The story behind TOUCHING THE SUN an adventure thriller set in the Bahamas.
The book tended to grow organically from the opening chapter. Ironically that first chapter is now not the opening one, as the order of scenes has been changed.
The situation Harry Beck found himself in suggested the direction the plot would go, and after that we let the book develop, often with no clear idea where it was going to end up. The mystery Harry had to solve was as much a puzzle to us as it was to him.
We are firm believers in letting the subconscious do the work and solve the puzzle, and often we can sit down to write with no clear idea of what’s going to happen next, and just let it flow. It’s only after the plot strands are developed that we put some thought into how they’re going to be resolved. Ideas are accepted and rejected, until, finally, the plot is resolved satisfactorily.
Cruelty to children is a subject close to our hearts and one we’d touched upon in an earlier novel. Researching the subject turned up many of the details presented in the novel, all, as far as we can ascertain, horrifyingly true. It’s an uncomfortable subject and one that many governments throughout the world have swept under the carpet. Hopefully, the book will have played a small part in making people aware of this ongoing crime against humanity.
We are both parents, and granddads too, so the thought of cruelty to children is unthinkable. Unfortunately there are people who do these things, and hopefully others on the other side who will keep trying to stop them. Evil exists. We have been writing together a long time now, so we have had plenty of time to iron out the differences. And there certainly were plenty when we began. Arguments over a single word, or phrase, which would be quite heated. The secret, if there is one, is that we have always put the friendship first, and writing second. It could be argued we might have been more successful financially if we were more robust but it has suited us, and kept us human and sane.
We began by one of us writing a story and the other critiquing it. Then the critique became a revision, then a re-write. Eventually it became one writer starting, another completing, or one doing some chapters, and the other doing some. The way it has evolved now is that one writes the book pretty must 100% (sometimes it doesn’t work out quite like that) and the other revises, re-structures, adds or subtracts. So one person has the author voice throughout but with enough trust to allow the second to change the voice where needed.
Our writing process used to vary from book to book, but now it’s fairly standard. One of us will hatch an idea, and then follow it through to its conclusion. And then there’s a long, detailed editing process. Generally, now, the whole book is written by one of us, and the other revises, re-structures, changes a lot or a little as required. There is enough trust between us that we are no longer precious about “our baby” of a book. It is a joint effort all round and a jointly authored book.
We have had books where one of us has got stuck, and passed the whole project over to the other. Sometimes the book is completed by the second one, and sometimes it just needs a few pages added and then gets handed back to the original author.
Ideas for changes will be suggested and either rejected of accepted. And then the person who gave birth to the story will second draft it to give it a singular voice. It’s not a process that will work for everyone, but it hasn’t let us down so far.
It helps that we have known each other for decades and there is little in the way of conflicting egos. We agreed a long time ago that writing stories to the best of our abilities was paramount, and the issue of ownership – who came up with the idea and who wrote what – was secondary. We have written a lot of supernatural books – novels and stories – and it felt time for a change. Not everyone likes horror, and to widen our appeal to a thriller audience is attractive to us. Plus we read a lot of thrillers and crime, and not a lot of horror these days.
TOUCHING THE SUN had its origins in a half-finished thriller novel started over twenty years ago. Only after a few successes with other novels did it feel right to try to finish it. Self-confidence and the ability to get a firm hand on the story and subject matter had improved in that twenty years. The time was right.
All our books are character driven, even the horror ones, and to explore people in a more normal environment – meaning without a supernatural foe – is exciting. Put it this way – since Touching The Sun we have written seven more crime and thrillers and just one supernatural book. We have written quite a few ghost stories, but those are a labour of love, and something we have always written.
Projects come from all over. Usually it’s an opening chapter that seems to appear fully formed on the page. There are a few non-starters, but if the germ of a good idea is there then it’s pursued and developed. Touching The Sun was so enjoyable that we wanted to explore more of Harry Beck’s world. CALLING DOWN THE LIGHTNING followed and introduced more characters, and performed that most deadly of series duties – it killed off a main character. Harry was still shouting for more time so RAGING AGAINST THE STORM was written.
All three books were bought by World Castle and we hope they will do well as we love them. So much so that a fourth chapter in the series is sure to come out – if we have left enough characters alive that is.
Why set it in the Bahamas? Well one day it might be nice to visit and do some hands on research rather than at a distance. The islands are exotic enough to us to make the setting attractive. The range of the geographical area gives us enough scope for action and adventure. The different characters that populate our version of the islands gives us sufficient range of plotting.
We love writing. Writing the Harry Beck series has been wonderful.
Here’s to many more years of writing.
#maynardsims #Bahamas #adventure #thriller #sunseasex
2 becomes 1
As the Spice Girls sang and so we put it into practice.
We are regularly asked how two people – very different people it has to be said – can write books together. We often ask the same question of ourselves, along with why, and what for?
It was a painful process to get to the fluent process we have now. Our early individual stories were all a learning curve of course, as they for most writers. What I don’t think we realised at the time was that we were both not only learning to write – and all writers develop at different speeds – but we were also learning to write with another person. Those two things combined certainly made for a combustible mix.
An early way it would work was one of us would start a story, stop for a variety of reasons, hand it over to the other for them to finish. We then had a jointly written story. We decided very early on that each story should have one author voice – by which I mean more than just a style, although a cohesive style was important. Another way we did it was for one of us to completely write a story and then hand it to the other to edit, revise, as needed.
That was when a lot of rows began. How dare he suggest changes to my precious story? We had a meeting place by the river, near the pub, and after a row, sometimes hours after, we would meet up there as if by pre-arrangement and come to an agreement about the story. Pregnant pauses were our speciality, with silence as a weapon.
We wrote as individuals for a while then realised that we would be competing for the same markets, so the sensible thing seemed to be to pool our resources. And we’ve been writing together ever since. Forty years and counting. Initially we would finish each others stories and argue about which version was better. We’d spend hours discussing a single word if we felt passionately enough about it.
Over the years we have smoothed it all out. We are open and honest with each other, and no offence is taken when change is suggested. The knowledge that each must bring their strongest work to the table helps spur us on.
Taking it right up to the present day, when we write more novels than stories, we each write the complete book/story and then hand it over to the other for revision, which includes proofing, copy editing, as well as revising if we feel it needs it. With each book we spend days at the end reading it through, page by page, for grammar, continuity, repetition and other flaws we find.
With the novels, each completion has been different. We find it is important that a book has a single voice – an author point of view, a narrative drive the reader can connect with. Luckily our styles have developed over the years into a single M&S style so there is never a case of anyone being able to see the joins. Although one reviewer did say they could – on a book one of us had written alone! No wonder they couldn’t reply when I asked them where the joins were. We also got a review along the lines of – did it really take two of them to write this pile of **** – which was one reason behind the change of name to Maynard Sims.
We used to brainstorm, sometimes for weeks on end. I remember one novel we planned early on in our careers which was discussed at length and completely story-boarded – a process that went on for weeks if not months. In fact it took so long to plan we both ran out of steam on it and it was shelved. We refined the process after that. I think we have been writing together for so long now that we respect each other’s strengths and recognize each other’s weaknesses.
How we write now is without much of an outline at all. We have an idea of the story, some of the plot, and usually the key characters, then it’s off and running. If we get stuck we use the other as a sounding board of ideas and that often helps to unblock the mind.
The way it works is for each book to be the work of one of us and the other refines to whatever extent is needed. There are no arguments, no ego tantrums – the mutual goal carries us forwards.
It helps to have someone to encourage us when the initial enthusiasm for a book flags, as they often do at the mid-point. Knowing we have a reader looking over our shoulder is a good way to instil a deadline mentality that helps propel the project to completion.
A PAGE-TURNING MYSTERY. WHAT SECRET PASSIONS DID A MURDERED NUN HAVE?
December 1959: Detective Jack Callum and the team are called to a local orphanage to investigate the murder of a young nun, Sister Bernadette. She has been stabbed repeatedly and her body violated.
The post-mortem throws up a massive shock, and suspicion falls on a handsome young priest who Bernadette worked closely with. More violence is unleashed as the dark secrets of these seemingly devout people are exposed. Powerful local people are determined that the scandal just go away. Jealousy, love, and loss will be revealed by DCI Callum’s investigation.
Can Detective Callum get to the bottom of a complex and emotional case? You’ll love finding out in this murder mystery set in the days before high-tech forensics and computers, where old-fashioned investigative skills still matter.
If you like Robert Galbraith, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, or Mark Billingham you will be gripped by this exciting new crime fiction writer. Full of wonderful period detail and twists and turns
FOR HER SINS is the third in a new series of crime thrillers set in the 1950s, featuring DCI Jack Callum. He’s an ordinary policeman in an ordinary English town. But the crimes he investigates are extraordinary. Jack Callum has a keen mind and is passionate about his job and family. He doesn’t believe in capital punishment but has caught a few villains whose lives have ended on the gallows.
JACK CALLUM BEST-SELLING DETECTIVE SERIES
Book 1: NO EVIL
Book 2: PRIME EVIL
Book 3: FOR HER SINS
A result of Samhain closing has been the new books that just about got over the publishing start line which have maybe not received the exposure they might have done. Publishing casualties. One of these is Stuart R West’s horror / humor crossover novel Demon With A Comb-Over. Horror? Humor? Yes that’s right. I read it with some uncertainty but finished it having thoroughly enjoyed it. Stuart agreed to an interview so I could find out more about the man, the books the style.
MS: Hello from the UK, Stuart. Thanks for agreeing to give a few answers to a few questions. Why horror?
SRW: Howdy, Mick, from the wild west of Kansas. Yee-haw. Why horror? I was always one of those weird kids, I suppose, that never outgrew my love for all things horror. As a child, I caught a matinee of Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath with Boris Karloff. Peeking at the big screen through my fingers clutched over my face, I thought it was more thrilling than a roller-coaster. It spoke to me in things that are imagined, never before visualized. At least in my youthful experience. Haven’t looked back since.
MS: And why humor? Are you a funny guy in real life? Do you ever write pure humor books?
SRW: Depends on who you ask. My wife finds me painfully unfunny, whereas my friends generally think I’m amusing (those who I haven’t kicked out of the Stuart R. West Fan Appreciation Society, of course).
To be honest, Demon with a Comb-Over didn’t start out as a humor/horror hybrid. It began life as a straight-up demonic horror tale. But soon, strange characters started wandering into the book. And with a back-drop of stand-up comedy, it became apparent humor definitely had to play a part.
The only straight up humor book I’ve written is a sort of twisted take on the “cozy,” Bad Day in a Banana Hammock.
A fellow writer and I were kicking around silly ideas. I came up with a lead character, a very stupid and vapid male stripper. My pal dared me to write it. So, of course, I did. The stripper wakes up in a strange room, no clothes on, and no memory of the previous night. And there’s a naked, dead man next to him. More worried about proving he’s not gay than a murderer, he contacts his very pregnant, very agitated sister (an ex security consultant) to help prove his heterosexuality (and his innocence). The chase is on!
Easiest book I wrote, probably the most fun as well.
I’m kinda getting pigeon-holed as a humorous writer. I don’t see myself that way, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say humor finds its way into all of my books at some point. Just a matter of degree, I suppose. I can’t seem to help myself.
MS: Was there an inspiration for horror, or humor? Any inspirations for writing generally?
SRW: Mick, like an all-you-can-eat buffet line, I suppose I pick a little here, a little there. As I watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books from all types of genres, some things can’t help but leak into my writing. But I don’t seek out horror/humor as entertainment. I can’t think of a single horror/humor author who I seek out.
As I’m sure you’re aware, horror with humor’s really tough to pull off. Usually what we get are straight up parodies (“Scary Movie,” etc.), which I honestly can’t stand. For readers to actually care about the characters, the story needs to be respected, never veering into outlandish stupidity. The story should be grounded with the outcome something that matters.
MS: You write other styles of books as well is that right? Do you employ different approaches to writing when outside horror?
SRW: I do write in other genres, cris-crossing genres like a game of hopscotch. My YA series, Tex, the Witch Boy (four books), is a paranormal, murder mystery, comedy, thriller, social issues, romance catch all. I think there might be a kitchen sink in there somewhere, too.
I’ve also written several straight-up horror novels: Godland, Neighborhood Watch and Ghosts of Gannaway, my historical ghost tale detailing the turbulence in a Midwest mining town in the ‘30’s. The latter book was heavily researched and the hardest thing I’ve tackled. From now on, I’m sticking to the good ol’ here and now.
Finally, there’s Zombie Rapture, my odd take on the zombie book. Everyone’s got a zombie book in ‘em! Here, the dead are sentient. But they think it’s the “Rapture” on earth and want to “save” those still living by killing them. With a premise like that, I couldn’t help myself by incorporating black humor and amusing characters.
Do I mix up my writing style? I didn’t think I did, but looking back, yeah, I suppose so. Ghosts of Gannaway adapted a more fitting, laconic style for the era. The YA books are more flip, more hip (my daughter yells at me for saying “hip.”). My Killers Incorporated series treads the tough-guy noir line.
MS: Do you feel more comfortable writing in a specific genre?
SRW: Not really. In fact, I’d like to try most genres at some point. Except erotica. Not that there’s anything wrong with it! It’s just after the first sex scene, I tend to get bored. I mean, how many times can you describe sex? Time would be better off experiencing it, I think.
Not sure about science-fiction, either. Looks like a lot of research involved!
MS: How does it work when you start a book? Do you know from the outset what genre it will be? Or does the idea dictate that?
SRW: Mick, the only thing I know is that my tales usually begin as straight horror. Sometimes humor’s appropriate, other times not. But when dealing with horror, the humor’s usually pitch black, the way I like it.
MS: And so how does your writing process look? Set times? When you can fit it in?
SRW: No real process. Just force myself to sit down and start knocking books out. Until the damn dog starts moaning to be walked.
MS: Do you plot out totally or kind of wing it? Do you begin with an idea, a character, a plot? How does it work for you, and does it vary from book to book?
SRW: I’m totally winging it. That’s the fun part, seeing where the characters take me. Once I have a solid idea of who the characters are, they generally dictate the storyline. It can also be terrifying, worrying I won’t know what to do next. Something I’m sure most writers face.
MS: With the addition of humor in your books – is that a feature of them all? Have you had any experience in comedy? Do your characters evolve with humor in them or do you find you have to inject it into them?
SRW: I think it’s important to have humor in characters regardless of the serious content of the tale. People say and do funny things all the time. I like to listen and observe. My wife calls it eavesdropping. I call it “artistic license.”
MS: You live in Kansas you told me, a part of America I haven’t seen. Tell us about it and your town and your life – as much as you want to reveal.
SRW: What’s to tell? It’s boring. Don’t visit Kansas, Mick! Now, I do live in a suburb of Kansas City, so I’m not exactly in the farmlands. But I have relatives there and it’s pretty much as one would expect: Bible thumpers extraordinaire, the Ku Klux Klan, the Westboro Baptist Church, serial killers, intolerance to the Nth level, incest, black magic worshippers. A Norman Rockwell painting come to life! It’s horrifying!
MS: What’s up next for you? More horror? More humor? What do you have planned?
SRW: I’m finishing up the third and final book in my Killers Incorporated series. It’s a darkly humorous set of tales about my protagonist, Leon Garber, a serial killer who takes out abusers. (He has his reasons). He’s approached by a corporation, Like-Minded Individuals, Inc., that sponsors serial killers, providing them with cover stories, false identities, lists of victims, etc. For a hefty fee, of course. The problem is LMI turns on Leon. So…the thrills start there. It’s my take on Big Business gone wild.
Interview with Stuart R West I also have two completed books in limbo, abandoned by Samhain Publishing. One is The Book of Kobal, an irreverent prequel to Demon with a Comb-Over. It features the titular demon destroying a disco, getting into a slap fight with Jesus and spanking Hitler. Fun for the whole family!
I really like the other one, Dread and Breakfast. Sort of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre only populated with a myriad of colorful, darkly amusing characters caught in a B&B during an awful winter Midwest storm. Wacky hijinx ensue!
MS: Thanks much for the answers, Stuart. Take it easy.
SRW: Thank you, Mick! If you ever cross the ocean again, don’t visit Kansas! No offense intended.
A FAST-PACED DETECTIVE MYSTERY THAT WILL HAVE YOU GRIPPED FROM START TO DRAMATIC FINISH
A girl’s body is found. Her eyes, ears, and mouth have been sewn shut.
DCI Jack Callum leads the investigation into this gruesome crime which shatters the peace of a sleepy 1950s English town.
Images of three monkeys are sent to the police to taunt them: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Something very nasty is going on and more victims come to light. Who is doing this and why?
DCI Callum looks like he’s closing in on the culprits, but then a team of detectives from London is brought in to take over the case.
In a breathtaking finale, Callum must race against time, and break his own rules, to save someone very close to him.
If you like Robert Galbraith, Rachel Abbott, Ruth Rendell, or Mark Billingham you will be gripped by this exciting new crime fiction writer. Full of wonderful period detail and twists and turns
NO EVIL is the first in a new series of crime thrillers set in the 1950s, featuring DCI Jack Callum. He’s an ordinary policeman in an ordinary English town. The crimes he investigates are far from ordinary. Jack Callum has a keen mind and is passionate about his job and family. He doesn’t believe in capital punishment but has caught a few villains whose life has come to an end on the gallows.
The YouTube trailer https://youtu.be/mn5k_cH1qxg
Published by Joffe Books as ebook and paperback.
SUNDAY AUGUST 10th 1958
Frances Anderton planned to be home before breakfast. She let herself out of the Blainey house and took a deep lungful of the warm, summer air. She stepped down the crazy-paving, through the gate and out into the tree-lined street.
She walked briskly along the street, then continued under the trees into Glendale Road. A milkman trundled by, bottles rattling. Nobody else was about. She crossed the road and took the small lane that led to Riverdale Avenue, a few streets away from her parents’ house.
The previous evening her mother had sent her to stay with family friends, and now she was regretting the argument she’d had with her father. He’d never hit her, but last night he had come very close to it. All because of that stupid dress.
She was fourteen, for heaven’s sake! She should be allowed to dress how she liked. She was too old for the gymslips and ankle socks her father insisted she wear. She wouldn’t — couldn’t — remain his precious little girl forever. He should let her grow up. Fiona hadn’t had these problems, she was sure. Her older sister wore what she chose, and she went to parties, mixed with boys. Father didn’t make her life miserable.
She passed a young man, crouching down beside a gleaming motor scooter, in two-tone blue. He appeared to be tinkering with the engine.
“Hello,” he said. “It’s Frances, isn’t it?”
She was taken aback. “Yes. How do you know who I am?” He was smartly dressed in a fawn jacket and cream slacks. His fair hair was short, neatly parted and combed, and he was very good looking. He was smiling, looking straight at her. Suddenly she was aware of her freckles, the wire braces on her teeth, and her unruly shock of ginger hair.
“You’re Fiona Anderton’s sister, aren’t you?”
“Are you a friend of Fiona’s?”
“Oh, yes, Fiona and I go back a long way. Derek Webster.” He held out his hand.
“Very pleased to meet you.”
“Likewise. What do you think of the scooter?” he said. “I’ve only had it a few weeks.”
“It’s very . . . smart.”
“It’s more than smart,” he said. “It’s a Phoenix, designed by the great Ernie Barratt; it’s got an all steel body and a 150cc engine. There’re not many of these around.”
She wasn’t really sure what she was supposed to be looking at, but pretended she did.
“Would you like a go?”
“I . . . I don’t know how.”
He laughed. “Not drive it,” he said. “I’ll take you for a spin, if you like, on the pillion.”
“I’d better not.”
“Don’t you trust me?” he said. “Don’t you think I can ride it properly?”
“No, it’s not that. I’m sure you ride very well.”
“Then where’s the harm?”
She glanced down at her Timex Alice in Wonderland wristwatch. Embarrassed by it, she covered it with the sleeve of her blouse. “I don’t want to be late for breakfast,” she said.
“You worry too much,” he said. “Your sister doesn’t.”
“All right then,” she said, nettled. “Take me for a ride on your wonderful Phoenix.”
“Well done. Just hop on and hold onto my waist. I’ll have you home in time for breakfast.” He straddled the machine and steadied it as she climbed aboard.
* * *
She settled behind him, and he eased it forward off its stand. Moments later they were heading down the street.
“Not too fast!” she called above the engine’s noise.
“Just relax,” he called back, “and when I lean into a bend, follow my lead and lean the same way.”
Within minutes they had left the leafy streets behind and were heading into a part of town she didn’t recognise. The neat houses with their tidy gardens were replaced by warehouses and factories surrounded by chain-link fencing.
“Where are we going?” she called.
“Away from the traffic,” he called back. “I want to show you what this beauty can do.” His hand jerked up, twisting the accelerator. The engine rose in pitch and, thrust backwards, she held tighter onto his waist.
The scent of his hair oil was almost overpowering, and she turned her face aside to take a lungful of fresh air.
“I think I’ve had enough now.”
He didn’t answer. They had entered a long, straight stretch of road and he increased their speed still further.
“I’d like to go home,” she said, but the air buffeting her face whipped away her words.
Moments later they had left the chain-link fences behind. Now there were streets with houses.
“I want to go back now!”
Finally he acknowledged her. “Yes, of course.” They were slowing down. “I just have to make a stop and then I’ll take you straight home.”
“Thank you,” she said with relief.
The avenue was lined with trees. He made a left turn, into a drive leading to a large Victorian house surrounded by high privet hedges, that stood apart from its neighbours. He drew up outside and switched off the engine.
“I just have a call to make,’ he said as he dismounted.
“Should I come with you?”
“No, you wait here. I’ll only be a moment.”
She watched him as he trotted up the steps, unlocked the front door and disappeared inside.
She sat on the pillion and looked at her watch again. It had only been twenty minutes since he had offered her a ride, but it seemed much longer, and she was starting to wish she had never accepted. She wished she was back home, enjoying breakfast with her family, making peace with her father. She wasn’t cut out to be a rebel.
* * *
She had one foot on the ground and was about to go and see how much longer he was going to be when someone grabbed her roughly from behind. A cloth — a rag or a pad that smelled sweet and sickly — came down tightly over her nose and mouth. She had no time to cry out; whoever had grabbed her was strong, and she was hauled backwards off the scooter. She flailed her arms and kicked out with her sandaled feet. One foot connected with the rear fender, gashing her toe.
She was dragged back over the ground, her feet kicking out weakly. Then her eyes closed, and she sank into blackness.
* * *
Webster walked from the house, unfolded the wad of crisp one-pound notes, and slipped them into his wallet. He kick-started the scooter, and seconds later was steering out of the drive and into the street. At the gateway he paused and looked back at the house. The front door was closed and the place looked empty, almost abandoned. A slight pang of guilt caused him to shiver, until he felt the reassuring weight of the calfskin wallet in his pocket, and the thought of the money, so easily made, banished it from his mind.
“Until next time,” he said, and twisted the accelerator, off to begin his Sunday. He was hungry; looking forward to his eggs and bacon breakfast. All this activity had given him an appetite.
* * *
Derek Webster walked into the ABC café. As he approached between the tables topped with Formica, the smaller of the two youths waiting for him rose and went across to the counter. A fat, balding, middle-aged man wearing a creased white shirt and scruffy grey trousers was dispensing tea from a large stainless steel pot into white enamel mugs. “Three teas,” said David Neville.
“Wait your turn,” the man behind the counter said and nodded towards the two people standing there.
“Yes,” Neville said. “Of course.”
Webster went over to the table where the larger youth was sitting, and pulled out a chair. “All right, Pete?” he said.
Peter Lamb folded his face into something resembling a smile and nodded. “Davy’s just getting the tea,” he said.
“I want more than just tea. I’ve had a busy morning.” Webster looked at the blackboard behind the counter, where the day’s menu was written in neat, precise capital letters. “I think I’ll have a full English breakfast.”
Neville returned, slopping tea as he set the mugs down.
“So?” Lamb said. “How did it go?”
“Like clockwork,” Webster said. “Piece of cake.” He poured a stream of white sugar into his mug from the glass dispenser.
“Was Gavin happy?”
“He seemed to be,” Webster said. “But you’d know better than I would on that score.”
“What do you mean?” The smile slid off Lamb’s face.
Neville watched the exchange with interest, “Well, you two are —”
Lamb’s hand shot out from beneath the table and gripped him around the throat, hauling him from his chair.
“We’re what?” said Lamb, tightening his grip.
“Friends,” Webster said quickly, as Neville’s face began to turn crimson. “He meant friends; good mates, that’s all. That’s right, isn’t it, Davy?”
Neville managed to nod his head. Lamb drew in a breath and released his grip. Neville collapsed into his seat, clawing at the top button of his shirt.
“When does he want us to get rid of her?” Lamb said, calm now.
“He said he’d telephone.”
“It’s your job,” Lamb said.
Webster smiled. “I know,” he said. “I know just the place to dump her.”
Neville picked up his mug and took a noisy gulp. It hurt to swallow.
Lamb glared at him. “You get rid of the next one,” he said to Neville. “So put your mind to it.”
“I know, Pete. I know.” Neville wiped tea from his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Good.” Lamb turned towards Webster. “Did he pay you?”
Webster smiled, took out his wallet and set it down on the grey Formica.
When Peter Lamb had first approached him and asked if he wanted to make some easy money, he had jumped at the chance. He’d had his eye on the Phoenix 150 for some time, but the scooter cost too much. These little jobs he was doing for his old school friend Lamb and, by extension, Gavin Southland, had enabled him to put a down payment on the Phoenix and meet the weekly instalments. He’d been reluctant to bring in David Neville but Lamb had suggested it, probably for the reason that Neville had access to his father’s car. When he and Lamb had introduced them, Gavin Southland had seemed to warm to Neville. Webster guessed Neville’s “pretty boy” looks had impressed the older man.
Lamb was staring at the wallet. “Well?”
Webster picked up the wallet and flipped it open. “Same split as usual?”
“Why shouldn’t it be?” Lamb said.
Webster took out the wad of one-pound notes and started counting them into three equal piles. “Money for old rope, this.”
“I told you it would be,” Lamb said, scooping up his cut and jamming the notes into his jeans’ pocket.
Webster picked up his mug and raised it. “Here’s to the next one. May they keep coming.”
Lamb and Neville touched mugs.
No Evil is our first crime thriller. Set in the 1950’s it is Dixon Of Dock Green investigates Hannibal Lector, Fred Thursday of Endeavour meets Se7en.
Joffe Books are an exciting London based publisher.
JACK CALLUM DOSSIER
John “Jack” Callum:
1910: Born, Bulwer Road, Edmonton.
1921: Attends Tottenham Grammar School.
1928: Goes into training at Hendon Police College. Starts work at Edmonton Police Station in Fore Street, rising through the police ranks to Detective Sergeant
1939: Joins the army at the start of the war and is seconded to Military Intelligence where he reaches the rank of Captain. Serves with them during the war, but doesn’t like to talk about it.
1946: On demob rejoins the police, rising rapidly through the ranks until –
1956: Becomes Detective Chief Inspector and really feels he’s reached his level.
1939: Marries his childhood sweetheart Anne just before the outbreak of war.
1939: first daughter, Joan is born
1941: Gets Annie pregnant during his leave.
1942: Daughter Rose (Rosie) born.
1944: Son Eric born.
1948: Transfers to the North Herts constabulary, preferring a less demanding and dangerous job, to see more of his wife and children. Buys a house just outside Letchworth.
Height 6 foot 1 inch.
Weight 13 stone (182 pounds)
Learned to box in his time with both the police and the army. Doesn’t box now but keeps himself fit with daily runs, and with cycling.
Doesn’t smoke cigarettes but enjoys the occasional pipe.
Likes a drink but not to excess.
Likes plain English cooking.
Doesn’t like fancy foreign food
Drives a Morris Oxford Series III, two-tone green.
Fiercely loyal to Anne. Loves her deeply and believes marriage is for life. Calls her Annie. She calls him Jack, or Dad in front of the children.
Loves his children equally and has a firm but fair style of parenting.
Both parents still alive and they live in retirement in a small village in Dorset.
Loves his garden. Grows vegetables and Dahlias.
Has a dog – a golden Labrador retriever Lassie whom he takes for walks and she accompanies him when he goes running.
LIKES: Gilbert and Sullivan, John Hanson and other good singers. Ealing comedies and Alfred Hitchcock films (thinks Rear Window is one of his finest, but in general prefers Hitchcock’s English films). Variety theatre – favourites Max Miller and the Crazy Gang. Doesn’t read newspapers except for the football results and the crosswords but is always defeated by them so usually doesn’t bother, but he likes books. Graeme Greene, John Buchan, but has no time for Agatha Christie, feeling her books are too tidy with neat endings, and thinks her portrayal of the English police is vaguely insulting.
Listens to his records and the radio, mostly the Home service and Third program. His idea of a good night out is to take Anne up to London to see a show or to go dancing, He’s not a particularly good dancer but is light on his feet thanks to his boxing training, but Anne loves dancing and is very good, so he likes to please her.
He has a keen mind and is passionate about his job. Doesn’t believe in capital punishment but has caught a few villains whose life has come to an end on the gallows.
MAYNARD SIMS www.maynard-sims.com Len Maynard & Mick Sims are the authors of sixteen novels with more scheduled, in the genres of supernatural horror, the Department 18 series, crime thrillers and erotic romance. They have written screenplays, and one, based on the first two Department 18 books, won the 2013 British Horror Film Festival Award for Best New Screenplay. Numerous stories and novellas have been published in a variety of anthologies and magazines and Death’s Sweet Echo is their tenth collection. They worked as editors on Darkness Rising, they co-edited and published F20 with The British Fantasy Society, and as editors/publishers they ran Enigmatic Press in the UK, which produced Enigmatic Tales, and its sister titles
A collection of 13 ghost stories and strange tales – 10 have never seen the light of day before.
Tickety Boo Press are publishing our tenth collection. This will be published as hardback, paperback and ebook. The YouTube trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kipgZMjt2X8
There is a scratching at the door, but surely no-one is there. The house is empty, so the footsteps on the stairs must be in my imagination. The way that shadow just moved, like breathing, must be a trick of the light.
In thirteen new ghost stories and strange tales Maynard & Sims prove they are masters of subtle unease, shifting from reality to distorted nightmares with a few deft words, creating an atmosphere of dread with superb characterisation, pacing and plotting.
“Maynard Sims’ work is superbly detailed, and very well written.” British Fantasy Society.
“I wish Maynard & Sims were more prolific short story writers, because every collection they publish is a veritable feast for dark fiction lovers.” Mario Guslandi.
“Proof of what these much underrated writers are capable of producing when at their best.” Peter Tennant.
“Maynard and Sims revitalize the traditional thrills of haunted houses, ghosts, and witches by emphasizing the psychological turmoil of character’s minds.” Cemetery Dance.
DEATH’S SWEET ECHO Contents
ANOTHER BITE OF THE CHERRY
HOPING HE WOULDN’T BE TOO LATE
SWEET DECAY OF YOUTH
I HEAR HIS FOOTSTEPS DRAWING NEAR
AND IT GOES LIKE THIS
GUILT CASTS LONG SHADOWS
JUST THE WAY IT IS
THE WALTZER KING
ANOTHER BITE OF THE CHERRY was published by Hersham Horror as The Curse Of The Mummy in 2015
I HEAR HIS FOOTSTEPS DRAWING NEAR was published by Immediate Direction in the Midnight Street anthology Journeys Into Darkness in 2014
SILVER was published by Hersham Horror in the Dead Water anthology in 2014
All the other stories are unpublished
Total book word count is 82700 words The Amazon link for the ebook http://www.amazon.co.uk/Deaths-Sweet-Echo-Maynard-Sims-ebook/dp/B018YK61XM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1449304185&sr=1-1&keywords=maynard+and+sims+death’s+sweet+echo
The publisher link for the hardcover http://shop.ticketyboopress.co.uk/index.php?id_product=81&controller=product
Excerpt from GLORIOUS DILAPIDATION
The house had stood there for as long as I could remember.
When I say it stood that might seem to suggest it was proud and erect, possibly rising majestically up from the ground on firm foundations, the walls straight and true, the roof attached strongly, and the overall ambience pleasing to the eye. It wasn’t like that, and never had been all the time I knew it.
These days it leaned in a forlorn almost wistful manner, as if it knew it had died but couldn’t find the heart to accept a fate so final.
It was Ruth’s idea to go back and visit it, while we were in the area. I’m not blaming her for what happened. I was as eager to see what had become of the old place as she was, though I wouldn’t have told her that. I was surprised she wanted to go back, after I had told her about the first time I went, but once she had voiced the suggestion it took hold in my mind and wouldn’t let go, so that I became even more immersed in the plans than she seemed to be. I did wonder if she had second thoughts, and had mentioned the house simply because we would be so near to it on our trip. I have to admit I probably didn’t give her much of a chance to back out once she had mentioned it, but it was her who brought it up initially, so all I really did was go along with her idea.
That needs to be understood. I didn’t have any wish before she spoke about it to go near the house ever again, not with someone else. Obviously if I could have known how things would turn out my enthusiasm would have stayed what it had been for years, mere curiosity about a childhood event that had happened a long, long time ago. Trouble is I have always been the same. Once an idea is planted in my mind I have to see it through to completion or I get left with an irritation deep inside that borders on obsession.
I know I was on the spectrum of obsessive compulsive behaviour when I was younger, certainly in my teens. The word “obsession” often describes something enjoyable, but in OCD the obsession is usually unpleasant and frightening, and it was for me. As a teenager I began to suspect that my brain didn’t seem to work in the same ways as my friends. They were casual and carefree about life in general but I never did feel that way. I always needed to know in advance where we were going, what we were doing and who was going. If when I got there the plans had changed I was totally unable to cope with this at all. I felt as if I was trapped and that I had been betrayed if things weren’t as they’d been planned. I would appear to the others to be sulking, but in truth my brain filled with thoughts, going over and over, about how the plan had been agreed, and I was completely unable to manage to adapt to the alterations. The negative thoughts were going round and round in a loop in my brain.
In the back of my father’s car when we were driving on long trips with my parents I’d find my thoughts continually looping, going over things again and again. I’d recite in my mind my books, and my records, and what order they were on the shelves. I’d list my clothes and where they were in the drawers. I’d even list in my mind my washing things and continually recall where they were in the bathroom. The listing went on and on. If someone tried to speak to me I was impatient because they’d disrupted the pattern, and I had to start over.
Now And Then?
One aspect for consideration when reading a supernatural tale is the circumstances under which the story was written. Should we involve ourselves in thoughts of what the writers’ life might have been like when they were toiling away at the PC, word processor, electric typewriter, manual typewriter, pen and ink, quill, cave wall, tablet of stone…? Do the life and times of writers present and past affect our enjoyment of a piece of fiction?
Clearly the influences on a writer, the minutia of their life, may have a great bearing on the style of their work. It can be of no little importance to wonder whether a change of life style would have meant a change in artistic direction. Was the writer married or single? Professional or amateur? Sad or happy? City, village; young, old; ill or in good health? Did they have all day to write or were they forced into writing in snatched moments? It is to no special advantage to have to spend all day at work then to come home and immediately place oneself in the frame of mind conducive to good writing. Even worse, horrors of responsibility; if there is a spouse who expects attention, concentration on conversation, help with washing up, children to entertain and put to bed.
There can be little doubt that the influences on the life of a writer such as Poe coloured his writing. No matter how great his natural tendency for the darker side of life, no matter how much a love of the night was born in him, the poverty and grief, which he knew, allowed his gift of eloquent woe to find its voice with deeper depths of agony and genius.
The life pattern of a modern person can be thought in itself to be alien to the emotive force of dark fiction. For the most part living in clean, bright, centrally heated homes, with human companionship so near, even through such devices as the telephone, e-mail, mobiles, pagers, Internet and more. It becomes increasingly difficult to grasp the feeling of ‘living your work’ that writers of old may have experienced. Perhaps it is over-romantic to imagine the writer of the past huddled over the light of a flickering candle in an otherwise darkened room. Alone with their imagination, with no electronic stimuli, no diversions from the mood of their creation, sheltered from outside influences. By living the horror of the ghost story mood, or the atmosphere of it, could the same be more easily transmitted to the written page? The writer of today must first think themselves into the mood of their fiction by, to a large extent, ignoring the normality of their surroundings, rather than being able to feed from, and upon it, as might be ideal.
Then there is television; the numbing of the senses, the intruding into imagination, the believing in the banal. Where does it provide the creative stimulus for the supernatural tale? It tells when it should cloak, it reveals when it should mask, it explains when it should be enticing. No extension of the creative framework here; rather a bland catch-all formula that drapes a cloud of easy viewing that batters at imagination and its defences until the wall crashes and true creation is lost.
Leaving the sterile atmosphere of modern life to one side, one of the least advantageous influences on today’s writers must be the media of film; cinema and admittedly to a lesser extent with regard to supernatural fiction, the demon television. To say that all the best stories were written before the advent of screen horror would be wholly inaccurate but it cannot be ignored that the ability to see on the screen that which previously could only have been imagined from the written word has an immense affect on the modern reader, and therefore by extension the modern writer.
To take just one example, that of the vampire story, one of the most basic, and finest of horror vehicles. No matter how subtle the writer is, once it becomes obvious we are reading a vampire story then the images conjured are invariably not those intended by the writer but those of Schreck, Lugosi, Lee, or whichever cinematic character the story reminds us of – even Twilight. The force behind the writing is diminished because the vital ingredient of imagination on the part of the reader has been dulled by memories of film, or worse of the circumstances under which we went to see the film. So the writer of a vampire story may today be faced with a reader who does not pale at thoughts of the blood-sucking monster but rather one whose mind is busy recalling the delights of sitting in the back row of the cinema.
The basic and still much respected ingredients of the genre have been over-exposed by the film world so that their power does not work so deeply on today’s audiences as they might have done a century ago. It might be offered that horror films have not only had an adverse affect on writing but also on the enjoyment of reading a good horror story. The words more often conjure cinematic images rather than the private images that they would have done previously.
The reader of The Seventeenth Hole At Duncaster today cannot experience the same atmosphere that the first reader knew in the 1920’s. Their lives are vastly different. Their knowledge is different; therefore their senses absorb the words differently and appreciate the meaning and the moods in different ways.
There is sometimes the temptation to consider works of old as being superior in some way, purely because they have the competency of longevity. Even allowing for the sentimental regard with which stories of the past are held today, there is a stylistic difference between them and their modern counterparts, and this cannot be ignored when discussing the influences on writing. While a story may have been effective in 1900 it may not satisfy today, may be inaccessible due to style, rather than content, because its message may already be over-familiar through cinema, television, and other works of fiction. What convinced a century ago now appears merely dated and mundane. Creaking doors, and draughty ghosts, do not convince us as modern readers. Where our ancestors dreaded their intrusion, we merely wait for the bigger terror, the higher fix of horror.
Each age has had its share of true horrors, the reality of which brings us to book when we worry about the fictional versions. Since the raw carnage of 1914-18 and World War Two we cannot look with the same concerned expression upon fictional fright. Add to that the daily horrors now so freely reported in an increasingly sensationalist media and we have a wall growing ever thicker through which the suspension of disbelief must break. The narrative drive must reach wrap speed these days before it engages a gear high enough for our attention to be provoked. So de-sensitised have we become to stories of children killing each other, to mindless violence, sex, drugs, corruption, infidelity and genocide, that the fictional terrors we create in our imaginations must be more subtle, more inventive than ever to jolt the reader out of their de-humanised veil of disbelief.
There are of course two ways to look at criticism. Many people would argue that art must live by today’s standards, so that a film made fifty years ago must stand up to the techniques of today before it can be considered valid. This seems too easy an option. It places no importance upon circumstance, and indeed it seems to ignore the influences, surrounding the making of the film, or the writing of the story if considering fiction. This is not to suggest that excuses should be made for the writer if the story was written under difficult circumstances. If a wife has just left a husband should we excuse a poor story written as a result? Hardly. But if a work of art was considered valid when it was first created then it cannot be accurate if thirty years later it is deemed poor if it does not affect a modern audience in the same way. Is the modern audience a keener critic because a few years have passed? We may have become familiar with the style or the theme, but that is not the fault or responsibility of the writer. The art has not changed, merely the opinions and sophistication of the audience. Their views and tastes have changed but the words written remain exactly the same. It can surely only be accurate to take historical perspective into account when reading an old story. If a story fails to ignite us today we must look for a better reason than merely to suggest it has lost its spark along the way.
Would it be wholly valid to explore the avenue of thought that an influence on writing today is the greater availability of fiction to the mass market? After all it is within everyone’s grasp today to buy a book on the Internet, or at any one of dwindling bookshops, or even to borrow it from the Public Library. This availability was not always the case. A second rate work of fiction today may well reach a far wider audience than a better book years ago simply because the distribution channels are so much more diverse these days. The Internet has increased this phenomenon with its ability to access fiction on the web sites as an addition to the printed page. The proliferation of self publishing has only added to the myriad of books available at far lower prices than used to be the case. Another medium available now but not previously is the talking tape where stories and novels can be abridged and spoken without the need even for the effort of lifting a book in leisure. Allowing for his distaste for the general public, and that it was not his intention to write for critical acclaim, it is interesting to ponder how the writing of H P Lovecraft might have altered if fed to a wider audience, and the difference it might have made if subject to a publishers deadlines.
Trends can sometimes be seen in current fiction that suggest a deliberate attempt to fool the voracious appetite of the reading public, sated as they are by these diverse images. Stories whose every intention is vagueness; over-explored themes deserted for stories of minimum plotline but maximum exploration of the mind of modern man. Then there are the stories of excess gore and sexual athletics. The intention of many modern stories seems to be to place Man as the monster, his way of life as the creator, and his mind as the catalyst that sparks the horror. To do this exclusively suggests that the writers believe the terrors of old are ineffective in today’s society and that new and less traditional horrors are required. New approaches are always welcome but we should not ignore the classical in the pursuit of the wholly different just for its own sake. The meaning behind the words should not always be so obscure as to leave the vagueness so clearly worked for as to give any feeling, emotion of atmosphere, no chance of survival as the puzzle develops.
Stories that are obvious are never satisfactory be they one day or one hundred years old. The converse is equally true in that stories that baffle to deceive are simply infuriating. From what viewpoint should a work of fiction be judged? Some good stories are poorly told, others well written but clichéd in plot. In all probability the only true way to judge a story is objectively and yet that disavows the emotional pull that should exist if a work of fiction is to engage our full attention. It is possibly because many critics take the subjective path that arguments about merit develop. The only true way is to read with a subjective eye whilst the objective mind can sort the poor craft from the well-meaning ideas. Merits to one are defects to another.
In terms of fiction the influences upon a writer are many and varied. This was always true and is more so today. The electronic stimuli, the modern stresses and pressures, the familiarity the reader has with themes and ideas, all conspire now to make the storywriter perform to their best if they are to emulate, let alone exceed, the writers of old. Because a story is decades old does not mean it should not be read and enjoyed today; though it should be treated with respect of age and not expected to perform as though a teenager in the prime of youth – make allowances for style, pace and even content – please.
A writer draws on many influences in the pursuance of their craft; their life style, their past, their aims when writing, their known audience, their publisher’s wishes. Our modern emphasis on bodily comforts seems to spare the writer of horror the chance to experience the terrors at first hand, and yet each day carries with it some new nightmare from which to draw ideas. Dark fiction remains now as then, a valid release valve from the horrors of the real world, and a reminder that despite modern sophistication of living we should never get too complacent.