Friday, 24 June 2011

Vampire Love Songs #1: Rehab

"My name's Seth," he begins, the same three words week on week. “And I'm an addict.”
"Hi Seth," the group echoes around him. Like a choir. A cult.
It's been eight months since I slipped,” he continues. “And it's not been easy. Especially when the temptation to give in is just about everywhere you look.”
A few heads nod appreciatively; it's the same for all of them. Seth knows that if most of them didn't have the group to come to each week, they'd not stand a chance. Strength isn't stopping, of course. It's not starting again. That particular pearl of wisdom, which he spied somewhere on one of the many posters adorning the meeting room, makes him wish he had a cigarette.
All I know,” he says, keen to wrap up his turn, “is that I wouldn't have lasted these eight months without my wife. She's kept me strong.”
We keep each other strong,” Mallory tells the group from her seat next to him. He reaches out and she squeezes his hand. He sits down, deflating as the group's attention shifts to someone else.
When it is over, just as Seth and Mallory are about to leave, a skinny youth approaches them.
Tony, isn't it?” Mallory asks, shaking his hand.
Yeah,” he nods, and Seth no longer sees a man; he sees a scarecrow. “I just wanted to say... You guys, what you're achieving together? It's inspiring.”
Seth smiles at him, although he really just feels like he's baring his teeth. Mallory is nice enough for both of them. Story of their marriage. She tells Tony that he can find it in himself to be strong too – she knows he can do it. Listening to her words, however empty they might be, makes Seth love her even more.
I need a drink,” he whispers in her ear as they leave the building.
You're not fucking kidding,” she answers, and within minutes they are in the nearest bar. It's dark, run down, and more than a little seedy. In other words, perfect.
Mallory orders vodka on the rocks for both of them. They clink their glasses together, no need to toast out loud, and knock them back. Seth orders another round, and tells the barman to get the pretty redhead at the end of the bar whatever she wants too.
The redhead saunters towards them, more than a little tipsy on her high heels, and thanks them both for her scotch and soda with an overly familiar hug each.
You're more than welcome,” Seth says. “We're celebrating.”
Fabulous! What are you celebrating?”
Eight months sober,” Mallory grins, crunching on ice. The girl eyes their drinks and gives them a questioning look.
Alcohol was never our drug of choice,” Seth says by way of explanation. The redhead nods as if to say she understands completely. Which, of course, she doesn't.
I could never do that twelve step stuff,” she says, swigging her scotch. “No self control.” That last part is followed by a calculated lick of the lips.
To many,” Seth says, “total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.”
Augustine,” she replies promptly.
I'm impressed,” Seth says. He can practically hear Mallory rolling her eyes next to him. They all know where this is going.
I love Augustine,” the girl drawls. “Now there's a saint for sinners.”
Lord, make me chaste,” Mallory chimes in. “... But not yet.” They all laugh. Then Seth and Mallory invite the charming girl with the coppery hair back to their hotel room.
Her name, it turns out, is Vanessa. She smells like a Rose and tastes like a Penny. When Seth sinks his teeth into her neck, it hits the spot like not even ice cold vodka could. He revels in Mallory's muffled grunts of pleasure from where she dines at the femoral artery. Every couple of seconds, a gargled protest tries to make its way from Vanessa's lips. Then she's just a limp thing in their arms, muted and pale.
Such a pity,” Mallory says, rising from between the girl's legs, short on breath. “She was so beautiful.”
Addiction is an illness,” Seth says as calmly as he can through the fog of elation, wiping the last of Vanessa's lifeblood from his chin. “We mustn't be too hard on ourselves.”
Mallory reaches into her pocket, then puts her hand out. Seth takes it, and she drops something into his palm. To somebody who didn't know any better, it might look like a gambling chip. Seth runs his thumb over the letters embossed onto the plastic surface.
Vampires Anonymous: 8 Months Dry
We'll be better tomorrow,” he tells her. “I promise.”

Thursday, 23 June 2011

True Blood: 5 "OMG" Moments

In anticipation of the upcoming fourth season of True Blood, I've been rewatching season three.  And it struck me that while True Blood has been an incredibly over-the-top show from the very beginning regarding sex and violence, the writers really did up the ante when it came to "did they just do that?" moments in their third year.  Below are my top picks, including a few from the first and second seasons.  Beware: spoilers may lie ahead for viewers who are not entirely up to date.

5. Amy Shows Her Dark Side (Season 1)
Lizzie Kaplan could never be a villain, could she?  The character of Amy was a sweet hippie, with a fondness for V (that's vampire blood, for those not in the know).  This addiction led Amy and Jason to the door of Lafayette's vampire supplier, where she proceeded to attack him with silver and persuaded Jason to help her kidnap him.  Then she staked him.  Ironic then, that she was murdered by Rene for "loving vampires"...

4. Party Over At Maryann's! (Season 2)
Maryann Forrester, played with equal parts serenity and wildness by Michelle Forbes, was introduced late in the first season as a saviour figure to troubled Tara.  The second season saw a much different side to her, as her mere presence seemed to exert a bacchanalian influence over the residents of Bon Temps.  Watching her first house party descend into a primal, animalistic orgy made for bizarre viewing indeed.

3. Eric Seduces Talbot... Then Kills Him (Season 3)
I had to pick my jaw up off the floor several times during these scenes.  Fans knew by this point that Eric was playing a game, trying to get close to Russell Edgington and his lover Talbot in order to exact revenge on Russell for killing his family.  His method of vengeance was creative, twisted, and hot as hell.  The extended foreplay was one of the most erotic shown (which is saying something for True Blood), and the violent death at the end was incredibly brutal to watch.  It also offered up about a dozen different "impaling" puns.

2. Russell Makes The Evening News (Season 3) 
Driven mad by Talbot's death, Russell wreaks havoc.  In this fictional universe, of course, vampires are publicly acknowledged American citizens, although their rights are often disputed.  Russell throws the Vampire Rights Movement into chaos when he RIPS OUT THE SPINE of a news anchor live on air.  His perfect following line, "and now the weather, Tiffany", rounded off a sublime scene.

1. Bill and Lorena Have At It (Season 3)
When it comes to sex, True Blood likes to push the envelope.  And by push the envelope, I mean embrace the crazy.  By the time Bill comes face to face in season three with his Maker, the bunny boiler Lorena, we've already seen him reject her numerous times.  He loves Sookie, doesn't he?  Clearly, then, the whole being kidnapped thing has frustrated him massively, as he proceeds to have aggressive hate-sex with Lorena.  As if this wasn't weird enough, he then twists her neck 180 degrees, so he doesn't have to look at her.  What can I say; sex with the ex is never a good idea.


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Flash Fiction #15: Solstice

 The fierce, sudden whoosh of the wind on the hilltop drowns out what Josie was saying, and Toby has to ask her to repeat herself.
“I said that this has been our best camping trip yet,” Josie leans forward in her seat so she's saying it right in his ear. Toby can feel her breath on him, despite the breeze. He grabs her by the waist and pulls her down from her deck chair to join him on the grass. She lies next to him, propped up on her elbows, and rests her head on his shoulder.
On the beach below them, Sara is paddling in the tide, expensive flip-flops dangling from one hand. Josie and Toby watch as Hugo sneaks up behind her, picks her up and drops her in deeper water. Her outraged squeals travel all the way up to the camp-site, and they laugh. Josie turns her head to look for Robin, but he's somewhere out of sight. Reading, or sulking, in one of the tents, most likely.
“I'm so glad Robin brought someone with him this year,” Toby says. “I think it made him feel more a part of the group, don't you?”
“Absolutely,” Josie nods emphatically. “You're not really one of us until you've fed the Man.”
“She was nice,” Toby continues. “I'd expected some poor dullard, but Francesca had something about her.”
“Tits,” Josie giggles. “What else do you think drew our Robin to her?”
Toby chuckles, then agrees.
“I think he'll really miss her,” Josie sighs. “Still, it has to be done. And it's over now, bless him.”
Toby kisses her on the temple and reminds her that it's their turn next year.
“Hmm,” she snuggles in closer. “There's winter to get through first, don't forget.”
Josie closes her eyes and tilts her face to catch as much of the glorious sunshine as possible. Toby decides to do the same.
The Green Man is happy, there's no doubting that. They've done their part. And although she didn't seem to take much comfort in it at the time, Francesca's sacrifice has ensured a prosperous summer for them all.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Book Revew: Stories by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

It's incredibly tricky to review an anthology of fiction, diverse as they tend to be in style and content.  Even trickier, then, when it is a book authored by over two dozen well-known names.  There is no common theme or genre linking these tales, and I think that was essentially the aim of the editors in producing this volume: it is a celebration of storytelling itself.  In the introduction, Gaiman writes about the power of four simple words: "And then what happened?"  It is this pure love of fiction that comes across in so many of the stories included in this book.  Below is a summary of some of the best.

"Blood" by Roddy Doyle
Written in Doyle's signature style, without a single speech mark in sight, the reader is treated to an insight into a rather unusual Dublin banker.

"The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains" by Neil Gaiman
A dwarf and a reaver set out to find a cave which, according to legend, is filled with gold.  Except that the story isn't really about that at all.

"Samantha's Diary" by Diane Wynne Jones
The audio diary of Samantha is salvaged from a skip in a futuristic London, and tells the story of a most unorthodox Christmas gift.  I've often heard good things about the late Diane Wynne Jones, and "Samantha's Diary" offers even more encouragement to seek out her other work.

"Leif In The Wind" by Gene Wolfe
The cabin fever and isolation of a deep space mission become too much for a small crew who have already lost a number of their colleagues.

"The Devil On The Staircase" by Joe Hill
A fable with Faustian elements, Hill spins a yarn of a youth who spends his life carrying goods up and down the steps to his mountain village.  When he happens upon a gateway to a previously non-existent staircase, it sets in motion a series of life-changing events.

As with any anthology, there are a few weak links.  Chuck Palahniuk's "Loser" didn't quite satisfy as his novels consistently do, and while "The Therapist" by Jeffery Deaver offers an interesting premise, its execution feels like it is missing something.  But overall, Stories is a strong collection.  One tale which deserves an honourable mention is "Wildfire In Manhattan" by Joanne Harris, which introduces a modern take on Norse mythology and offers readers a glimpse into a fantastical world, all within twenty pages.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Father's Day Reads

To celebrate Father's Day this coming Sunday, I've put together a list of books that examine the role of a father in literature and in life.  From complicated father-son relationships to daddy's girls, the father figure is a compelling one - below are some of the best (and one or two not-so-great ones).

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I've commented in a previous post on my affection for Atticus Finch as a character and role model for fathers.  What I particularly like in Harper Lee's portrayal of him is that there are occasions where Atticus and his daughter do not see eye to eye; the narrative is coloured by Scout's perceptions, and it is only after the fact that she realises her father was in the right all along.  One excellent example of this is when Atticus forces Scout to spend time each day reading to their cantankerous old neighbour, for seemingly no reason at all - but of course, Atticus knows better.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The story of a father and son's journey across a post-apocalyptic America, The Road uses economy of plot and language to show the simplest and most profound of relationships.  The father in this story is the kind of man who would throw himself in front of a train to save his own son.  It's a rather grim read, yes, but an incredibly moving one too.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
The protagonist of this novel and three more after it is Jackson Brodie: ex-army, ex-police, private detective and most importantly father to Marlee.  Whilst the core plot of the novel centres on investigating murders and disappearances, Kate Atkinson uses the relationship between Jackson and his daughter to speak out against the sexualisation of preteens and to comment on the loss of innocence that seems to be occurring at a younger age in each generation.  Burdened by the knowledge of what some men are capable of doing to young girls, Jackson is torn between keeping Marlee in blissful ignorance and preparing her for potential danger.  If all little girls must grow up, he muses in my favourite passage, why can't they all turn into action heroines like Ripley and Sarah Connor?

A Spot Of Bother by Mark Haddon
I must admit to reading this novel with a growing sense of frustration.  The soap opera style plot centres around a family that threatens to fall apart in the lead-up to daughter Katie's wedding.  Mother Jean is having an affair and son Jamie is in the middle of his own romantic crisis.  But the father, George, takes the biscuit.  He chooses this time to descend into madness, convincing himself he is dying of cancer and running away to live in a hotel.  If he were my dad, I'd have cut off contact a long time ago.

Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale
Patrick Gale's novel is ostensibly about Rachel Kelly, a bi-polar artist and mother, and the aftermath of her death.  In her children's recollections, Rachel is remembered as both their favourite person and a tyrant, depending on her state of mind.  Forever in the background of the story is Rachel's Quaker husband Antony, a quiet and unassuming man who, it soon becomes clear, is a constant source of strength and support for the entire family.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Genre Novels That Would Make Excellent Television

It has proven an incredible stroke of good fortune for the fantasy genre that some of the most successful recent TV shows have been adaptations of books that might not otherwise reach mainstream attention.  I am thinking specifically of True Blood, inspired by Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries, and Game Of Thrones, based on A Song Of Ice And Fire by George R.R. Martin.  It is undoubtedly no coincidence that the success of these two dramas derives from their home at HBO, known for high production values, in-depth storytelling that does not insult the viewer, and huge marketing campaigns which ensure a wide audience.

This got me thinking: there is a wealth of fantasy and horror literature out there to be mined for miniseries success.  Below are a few novels that I think make excellent candidates for adaptation.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Considered by many of Gaiman's fans to be the most ambitious of his novels, American Gods is a modern epic.  There has been talk on and off for years of a film version, but I think the cast of memorable characters and apocalyptic story arc would be better suited to the 12-hour series format of HBO, allowing ample time to explore the bizarre world that ex-con Shadow finds himself becoming a part of.  The great thing about this particular corner of Gaiman's universe is that there is room for expansion: the collection Fragile Things includes a Shadow novella, and the novel Anansi Boys features one of the supporting characters from American Gods, so producers would not run out of source material for a while.

The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly
Considering the number of fairy tale-inspired pilots that came out this season (Grimm, Once Upon A Time, 17th Precinct), I'm surprised this book hasn't already been adapted.  The story of a teenage boy who accidentally enters a world comprised of myth and legend and is immediately threatened by the sinister Crooked Man, there is enough folkloric whimsy and genuine menace in the source material to make ideal family viewing - imagine the quirky charm of Doctor Who with the combined humour and violence of Buffy.

Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter
While that other infamous circus-centric HBO show Carnivale was an ultimately shortlived lesson in avoiding overly complex mythology, the recent film Water For Elephants has proved that there is still mileage in the backdrop of the travelling fair.  Carter's magical realism would make for some impressive visuals, in particular her winged heroine Sophie.  The novel is separated into sections based on the circus's location (London, Paris etc.), so an episodic format would fit the narrative fairly well.

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite
A show about vampires in the American South? Yes, it sounds uncomfortably similar to True Blood.  But Brite's edgy, sexy novel was around long before Charlaine Harris dreamed up the by-comparison wholesome Sookie Stackhouse series.  Lost Souls centres on a band fronted by best friends Steve and Ghost, and the vampires who come to town to see them play.  If the bluesy, bloodsucking content is too similar to True Blood, then there are other options from Brite's oeuvre: Drawing Blood, in which a troubled comic book artist returns to a small town where the past is a living thing, or Exquisite Corpse, a twisted saga about two serial killers who fall in love (think Dexter, only ten times darker).

The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice
The hugely popular Interview With The Vampire movie, starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, brought a massive readership to Anne Rice's novels.  The second fim adaptation, The Queen Of The Damned, tried to incorporate too many of the saga's various backstories and ended up being a bit of a mess (although it wasn't without its high points).  Anne Rice has since stated that her style of storytelling might be better suited to television.  A longer, more leisurely format would certainly compliment the lengthy character histories and far-reaching events covered in the novels.  If all ten books were to be adapted, from the now-classic Interview to the more recent and much more convoluted Blood Canticle, not to mention the offshoot "New Vampire" books, there'd be at least a dozen potential seasons of slick, sumptuous television.  Personally, I'd be fascinated to see how showrunners would portray the Egyptian origin story, which the second film completely skipped.

Dream Casting For The Carrie Remake

Hollywood, in its infinite, money-spinning wisdom, has decided to once again flog the dead horse that is Stephen King's breakout debut novel, despite or perhaps because of a hugely popular 1970s adaptation starring Sissy Spacek.  The less said about its loose "Generation X" sequel and TV pilot the better.  While I remain undecided as to whether this is a good idea or not (film versions of King's work vary greatly in quality), it was interesting to give a little thought to who might be suitable for the role of Carrie White, the victim of cruel bullying who exacts revenge with her telekinetic powers.

Below are my top picks.

Lindsay Lohan: This name, believe it or not, has already come up on the net as a possibility.  While LiLo has become more famous for her court appearances and personal life recently than she has for her film work, a teen horror flick might be just what she needs to get her career back on track, or at least regain some of the pop culture clout she achieved with Mean Girls.  I'm thinking update the story to a university or apartment building so that she doesn't appear too old for the part, and lay on the sexual tension as Carrie is torn between her wish to conform and her secret crush on Sue Snell (that's not a spoiler, I just totally made it up).

Kristen Stewart: Hear me out! While I find K-Stew wholly unappealing in the Twilight films, I feel that has more to do with the cardboard cut-out of a character she is being forced to play.  Rewind a few years to her role as awkward teenager Lucy in the indie drama In The Land Of Women, and you start to get a glimpse of what she might be capable of.  Plus she has horror experience with The Messengers, and the Carrie franchise would attract her built-in Twilight fanbase.  So think on that, Hollywood.

Kaya Scodelario: Better known as Effy Stonem in the first four seasons of British drama Skins, Kaya Scodelario could perfectly embody the skinny, vulnerable Carrie.  She'd bring in the trendy young crowd, and as she's shown in the role of Effy, she can swing from "mystery girl" to "tortured psychopath" with ease.  In fact, why not shift the entire story to an arts college in Bristol and show her wreaking supernatural havoc on her hipster classmates?  I for one would pay for that ticket.

Jessica Stroup: Famous for playing the pixie-like, bipolar Silver in 90210, Stroup has an otherworldly charm - and looks a hell of a lot like a young Mia Kirschner.  She's young enough to be believable as a teenage girl struggling with the burgeoning power brought on by a late and traumatic puberty, and the rest of the cast could be peppered with pretty Beverly Hills faces.

Jennifer Lawrence: Having proven her acting chops in the Oscar-nominated Winter's Bone and wowed fanboys as misfit Raven in the X-Men reboot, Lawrence is certainly flavour of the month.  If she could fit in the role of Carrie amongst her Hunger Games commitments, she'd be a sure-fire box office draw - and she has enough talent to carry what would otherwise undoubtedly be a terrible and unoriginal rehash.

Who do you think would make the best Carrie White for the 2010s?  Feel free to submit your own suggestions in the comments below.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Jackson Brodie Comes To TV

A few days ago, I tweeted about the new BBC detective series Case Histories.  After ten minutes of viewing, I'd made my judgement: while the atmospheric drama might have satisfied novice viewers, it was unlikely to measure up to the fantastic novels by Kate Atkinson, on which the show is based.  What the show does have going for it, however, is casting.  Troubled sisters Julia and Amelia, one an extrovert actress, the other an introvert academic, perfectly match their on-page characterisations.  Phil Davis similarly impresses as a bereaved father.

But the show's crowning glory is Jason Isaacs as grizzled, wounded detective Jackson Brodie.  Not only does he physically fit the part, equal parts masculine and pensive, but he also brings Jackson's quiet pain to life.  This is, after all, a man who seeks to find lost girls after his own sister was murdered years before.  The flashbacks to his childhood in the Seventies allow a lengthy glimpse beneath his stoic exterior, explored at once in slightly more detail than they were at first in the novels. 

Case Histories has its flaws, of course: DI Louise Monroe is introduced from the outset as a former colleague, as opposed to her rather different role in the books, which grated on me a little as it seemed unnecessary.  The action is limited largely to Edinburgh, which I suppose makes sense for a serial drama - it gives the audience an immediate grounding, instead of following Jackson's inner monologue as he travels up and down Great Britain.

All in all, I would advise newcomers to read the books first.  You'll get a deeper understanding of the characters and of how all the mysteries connect.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Another Look At 5 Fictional Bad Guys

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Following my first Top 5 Villains post, here are another five fictional antagonists - from misguided youths who think they are in the right, to hardened crooks who are rotten to the core.

5. Count Dracula
(Dracula by Bram Stoker)
First encountered by Jonathan Harker in his Carpathian castle, the Count is introduced to us as an elderly European aristocrat.  One doomed voyage of the Demeter later, he re-emerges in Victorian England as a seductive killer.  Written against the backdrop of the fin-de-siecle, a period known for body horror, numerous diseases and a fear of invasion from the East, the figure of Dracula becomes an embodiment of these concerns: an alien, rapacious force which seeks to corrupt and transform from within.

4. Edward Hyde
(Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson)
The aggressive, bestial alter ego of Dr Henry Jekyll, Hyde thinks nothing of trampling children and generally wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting city.  This tale is a moral one, of course - much like Frankenstein's monster, Edward Hyde's persona was unlocked through Jekyll's well-meaning research into human nature.  What makes Mr Hyde so genuinely threatening is the novel's assertion that a version of him resides in each and every one of us.

3. Tom Ripley
(The Ripley novels by Patricia Highsmith)
As the protagonist and puppeteer of numerous twisted escapades, Tom Ripley is at heart a chameleon.  Ingenious when it comes to attaining his goals and literally getting away with murder, he is both terrifying in his ruthlessness and inspiring in his intelligence.

2. Alec D'Urberville
(Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy)
From the very first moment we meet Alec, we are yelling at Tess to get the hell away from him.  His arrogantly handsome face and obscenely red lips foreshadow a seduction - or, in this case, a rape.  Not only does Alec destroy poor Tess's virtue, but he also has the gall to reappear later in her life, a "changed man".  Already a pariah, Tess has no choice but to become Alec's companion.  It is the cruel fate doled out in Hardy's universe that the raped woman is executed for finally taking control of her own life - although I am sure every reader feels a grim satisfaction when Alec finally meets his end.

1. It's A Tie!
Amir & Briony
(The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini & Atonement by Ian McEwan)
These impressive and moving literary novels would have you believe that Amir and Briony are the protagonists of their respective stories, when in fact they are the catalyst for almost every bad thing that happens.  Amir is too much of a coward to come to the aid of his friend during their childhood, the after-effects of which are devestating.  Similarly, Briony's colourful imagination taints her perception when she sees the growing attraction between her sister Cecilia and Robbie, leading her to tell a destructive lie.  In their defense, Amir and Briony spend the rest of their lives trying to make up for their actions, but one can't help but get the feeling that all would have ended well if they'd just done the right thing to start with.  In an alternate fictional universe, I can see these two hitting it off.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Flash Fiction #14: Mab

Bad dreams become something you live with.  Like insomnia, they are a sickness that invade your waking life, fraying the edges of everything around you.  They make colours duller or too bright, noises become so high that you wince and flinch at the slightest sound.  Shadows seem to move of their own accord in the corner of your eye.  Christie could pretty much write the book on the subject.

She's not always been this way.  Up until a few months ago, she'd slept like a baby most nights.  The nightmares began gradually; at first she put it down to stress.  Then they became more and more frequent.  Christie would wake every night drenched in sweat, her chest tight with terror.  Specific details evaded her - what little memory she had was of a pair of eyes always watching her.  Hazel eyes that should have been beautiful, but weren't.

This last week, it's got worse.  Christie has woken sobbing.  Angry red marks on her arms and legs show that she has been scratching herself in her sleep.  No amount of makeup can counter her deathly pallor or the shadowy bags under her eyes.

She dreads coming home each day.  The house itself has become a part of the disease; her unmade bed is like an albatross in the back of her mind, waiting for her to lie down and close her eyes each night so it can torment her until sunrise.  And always, they are there - the eyes that should be beautiful, but aren't.

Tonight, Christie takes more sleeping pills than the bottle advises.  Not enough to harm herself, she's no idiot, but hopefully enough to take her down deep enough, below the night terrors.  Darkness and silence, for just a few hours, are all Christie wants.  Sick of all the herbal teas that have failed to work, she washes the pills down with a glass of whiskey.  There.  A deep, restful sleep should be no problem now.

When she collapses onto the bed, still in her clothes, the mattress feels more comfortable than it has in months.  The sheets are softer, more inviting, than ever before.  Christie allows herself a smile as the ceiling fades above her.  Her eyes drift closed.  The beams and floorboards which occasionally creak in this old house are silent tonight.  Christie exhales quietly, feeling weeks of tension and anxiety leave her body.

She feels something cold against her cheek.  Her eyes snap open.  Another woman kneels over her on the bed, leant so far forward that her face is level with Christie's.  When she sees Christie's eyes open, she claps her hands silently.

Black hair.  Hazel eyes.  Thin lips, so pale they are almost white.  What Christie had felt on her cheek were long, slick-looking fingernails, painted black.  Christie thinks of the scratches on her arms and legs.  This creature, this woman - she was responsible.  They were never dreams.

She is unable to cry for help; the breath freezes in her throat.  All she can whisper is: "Who are you?"

"Mab," the woman says, stretching her thin white lips into a smile.  It is the unkindest thing Christie has ever seen.  "I'm your faery godmother."

"I don't believe in faeries," Christie rasps.

"Oh, you beautiful thing," the faery laughs quietly.  "You beautiful, wretched thing.  What difference does that make?"

Christie tries to move, but it is as if she is paralysed.  Sitting atop her, Mab weighs nothing at all; but beneath her she is powerless.

"I'm scared," she says.

"I know," answers the faery.  "They always are.  But I'm going to make your wish come true."

Terrified before, now Christie is puzzled.

"My wish?"

"Darkness and silence," Mab whispers in her ear.  Her ice cold breath makes Christie shiver.  Then; "Wish granted."  She smiles, and kisses Christie's cheek as gently, as lightly, as if she were made of gossamer.  "I'll take you down, sweetie.  Deep, deep down."

Christie opens her mouth to scream, but Mab's white lips are on hers.  The room around her vanishes into blackness.  The bed seems to drop from beneath her until she is falling, or floating, no shapes or sounds around her - just the cold impression left by Mab's kiss.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Rude Awakening: An Adonis Jones Mystery (Part Two)

In Part One, readers were introduced to Adonis Jones - detective, hedonist and hero of this story.  Now follow our intrepid team of crime solvers (loyal companion Willy, housekeeper Tatiana and police inspector Roderick) into a seedy underworld of murder and seduction...
     Rod reluctantly “allowed” us to accompany him to The Cooch Club; this was after all, he informed us, an official police investigation. I've learned over the years that a good dose of gumption and a dash of violence get you a lot further than following procedure, but I wasn't about to tell him that; I suspected his patience was wearing thin. And beneath that slightly sleazy but gorgeous Errol Flynn moustache of his was a man with quite the fiery temper. I'd only ever cross Roderick Sexton if I was in the mood to be tied up and punished.

The Cooch Club was nothing like I expected; I'd imagined a run-down, backstreet Coyote Ugly affair. In reality it had the appearance of an exclusive establishment, albeit one with a bloody awful name. I was familiar with the concept of “cooch”: a sideshow striptease performed at Twenties speakeasies and carnivals. A nasty little dance done on the cheap for some extra cash; I felt glad that Tatiana was above this now. A little degradation is good for us all, and Lord knows I’ve enjoyed my fair share, but I found it unsavoury to think of a horde of sleazy men leering at my Russian doll. 
Again, I was taken by surprise; the interior of the club appeared just as respectable as the exterior. White marble pillars, Grecian murals on the walls; my godly namesake would have felt right at home. But Tatiana assured me this was still the club's exterior; the real party lay beneath. Underground.
Roderick flashed his police badge to anyone who'd look until we finally caught the attention of someone who appeared to be the proprietor; a swarthy, bearded medallion man by the name of Helios.
We're here about Carl Van Der Wood,” Rod told him. Before he could say any more, Helios erupted in denials. 
Never heard of him,” he began, followed by; “he's not been here,” and finally; “he was fine last time I saw him.”
Of course...” Rod stepped closer to Helios, and I could hardly believe how he towered over the stout Greek; such presence! He didn't even have to say anything else, Helios dissolved into a panicky confession. I couldn't make much sense of it, but when Rod turned back to us, I knew he had the answer.
The culprit is downstairs,” he told us. “There's a member's area, Helios is going to take us there now – isn't that right, Helios?”
Y-yes,” he stammered in response. Anything for leniency at this point, I supposed.
And so Helios led us into the underworld of cooch; and I have never been so horrified and aroused in such equal measure.
It was a Caligulan orgy; bodies writhed and intertwined seamlessly, the only incongruity among the waves of flesh being the occasional strap of leather or glint of steel. 
Willy's cheeks flushed, and it came back to me how green he was to this world. Tatiana's only response was a single raised eyebrow, but what can one expect? She said she'd worked here, no doubt she'd seen revelry of this kind before.
Roderick stood on the shore of this sea of sex, and turned to Helios.
The killer?” He asked, and I'll be damned if the club owner didn't almost bow in deference to this copper!
Lucius,” he called out into the writhing throng, and added to us; “nobody here uses their real name.”
Shocker,” I said.
A head of dark hair arose from the mass of bodies, and “Lucius” made his way towards us. I couldn't help but be impressed and a little distracted by his roughly hewn jaw, taut muscles and tumescent cock. Believe me, I do not have a one-track mind, but this man looked like an unfinished statue, something raw and hot to the touch. 
It was only when he flicked his dark curls out of his eyes that I recognised him. 
Dominic Eyre.” I uttered his name as I would a curse. 
Hello, Adonis.” He smiled at me, a hateful but, shame me, beautiful thing to see.
Who is this?” Roderick asked, a question that I could see on the lips of both Willy and Tatiana as well.
This is the man who killed three people before I found him and handed him over to the law.” Dominic almost seemed proud of that fact as I voiced his sins to my friends and the roomful of rutting strangers.
I wouldn't call him a serial killer,” I continued, “just a deranged deviant who went too far. Three young men ended up in the morgue after spending the night with him. How on earth did you get out of prison?”
Never went,” Dominic said, smiling again. “Although the prospect of a castle full of men does sound appealing, I prefer the discipline to be on my terms. I had a very good lawyer.”
Ha! The system. I felt like spitting (something I neither practise nor preach).
I should have known it was you as soon as I saw the bruises on Van Der Wood's neck,” Roderick said. “But why leave the card with the body, if you wished to frame Adonis?”
Who said anything about framing? I just wanted to make sure he knew I was on the market. Did you like my gift, Adonis? I know you have a soft, or should I say hard spot for the wide-eyed, youthful type.” He fixed Willy with a perverse look, and my latent lust turned to anger.
You're crazy,” I said, “and at the risk of putting words in my friend's mouth, you're also under arrest.”
Damn fucking right he is,” Rod said, laying his handcuffs on the bastard. “And this time, the Van Der Woods will make sure you go to prison for a long, long time.”
It's your turn to be the bitch,” Willy offered, and I put my arm around him proudly. 
Good,” Dominic leered. “I told you, I like discipline. On my terms. My work wasn’t finished. Van Der Wood was my cherry on the cake.”
I hope it was worth it,” Roderick grunted into his ear as he man-handled him towards the stairs. “I doubt even a deviant like you will enjoy sleeping on prison issue sheets.”
Roderick dragged Dominic upstairs into the club and out to his car, none too gently either. Tatiana gravitated back up to the bar, leaving Willy and I alone together at the edge of the orgy that had continued regardless throughout the entire exchange. 
Asphyxiation,” Willy said thoughtfully, poor young Carl’s demise still clearly on his mind. “What a daft way to go.”
Oh I don't know...” I pulled him closer. “If I could pick any way to die, I wouldn't turn down the chance to be suffocated between your legs.”
Willy raised an eyebrow, mimicking Tatiana perfectly, and nodded towards the orgy.
Shall we?” He asked.
Why the heck not,” I said. “We've just caught a killer, I think we should celebrate!”
The End

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Rude Awakening: An Adonis Jones Mystery (Part One)

Don't you just hate it when you wake up with a nose-full of last night's blow? I prefer a glass of fresh orange juice and an espresso before my first bump of the day, thank you very much. But we don't always get what we want, I suppose. And as I was soon to learn on that glorious September morning, a much bigger mystery than how I slept with all that snow up my snout was about to come lunging my way. Crawling out of my four poster bed, I necked the glass of water on the nightstand and fished a spare aspirin from the tasty crevice of my navel. Willy was still sleeping off last night's ravishing, and I decided to leave him to it; he deserved a lie-in after everything I did to him!

It took me a while to stumble down from the bedroom to the kitchen, partially on account of the rather mansion-esque size of my home and also because of my hung-over zigzagging. It was only when I eventually reached the kitchen doorway that I came to realise two things:
Firstly, that the rather distracting thwick-thwack I'd heard all the way down the stairs originated from the fact that I'd forgotten to throw on my morning thong and kimono. Secondly, that there was what appeared to be a dead body sprawled rather decadently over my marble counter, legs akimbo, rigor mortis evident in every extremity. And I mean every extremity; much like Virginia Woolf's young Orlando at the debut of his adventures, there could be no mistake as to his sex. Sex... that reminded me of something.
Willy,” I called out in what has been described by many as a handsome baritone, “come and look at this.” Willy Wolfe, my partner in crime solving and most-time lover, appeared presently in the doorway beside me.
Cripes,” he said, and whistled. “What did we get up to last night?”
Sodomy, for the most part,” I replied, “but I don't recall any stiffs other than our own.”
Neither do I,” Willy's right hand instinctively went to my groin for comfort. “Well what do you suppose we do?” He asked after a moment's gentle squeezing.
Get the coffee on,” I suggested, “and then I imagine we'd best call the police.”
Willy nodded his agreement and filled the coffee pot with three scoops of breakfast blend. After a hot, stimulating cup, and some more furtive fumbling on the part of Willy, I felt up to making the call. While we waited for the law to arrive, my housekeeper Tatiana let herself in the back door and jumped straight into a bout of hysterics at the sight of the poor bugger straddling the toaster. I knew though, that her distress came not from being in the same room as a dead body (she was from the deadliest of Russian gangster stock, after all), but from the prospect of cleaning up after one.
I calmed her down with a sound slap and a hot cup of coffee, and shortly after she was her usual self, swearing in her mother tongue and smoking like a chimney. I don't doubt the shot of vodka I slipped in her coffee helped somewhat.
No sooner had we finished our beverages than the doorbell rang; Beethoven's V for Victory. Not today, old boy, I said to myself as Tatiana rushed to let the police officers in. And who should she lead back into the crime scene? None other than Roderick Sexton, my old rival from the days when I was in the force, not to mention my former bum-chum.
Long time no see, Don,” he grunted, casting a critical cop eye over the corpse on the counter, and an even darker glare over Willy's flawless, uncovered torso. “Obviously you've kept yourself busy.”
I'll say,” I shot back, wrapping a muscular arm around Willy's broad shoulders. “But the dead guy's nothing to do with me. He was there when I woke up.”
A likely story,” Roderick scribbled something in his knob-jockey notebook, then glanced at Tatiana. “I take it she's legal?”
Of age and she has a passport, if that's what you mean,” I said, tired of this already.
I can make you come and break your legs at same time.” Tatiana smiled sweetly. God bless her, she probably thought she was helping. Roderick evidently didn't know what to make of this exquisite creature, so he turned his attention to the corpse.
Do you know who this is?” He exclaimed after seconds of inspection. Willy, Tatiana and myself all shook our heads in unison.
It's Carl Van Der Wood,” Roderick said, as if it meant something. “Of the London Van Der Woods!”
That means nothing to me,” I told Roderick, to which Willy whispered Vienna” and the two of us giggled. I'm sure Tats would have joined us in a good old chortle at the copper's expense but the pun in all probability went over her head, bouncing off the Iron Curtain.
You don't seem to understand how serious this is,” Roderick fixed me with his stony eyes and my cock twitched at the memories. “The Van Der Woods are an incredibly wealthy, powerful family. If this is murder, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say it bloody well is, then somebody stands to gain a lot of money from his death.”
Cripes,” Willy uttered again.
Cripes indeed,” Roderick echoed, then turned to me. “It appears that whoever killed young Carl here had a view to framing you, Don. Someone with a heck of a grudge. And I wouldn't even like to start compiling a list of your enemies. Just your disgruntled ex-lovers take up half the Yellow Pages.” I smiled and nodded; a slight exaggeration, perhaps, but largely true.
Am I to be grateful,” I asked, “to not be a suspect, then?” 
You're not ruled out quite yet, but I doubt even you would be arrogant enough to kill the male Paris Hilton and expect to get away with it, let alone stupid enough to leave the body on your kitchen counter.”
Possibly the closest I'll ever get to a compliment from Roderick Sexton; it was almost enough to make me blush. Even back during the time when I was in him nightly, we'd never been on what you might call cordial terms.
Do we know how he died?” Willy asked, a pertinent question that brought my mind back from its erotic reverie to the situation at hand.
No blood or guts to speak of,” Roderick murmured, leaning in closer to examine the naked Van Der Wood. “Bruises on the throat, though, so strangulation at a guess.” He let out a low whistle at the sight of Carl's now defunct wedding tackle, and I silently agreed with him; such a pity, such a waste. 
Wait a minute,” Rod said after another moment, “what's this?” He slipped one hand into one of those rubber gloves (that took me back!) and extracted something from just underneath Carl Van Der Wood's bottom. A business card.
The Cooch Club,” he read aloud. “Never heard of it, have you?”
I danced there for while,” Tatiana said. “It is bad, bad place.”
I bet it is,” I turned to Willy. “Time to get dressed, Willy; we have work to do.”
This was definitely a case for Adonis Jones & Co.
To Be Continued...