Sunday, 22 September 2013

Fix Bayonets - Sunday Sample

This story was prompted by Marianne Faithfull's recounting of the experience of her Jewish grandmother and half-Jewish mother surviving the Nazi occupation of Vienna, only to be the victims of rape by the liberating Russian Red Army as a systematic tactic used against the female population of Vienna.

“Was that an order Comrade?”

The trooper shrugged his rounded shoulders. Seemed as though the muscles and sinew attached to his shoulder blades were directly connected to those in the face, as his mouth winched up into a rictus of a smile. His hands plunged to his balls and freed them from some crease within the coarse fabric of his fatigues. He shuffled off, still cupping his balls.

It was true. Our officers were exhorting us to seek some R & R and they didn’t mean taking ourselves off to Vienna’s opera houses for some high culture. Our cadres were enjoining us to remember the suffering of our families and the motherland back east. My fellow soldiers were egging one another on with lurid tales of former non-military conquests, exaggerated or otherwise. Creating that unity of purpose that had seen us drive the German army back out of our homeland and back towards the sewers of their own shattered cities. 

But each was being utterly deceitful in the intent behind their words. Our officers had turned a blind eye to when we had huddled deep inside one another for warmth, intimacy and relief in the direst of circumstances during the German advance. Now they wanted to ensure that was just a desperate exigency, never to be repeated and that we were to rediscover and reinstate our manliness as men of war. The cadres whispered how we were to degrade the notion of Aryan purity by spreading a little Slavic seed among their blonde haired, blue eyed women. Our soldiers, well they would never admit it, but they wanted to purge their self-disgust at the embrace of last resort they had indulged in when they thought their number was up.

I couldn’t fathom the logic. Such acts would make us no better than our fascist foes. They regarded us as untermenschen and here we were treating them exactly the same way. It was one thing to sprag an enemy soldier on the end of your bayonet, but you don’t also stick at the non-combatants. And so far as the males went, we weren’t going to. But the women we were to expressly target. That made them a level below, like the sub-subhuman. Dialectical materialism seemed to mean, they rape our mothers, we rape their daughters. I couldn’t see the advancement of any progress by that. How was this dick-tatorship of the proletariat supposed to establish superior socialist moral values? 

It was an abomination that the Nazis had employed the same tactic to terrorise our population back home, in order to quell any resistance and  consolidate their conquest. But here with the Wehrmacht in full retreat, there is no prospect of any resistance, our victory is uncontested by an already defeated populace. And we are to announce ourselves an Army of Liberation in this manner? 

The command was of double distaste to me. When I hugged and fondled my fellow gunner in the basement of burned out buildings at night, it wasn’t mere relief or any desperation for me. It would be an embellishment to describe it as love, but the passion and ardour on my part was not borne out of any wretchedness. Am I to forcibly take some Austrian boy to demonstrate Mother Russia’s puissance? The Nazis placed the likes of me in their death camps and I have no doubt that when the Communists are able to return to their rigid prescriptions outside of war, I would be categorised similarly and treated with equal malice. Our model ideal Uncle Joe, has made a man’s love for his fellow a criminal act. Apparently it is only a proclivity in the aristocratic and bourgeoisie. A perversion manifested by an already aberrant class. There is only one criminal act about to be enacted here and it’s by a whole class of men from our nation.

this story is taken from my 4th collection of flash fiction "28 Far Cries" published by Gumbo Press

Available in print and e-book 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Cop Aesthetic - Sunday Sample Flash Story

I hated petting zoos. All that callow vulnerability on display. Both animal and human. Innocence for innocents. Lambs and calves eating out of children’s hands. A rathe tender connection that soon evaporates when their cousins are sent to the abattoir on our behalves and our kids fail to make the connection. Not that I care much for animal rights. Not compared to those human ones flouted in lethal fashion I have to deal with.

I managed to prevail upon my wife to undertake today’s roster of artless bonding. Thus releasing me to go wandering the zoo’s grounds for more copacetic fauna. The raptors. Those in whose company I felt more at home. Or more compatible with my work life perhaps. I brought my work home every evening, so why not bring it to the zoo in my family leisure time as well?

I’d done the sharks, alligators, big cats and anacondas. Each desultorily nudging silver-serviced prey with their spotless maws. Predators on Easy Street had failed to sate my own hunger. The jackals were out of commission due to a virus running amok in their enclosure. I came upon a new beast. Not predator exactly, more scavenger, but I was still drawn to its pen.

The creature was pressed up against the mesh fencing. Its hooked beak protruding through the grille. I sunk to my haunches so that I was at the same level as the vulture. Lammergeier or Gypaetus barbatus as the little information plaque sunk into the ground informed me. A quick glance downward and I saw the area of the globe the bird hailed from. It was indeed a long way from home.

All I knew about vultures was that they were Nature’s table cleaners. They took care of corruption in the animal kingdom, happily devouring the rotten carrion left by other carnivores. Yeah I could relate. Oh and that they circled on wind thermals so that they barely had to expend any energy flapping their wings in order to fly. They were like gliders. But this poor specimen had no such luxury in its confinement. But there again it was hardly unique in that. The zoo was full of caged tigers and birds with wings clipped by the walls of their aviaries. Goodness, the reptiles were entirely animated by human control of the temperature gauge. If there was a need to clean out their case, down went the pointer of the Fahrenheit dial and the snakes were frozen into immobility. Imagine having that level of power over another person’s life? I don’t have to imagine. I’ve seen it not even at one remove, sat across a table from me.

I caught the bird staring at me. I mean that was what it was actually doing, fixing me in its beady gaze. I don’t think I was imagining that, or attributing it a human slant on an action that otherwise wasn’t there. It never blinked nor averted its gaze. The beak never moved a fraction from the centre of the mesh square it pierced. Seems like we were playing statues. Okay, that is anthropormorphising the situation. Was it sizing me up, or more likely as I wasn’t moving was it computing whether I was dead and ripe for trespass by its beak? I made sure I moved to let it know I was still pulsing with living blood.

I regathered holding the bird’s steely gaze. Its irises were black obsidian pools. I couldn’t determine whether there was any depth behind them or that it was all just surface. They were too opaque to afford any reflection of me within them. Could it see its own shrunken reflection held within mine? Damn beast was unnerving me. I couldn’t read it at all. Nor could I drop my gaze from that of the bird’s. I was only wrenched away from the staring match when my daughter came beetling up to me and flung her arms around my waist. The sudden shock of it was rapidly followed by my brain factoring the smallness of the touch as inevitably being that of a child and ameliorating any alarm. The bird signalled the cessation of our mute conference by extending its wings and waving me away. I’d say dismissively, only of course the bird could make no such reckoning.


The man sat across the table from me. He was handcuffed to one of its legs, but even with that precaution there were two burly officers stationed at either of my shoulders. Of course such was this man’s proclivity for violence, there was no certainty that he would make any such calculation of the odds for three against one. Or if he did, perhaps he didn’t see it as disadvantageous to him.

He wasn’t answering any of my questions about the litany of murders he’d perpetrated. It wasn’t clear if he was hearing them, if he even registered my voice at all. In many ways it didn’t matter, since we had a catalogue of evidence pinning him to his crimes. But we are always after gleaning some insight. 

His eyes were aligned with mine, but they weren’t holding them in his gaze. His irises were black obsidian pools. I couldn’t determine whether there was any depth behind them or that it was all just surface. They were too opaque to afford any reflection of me within them. The flesh eater was just as damn unreadable as the vulture.

from the flash fiction collection "28 Far Cries" available from Amazon in both print an e-book

Saturday, 14 September 2013

New Novel Cover Reveal

Before the end of September, my new paranormal police procedural dystopian novel will be published on Amazon Kindle. It's very different for me to be writing a genre novel, (or several genres perhaps), but it's a book studded with literary values in the manner of China Mieville.

Over the next few posts I'll be trailing it with some videos and other extras, but for now here's the cover designed for me by Appleseed Images - @littleappleseed on Twitter

I think she's done a brilliant job, with both the central striking image and the subtle flourishes and cues niched within it. And my author name reversed in the glass bottle refracted through the alcohol. What hard bitten detective doesn't have a central relationship to alcohol? Only my detective isn't actually a policeman, alcohol as exotic as Mezcal is hard to get hold of in the dystopia caused by the economic meltdown of nations and his reliance on alcohol is fundamental to the plot of the novel...

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Sunday Sample - Tattoo You?

Karen Dash is a gangster's wife on the run in fear of her life. She holes up in the holiday resort of Kavos on the island of Corfu, where she spends the days befriending anyone who will listen to her stories in return for free drinks. Here she is at a beach bar regaling her audience with her views on tattoos and piercings.

"Scuse us, make way please. Elders and venerables coming through. That’s better, some clear sand. Ow, ow! You’re all right, you’ve got fetching open toed sandals on. Answer me this if you can. When the sun heats up the sand, to such a level of discomfort you can barely walk on it, why doesn’t it do the same to the metal insertions in people’s bodies out here? That would really give them something to cavort around for. And do tattoos absorb or diffuse ultra-violet light? Wouldn't it function like matt paint? I can’t find anything about it in the books. I only ask, since I’m troubled by the ins and outs of whether they apply sun cream to their cuticular respray jobs. Doesn’t seem right somehow. Right in the sense of fitting. They should further immolate for their art. Of course, if the ink provides its own sun screen, then the quandary doesn't arise. There again, it might be rather hard to spot a melanoma against a tattoo overlay. Like pentimento. But if you think about it, and every day out here on the beach such is the ubiquity of the body pictorialism on pallid flesh, I cannot but help chew on the subject, has not the cell machinery already been stirred into mutinous action? To heal the subcutaneous breech of rapier needles? Endlessly knocking its head against a metallic partition. I know how it feels.

Oh go on. Let me have a look then? Oh, cheeky! No danger of any sunburn there then. She is a handsome little devil! And everyday you get to sit on her face! Only an elect few get to witness it there I’m sure. No, no, not at all. Far from it. In theory I welcome the urge to own your body, shaping it to your own design. To draw upon your skin as a canvas. To render your self-portrait. But tattoos on girls just doesn’t sit right with me. Call me old fashioned, call them ladettes. (Actually, call them pneumatic hermaphrodites, so comprehensive is their adoption of all other male tropes). But there again, it isn’t even just the blemishing of feminine flesh that rankles. To my mind, all of them male and female alike, exhibit such a paucity of inspiration and verve. Is that really how this generation envision themselves? How they elect to self-daub? Take the overabundance of Celtic symbols. Alright, some may be genuinely extracted from Caledonian, Irish and Welsh stock and thereby wish to underscore some notional heritage. But the bulk are Anglo-Saxon, basking in constipated extirpation of these selfsame stirps. Therefore I’m convinced no matter where they hail from, all sail in brackish witlessness as to the origins of these geometric interweaves.

No let me ask you. Do you honestly think they identify themselves with those heroic tribal resistors of the Roman Legions? Or maybe it’s with the later anchorite Christian scribes? Smart money’s gotta be on the tribal illiterates over the illuminati. Symbols too knotty to pierce. Yet how ironic, that an artform dripping in twining interdependence, should be adopted by a complexion of youth so comprehensively alienated from meaning altogether. Here they are hankering after the uniqueness of their personal branding, yet en masse they contrive a monolithic classification palette. Rubber stamped, so whither individuality? A lost panoply of ancient tribes, paid tribute by a modern tribe that does not wish to be bound together at all. Craving after personal virtuosity. To have a secret, special meaning reserved solely for their mind. A cribsheet written on their skin. Unfortunately, all the pat answers have flowed into one another and become a tangled mess. Leaving them without an inkling.

Spirals that seemingly have no beginning and no end. (Depending on the proficiency of the tattooist at concealing them, oh yes I’ve traced this artform long through many a night). As representing connection to the cosmos and recycle of life. Yet don’t these non-believers renounce the afterlife totally? Whirling sigils and heraldic beasts, guardian family spirits, when they have pretty much repudiated family also. And what of the warrior caste they notionally align themselves with? I don’t see them undertaking too many heroic quests. Though in fairness, they are often to be seen bearing a fallen comrade from the drink-sodden field of battle. If the ink were green hued rather than black, then they would be solemnising their skin with the exalted vine. Which at least would be more legible.

So yes, I’ll opt for their regressive association with the primitive, rather than scholars and holy men. Superstition over abstruse thought. (To them an everlasting light is a refillable lighter, while most are blessed with the creative spark of wet matches). Each fibril of knotwork, another anodised briar of reinforcement. A decorative razor wire they have welted to their skins. Serving as a ‘keep out’ to any warm-blooded trespass beyond the surface and to caulk any seepage of character from within their own plated prison. Amulets against self. But all of that fades to a most bruised black, compared with the porcupine hide of piercings! Don’t tell me you’ve got some of them as well? No? Because you have responsibilities in the real world that’s why. Business suits and first impressions and all that. Am I wrong?

Granted one can accept the sight of antic flesh on a beach. In fact you expect it as the local Olympian pursuit round these parts. Sprinting into or out of the sea; discusing with a plastic frisbee; beach volleyball or playing paddle-bat tennis; Greco-Roman wrestling between lovers on sun beds. These are legitimate wobbling ogling opportunities. 5.9 for artistic impression and all that. I’m here myself, with more than half an eye on a gold medal, slow-dance partner for tonight. But then it’s anything but a knockout, as your attention is snagged by the detail of a ring or chain, performing its own whipping and pinched version of the dance of exuberance. Hells Bells! A case in point! Look at the state of that, emerging from the sea like it’s been salvaged. She’s going to have her own eye out if she hits top speed across the burning sand. For on those unfortunate occasions, when due to concupiscence, drunkenness or extreme flashback, I am forced into a canter, well let’s just say it’s no bad happenstance that I still sport my sunglasses. But she’s got metal extensions that swing like a flail. You see those bolts in her brow there? Not quite Frankenstein’s Monster, but so long as her mate has some jump leads handy, he should be able to get her out of bed and started of an afternoon. Once she’s flown back home to her life of graphic underemployment. In my day, office workers just used to starve themselves and paint their nails of a lunch hour. Now these fatted calves seemingly go and hand over good money to be skewered.

You’re not buying this are you? Maybe it’s not so pronounced at home. I mean given the climate, flesh is necessarily always trussed up behind fabric. Out here it’s all on show and I’m telling you, it’s absolutely rife. A particular one night only, stand-up comedian of my brief acquaintance, regaled me with an anatomical sketch of his previous night’s mooring. To what end I couldn’t fathom, but I did listen with a certain appalled raptness. Unsure as to which of the two protagonists was more despicable. She with her cloven skin predilections, or he for telling intimate tales out of school. Was I to be relayed in turn, to schmooze the following night’s selected audience member of participation? As what, someone more soft and yielding than last night’s human pin cushion? Soft and yielding? Uh-uh, he was going to be a mite disappointed on that front. Nevertheless, circumspection was clearly called for, as to what I broached with this loose-lipped lad. Couldn't be making a clean breast of things, as had my antecedent. If that’s not a contradiction in terms, seeing as according to him, her breast was disfigured by all manner of metal probes.

The estrogen egghunt didn’t end at the mammaries. Apparently, she also was the proud possessor of twin labial piercings. Tied off in tiny, white balls as might affix corkboard pins. Memo to herself. Signpost landing strip navigation lights, for any intrepid night pilots. Gliders rather than dive bombers one might hope. ‘Nacreous or ivory?’ I innocently inquired, for if I have to put up with an imposition of taste, then I insist on going with a full flavoured flow. In preference to a gobbety drip feed. But of course, my deadeye witness couldn’t enlighten me further. His insipid sapidity unable to register any new sensation, despite presumably not having orally partaken of either material before. Rather, he informed me his tongue delightedly played with them for a seeming eternity. A ‘wicked’ sensation of licking a woman’s ‘balls’, no matter how shrunken. Freud would have had an orgasm. The target buoys bobbed up and down, among the roiling waves of her sex, entailing contact kept being lost. She seemed pleased enough with his fingertip searches for them anyway, so perhaps there was some design to her self-stapling. I queried whether it wasn’t like having a pair of tiny eyes scrutinising him, or worse, just the whites of lifeless orbs? Even more accursed than that, he conceded. Once it had gradually dawned on him that in fact, they rather resembled two beads of, well ejaculate. That somehow he was embarked on somebody else’s sloppy seconds, which crash landed him immediately. And yet the sexual metallurgists will protest till they’re blue in the face, that it only heightens sexual pleasure. More like vagina dentura if you ask me!

Behold another one, with wireless bra and wired breast. There with the tray of food buttressed against her pierced abdomen. Oh double bubble and squeak! For I spy a tattoo rippling beneath her costume, where she might cradle a feeding babe. If an infant wants to watch an animated cartoon with its supper, stick it in front of the TV like any normal Mum. This way, he’ll likely get indigestion, motion sickness and a squint all in one. Surprised she needs to utilise her hands. Surely she could just run a chain through her evidently pierced nipples and secure the tray across her sternum? More than likely, the overpriced lunch will be the most precious issue to emerge from there. No, no I’ve found her! She’s the clincher! That one fellating an ice cream cone yonder.

You can see it quite clearly. There at her site of honeyed suckling, is only to be found the bitter aftertaste of mummy’s noxious metal ringlet. Think about it, how the fleshy areola must have been sent packing. For a permanent mineral tenant. So the only lability can’t possibly be the hormonal brewing of milk. Rather the tarnishing of cheap gold. Verdigris. And don’t you wonder what all this says about their own mothers? That umbilical tie clamped and snipped at birth, cutting them adrift of their life-giver. How they now spike and padlock their own navels to return the deed with ruinous interest. Voting with their sharded mammaries to ostracise the maternal. Oh for a giant magnet to hoover them all up and drop them down in say Cephalonia. Or Lesbos even."

"A,B&E" available on Amazon Kindle