”. Character and the quality of amiability do not, in my humble experience, necessarily go hand in hand (or knuckle to knee as the case may be).

Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.

Satan in anything. The greatest literary creation from Milton to Black Phillip. Shows man up to be the rotten and irrational evolved ape that we are.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

If it was found to be infested by fleas; literally and metaphorically.

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

Hell no! Do you shit your pants rather than run to the toilet in need of a desperate evacuation?

What gets you writing? A great novel, maybe? Something you saw on the street or on the TV? Something else?

It’s cheaper than therapy.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

It’s all about the climax. Woof. Woof.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

FERAL – A semi-autobiographical piece in the style of John Milton dancing with George Carlin while Henry Miller steals their wallets. Another book no-one will read.

Where can readers connect with you?

I put my poems up most days on Instagram. “Poetry?!” I hear you say!

Yep, bite me.

IG : https://www.instagram.com/deathgrin_writing/

You can buy Jason’s books Amazons US and UK.

Thanks, Jason.


You can BUY City of Forts for the special pre-order price HERE.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Christopher Davis

Christopher Davis has a foot on his bumper and his chin in his hand like a gift shop image of an Amish farmer, but without the beard.

“You got the answer to my questions?” I ask as I saunter behind him.

I’d expect him to flinch but if he did he hid it well. He stares across the road at nothing in particular. Could be the Dollar Menu on the McDonald’s over at the corner. Could be the church sign saying “Keep Chris in Christmas,” which I’m sure would give him a giggle. Could be the candy wrapper blowing down the street for all I knew, but he sure didn’t want to look at me.

“I said -”

“I heard what you said, and no – I don’t.”

“That’s disappointing.”

“I didn’t aim to disappoint, but I’m glad I did, anyway.”

A splash of maroon sullies the silver shine of his bumper, the day’s dust browning it from its former rich red.

“Open the trunk,” I say.

“I don’t think so.”

“Open the trunk. I wanna see.”

“There’s nothing for you to see. You should move along. Go, scaramoosh.”

I step towards him, which sets him into medieval guard mode. He squares up to me, his back to the trunk. He’d have hit me with a pike if he had one.

“You got my answers in there?”

He shakes his head at the mosquito buzz of questions.

“A body?”

He raises an eyebrow.

“Nose candy?”

He relents. Steps aside. Something beyond my shoulder makes track-lines in his forehead. He pushes a remote button and the trunk clicks.

“Go ahead, look as long as you need.” He sweeps a hand across his vehicle and I lift that lid. I stare, dumb, at the contents, unable to process any of it. I could have laughed, cried, or vomited – all at the same time.

The red and blue flashes of the cop car illuminate it all and I spin round. Cops have their weapons on me and Christopher has gone, water down a drain, smoke up a chimney, steam out the laundromat. I lift my hands surrender-style and spit that I hadn’t gotten my answers from Davis.

***

I’m in a cell with my head in my hands, a two-hundred-and-fifty pound man with gas leak armpits to my right, and a ninety pound geek with a whipped cream haircut to my left.

“Visitor for Beech.”

Davis watches me through the glass and lifts the receiver. I shuffle on the hard seat and lift mine.

“You set me up,’ I say.

“Yeah, I feel bad about that, but I’m here to make amends.”

“You’ve come to get me out of here?”

If he’d just had a drink he’d have sprayed it against the glass. He scratches the Eddie on his Iron Maiden t-shirt. “No, but I at least owe you answers to the questions you sent me.”

I lean forward and eyeball him. “Cracking.”


Christopher Davis writes gritty, sometimes gruesome crime, western, and horror fiction. He’s snappy and his words are easy on the eye. You’ll find him in California listening to Iron Maiden.

***

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?

Dude…I’m that guy. Really!

You’ll more than likely find me with a big hardcover about some obscure battle during the civil war or what the economy was like in the early 19th century than a piece of fiction. I’ve never read what our brethren would call the classics. Our pal, Aidan Thorn once compared one of my stories to a well-known writer, so I read it, but you get what I mean?

With that said, I do enjoy Stephen King, but not the must-reads. I’ll lean to the ‘B’ side kind of stuff. I did read the Dark Tower series and dug the shit out of it. Hated the movie though.

I like Dean Koontz, also, and his Odd Thomas, but am just not a fiction kind of guy, so ...

Walking To Babylon

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

I don’t really know if I read a story just because of a protagonist. If the setting, the writing, the idea is good, I’m good. I tend to like knowing that something fucked-up is going to happen, so crime holds my attention in that way, and of course we all know there’s no protagonist like some guy down on his luck and just hoping to see the sun come up tomorrow.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

I like a story that is easily readable, one that has a flow to it, if you will. King and Koontz both have that for me, as do a lot of the Indies that I read. I have started a story (by a big name), found that I’m on page 57 scratching my head, and having to turn back to find out who this guy is or why he’s in the story … I won’t finish it. If I have to struggle to keep track of thirty-odd characters, I’m out.

Ain't No Law in California

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

Like I’ve said, if it flows, I’ll read it. No matter the story. With the Indies, I hear a lot about poor grammar, the lack of editing and such. If I can understand what the author is getting at, I’ll read it.

What gets you writing? A great novel, maybe? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

I tend to see the shitty side of life. It’s not that it’s all that bad for me, if you overlook the fact that my fucking house is being auctioned today (I’m not kidding), amongst other things – but I do see life that way.

Here’s a perfect example of what will get me started into something. Back during the fall, my wife and I see this little girl, maybe 12’ish, when I stop for gas on the way to work. She’s on her way to school pushing a bicycle and looking kind of ratty – a poor kid. She’s dressed in a pair of dirty looking, light colored pants. The kid is old enough that she’s starting to have a visitor … anyway, her pants are stained horribly and my fucking heart bleeds (no pun intended) for the kid. She’s going to have to go to school and I can just picture the other kids and an uncaring faculty giving her a hard time. What a shitty life, huh?

I use the little girl as an example, as I saw her this morning. I wanted to stop her on the sidewalk and give her a twenty or everything that I had in my wallet for that matter, but I couldn’t. I don’t think the law would look kindly on a stranger giving some kid money.

So she’ll stick with me, that little girl, and eventually find her way into one of my stories. She’ll be in her twenties or thirties and down on her luck, raised by a single parent on the bad side of town or with no parent at all and…

A Murder of Crows

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

Like any writer, I’m sure that my internet search history would probably land me in jail. I’m looking for a meth recipe, convenient way to make a pipe bomb, how fast a body will decompose in the sun or the going rate of a high-end hooker. If nothing else, the distance from Vegas to Tucson – or something like that.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

There are two, To Watch a Man Die and Tuesdays Gone. The first is a crime story follow-on to last year’s Walking to Babylon, set in Vegas. I’ve been shopping it around for a year with no takers. Tuesdays Gone is one of the tragic romance kind of things that I do from time to time, much like the short Cinnamon Girl.

And now you know that I can’t count either …

Where can readers connect with you?

www.christopherdaviswrites.com should get you there. You can find Facebook and Twitter links on the website and a way over to Amazon, my publisher (Solstice) and some short stuff that I do for kicks on Smashwords.

Thanks, Chris.


You can BUY City of Forts for a special pre-order price HERE.

City of Forts promo - Aidan Thorn

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