Saturday, 31 March 2012

Harvest Your Copy Now!

If - like many thousands of readers that got an e-Reader this year - you haven't yet tried a Joe Hunter book , then now's a good time to grab DEAD MEN'S HARVEST while it's at the amazingly low price of only £1.99 at

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol 1 update

Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol 1 has its own Facebook page. Please nip on over and 'like' it to hear all the up to the minute news on the progress of this exciting project.

I will share cover images (already some draft covers included to look at) and will announce contributors as they are accepted. Some exciting news about some 'names' who have already agreed to come on board to follow.

In the meantime here's one draft cover image for your perusal:

...and here's a link to submission guidelines if you'd like to give it a go.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Lily Childs Unleashes her Cabaret of Dread

At last, Lily Childs' CABARET OF DREAD: A HORROR COMPENDIUM, VOL 1 is on Amazon's virtual shelves, all ready to be downloaded, tagged and 'Liked'. 

Any help in spreading the word will make Lily a happy, and grateful writer. She would LOVE to know what you think, and would also appreciate any reviews beyond words. Lily thanks you dear friends!

To buy, or download a sample: for US/Canadian readers and for Brit horror fans.

Product Description:

A terrifying collection of short horror stories by dark fiction author Lily Childs. These forty-three offerings comprise eleven long tales, including the previously unpublished:

- SMILING CYRUS - dancing dolls of death in your attic
- IN ADORATION - demonic rebirth, revenge and new skin
- STARING AT THE PINK - when the dead don't let go

Studded and stitched together by shorter pieces and tiny 100-word drabbles this first volume of Cabaret of Dread ends with:

- THE INFANTA TRIPTYCH - living, dying art - breathing, pulsing... ancient.
"Extreme vampire horror."

Words spill from the babbling mouths of demons and murderers throughout Cabaret of Dread, combining fear and even humour as the reader encounters serial killers and ghosts, historical entities and psychopaths, not to mention a scuttling vampire or two.

Cabaret of Dread is extreme horror FOR ADULTS ONLY. Ethereal and spiritual elements battle with the visceral and the insane; lustful adoration dallies with laboured, lingering death. The Cabaret will shock, it may well offend. But it is beautiful – at least in the author’s mind - and that’s where the darkness lies.

Praise for Cabaret of Dread

"Having read almost every story written by Lily Childs, I can confidently say that Britain has a new Queen of Dark Fiction. The prose crawl off the pages, down your spine, then drag you into the darkness." - Col Bury, Crime Editor at Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers ezine

"Lily Childs is a unique voice in horror fiction, both terrible and unsettling in its power, as darkly poetic as Poe, as gut-wrenching as Clive Barker. I'm a fan." Matt Hilton, author of the Joe Hunter thrillers.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Submissions Request

So here’s a project I have in mind, and am opening the door to submissions very soon – see final line of this message.

Does anyone have any familiarity with the 1970s ‘action books’ typified by Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan: The Executioner, or Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s Remo Williams: The Destroyer? Do you remember the UK homegrown westerns by the Piccadilly Cowboys, exemplified by George G Gillman’s Edge, Adam Steele, or The Undertaker? Have you any memory of barbarian swordsmen like Lin Carter’s Thongor, or Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane? Or even the Kung Fu boom, where we had books like Marshall Macao’s K’Ing Kung Fu: Son of the Flying Tiger?

Those were the days when heroes were heroes and the action was furious and full-blooded. Often as not, the hero was quite the opposite: an anti-hero. But he needed to be, to bring the kind of violent justice to villains worse than him. Political correctness took a back seat, even as the bullets and karate chops were flying. Basically it was good old harmless fun. It was a case of disengaging your moral compass and getting down with the hero as they took on all comers, and they did it with balletic grace and uncompromising violence. Gratuitous? Yes. Realistic? No. Great fun? You betcha!!!

So here’s what I’m planning on doing:

I want to bring back the good old days…but with a contemporary twist.

I’m looking to put together an ebook anthology of short fiction ‘based’ on those old style stories. However, what I’m not looking for is stories set in the 1970s, where men wore big moustaches and women were wallflowers to be rescued. No. I’m looking for a fresh slant on that style of books, set whenever and wherever you please, but the emphasis must be on ACTION and PACE. Your ‘hero’ can be male or female, or a group of people. You can set your story now, or in the past (no future stories, OK), and can set it in any genre you please. Go vigilante, go assassin, go cop, go soldier, go adventurer, go gunslinger, go swordsman, go pirate, go highwayman, go all kung fu if you like. But do the do and make it big and brash and exciting. Make it slightly over the top. Splash your story with gore or with the tang of cordite, and get pulses racing. Think Hollywood summer blockbuster!

Now here’s the deal.

Submissions should be emailed to with the word ‘ACTION’ in the subject line.

Attach your story as a Doc. Or Docx. File.

In the body of your email include up to a 150 words bio (to appear in the book). Also include the title, word count and very brief description of your story (i.e. this is a western starring a gunslinger called Tombstone)

Your document should be double-line spaced in 14 point Times New Roman or Arial font, left flush (not justified), no space between paragraphs.  Use a hard return to denote chapter breaks. Your title should be on the first page, along with the name you write under and how you wish it to appear in any credits.

I will accept reprints where stories have appeared on blog or webzine sites, but only where you the author retain full rights to offer the work. Please list where your story has appeared previously, for purposes of crediting. Original, unpublished work is preferred.

I expect a high influx of submissions. Submission does not guarantee publication. I will be looking to include only the best of the best for inclusion, and my decision is final. I reserve the right to first time publication, but the author retains all copyright beyond this edition and can re-issue their story as they wish following publication.

I will include in the anthology a foreword, and short story, and will edit, format and design the ebook, as well as produce a professional cover. It will be published under the banner of Sempre Vigile Press, under the (working) title ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales (Volume 1).

So what do you get out of this?

You get to be included in an anthology alongside both established and aspiring authors. You get to broaden your readership, and build on your platform. You get exposure to readers you might not have come across otherwise.

But there is more.

Successful submissions will receive a one off payment. Yes, you heard it. I intend paying you for your work. It’s not a massive amount, but think of it as an extra little bonus on top of the other benefits.

Stories up to 2,000 words (give or take 100 words)  = £5.00 (or equivalent)

Stories up to 3,000 words (give or take 100 words) = £10.00 (or equivalent)

Stories up to 4,000 words (give or take 100 words) = £15.00 (or equivalent)

Stories up to 5,000 words = £20.00 (or equivalent)

Sorry, but no stories beyond the 5,000 word limit will be accepted.

Submissions are open now until midnight 30th April 2012.  Acceptance notification will be made by return email. If you are unsuccessful, please take my decision as final as I will not enter into discussion as to why your story was not chosen.  

Good luck

For an idea of just what I'm looking for take a squint at the story below featuring Dirk Ramm. (There's also a handy link from the sidebar)

In addition, this is notice that I will be sending personal invites to certain authors, to raise the 'name' value of the book. You're going to be in good company.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Hard Boiled Collective: Redemption by Jochem Vanderstein

REDEMPTION - a Noah Milano novelette
Twenty years ago he tortured and killed a young boy. Now he is out of prison, ready to find redemption confronting the victim's parents.
He hires Noah Milano, security specialist and son of LA's biggest mobster to protect him. 
When the unexpected happens it's up to Noah Milano to do what he thinks is right and make sure justice is done.
Praise for Noah Milano and Jochem Vandersteen:

Jeremiah Healy, author of TURNABOUT and THE ONLY GOOD LAWYER: "J. Vandersteen takes us back to the glory days of pulp fiction. And I mean the genre, NOT the movie. His Noah Milano character rings completely true as a tough, lone-wolf private."
Wayne D. Dundee - author of the Joe Hannibal series: The difference is mainly in the character of Noah Milano himself, a man struggling both internally and externally to break free from his "Family" ties and to walk his own path toward what he deems Right and Just. This is good stuff. Read and enjoy."
Les Roberts, author of the Milan Jacovich series: "Noah Milano is all too human, which makes him more appealing."
"Terrific stuff.'' - Lori G. Armstrong, author of Snowblind
'Noah Milano walks in the footsteps of the great P.I,.'s, but leaves his own tracks." - Robert J. Randisi, founder of PWA and The Shamus Award
Jochem's deep and abiding love for classic pulp fiction comes through on every page, and his stories continue the time-honored tradition of the hardboiled American PI." -Sean Chercover, author of Trigger City.
''The writing is fresh and vivid and lively, paying homage to the past while standing squarely in the present." -James W. Hall, author of Silencer.
''Great pop sensibility with a nod to the classic L.A. PIs.'' - David Levien, author 13 Million Dollar Pop

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Satisfaction Guaranteed: A Dirk Ramm story

Occasionally my detractors have made snide remarks about my writing style, saying that it verges on pulp fiction, or is akin to the action men adventure books of the 1970s and early 1980s. hell yeah, I say in reply. I loved reading those books, and they did indeed inspire me somewhat to write the Joe Hunter books. It also got me thinking, and I thought, why not? So I followed my urge to pen my own little homage to heroes like Remo Williams, Mack Bolan and Nick Carter. 

So, for your delectation, I present (with tongue firmly in cheek, and innuendoes at full throttle) Dirk - The Battering Ram - Ramm, and his sheath of steel in:


Dirk Ramm guided the speedboat across a sea as flat and grey as a steel sheet. He’d cut the outboard motor beyond the twin horns of the bay, using a paddle to bring the boat to shore silently. A broad swathe of sand stretched before him, barely marked by the footprints of those that patrolled the grounds further up the incline. The armed guards concentrated their time searching the forest either side of the big house, doubting anyone would be stupid enough to be as open in their approach as Ramm.
            Ramm wasn’t stupid, though he was all for straightforward action. Still, he’d been thoughtful enough to cut the engine so that he wouldn’t raise the alarm too soon. Fishermen plied their trade out beyond the rocky promontories that sheltered the bay from the storms that frequently tore through the islands off Long Island Sound. His engine noise would have been assumed to be that of a fishing boat returning home with full nets.
            He brought the boat to a halt, jamming his paddle into the sand. The boat listed to one side. He jumped from the prow, landing cat-footed. He immediately went to a crouch, using all his senses to check for observers. In one hand he held his trusty firearm – a Makarov he’d taken from a Spetsnaz killer in the Balkans. The gun had proven to be a faithful companion for years and he preferred the gun to the newer more fashionable models sported by his contemporaries. The gun’s holster was nestled on his hip, alongside a sheath that carried his second weapon of choice – a razor sharp Tanto knife. Those were his only items of equipment, and the only items to break the matte black of the sweatshirt and combat trousers he wore tucked into military issue boots.
            There was no shout of challenge.
            Coming to his full height of six feet and two inches of wiry muscle, Ramm went up the beach as fleetingly as the shadows cast by clouds scudding past the doleful eye of the moon. He moved with the grace of a dancer, but never had the choreograph of dance carried such menace. The forest was a ragged barrier, but through the foliage he could make out the lights in the big house. Behind one of the windows he hoped to find Missy Dolan, and the bastard who’d snatched her. God help anyone who stood between them and Ramm.
            He thought about how he’d promised Missy that he’d protect her, that she need fear no man while with him. At the time she’d been lying with her head on his naked chest, the two of them slick from the exertion of lovemaking. His thoughts turned sour when he thought of Brandon Gitchsler, and how the punk mobster had snatched Missy from Ramm’s bed. The place where Missy should have felt at her safest had proven both of them wrong. Damn it, if he hadn’t stolen out early to fetch carryout breakfast and coffee from Jimmy’s Diner, then Missy wouldn’t be in this predicament now. Ramm was a man who didn’t keep his cupboards or fridge stocked: he was never home long enough to build up supplies the way ordinary people did. On his return to his apartment, he’d expected to find Missy in the shower, had entertained thoughts of joining her there for another energetic bout of sex, but his ardor and hopes had deflated when seeing that the door lock had been kicked loose from the frame. He’d immediately set aside their breakfast, and under cover of a fold of his leather coat had drawn his Makarov, the unique action of the downward holster draw meaning the slide racked and placed a round in the breach: ready for action. Anticipating trouble, he’d entered the apartment the way he always faced danger, head-on and with a killing haze buzzing in his skull. He’d found only damp sheets where his lover had lain so recently before. Missy, for all she was a headstrong dame, and never one to commit exclusively to any one man, wasn’t the type to run out on him like this. She certainly wasn’t the type to leave a size ten footprint on his front door as a parting kiss. It didn’t take much figuring who was responsible for snatching Missy: she’d told Ramm all about Gitschler’s claim that no woman had ever walked away from him and lived.
            Now, Ramm moved for the trees swearing that if he was too late to save her, then Gitchsler would be sorry he’d ever laid eyes on Missy Dolan, because Ramm’s Makarov would tattoo her name on his forehead. The Tanto he’d used to spay the motherfucker.
            The foliage closed in around him, and Ramm stooped so that he didn’t disturb the low-hanging leaves. Insect sounds went on unabated as he padded through the woods, undisturbed by the alien presence of the silent killer in their midst: perhaps the chitinous things were used to armed men prowling through their domain.
            A radio crackled nearby.
            His first instinct was to hold his breath but Ramm didn’t. Training overtook instinct, and instead he continued breathing shallowly, his mouth making a hollow oval allowing the keenness of his hearing to be untroubled by the internal thrum of his organs.
            A guttural voice whispered a response. Ramm recognised the language if not the words spoken. Russian. It made sense that Gitchsler should surround himself by thugs from his homeland, because Brandon Gitchsler was an assumed identity for Leonid Dzerzhinsky, once a feared officer of the KGB, and later an even more fearsome name among the post-Glasnost Russian Mafia. Tales concerning Dzerzhinsky’s legendary cruelty held no fear for Ramm: he carried a few legendary tales of his own, and more than ninety per cent of them were true.
            Creeping forward, to hide in the lea of a large tree trunk, Ramm surveyed the area before him. The Russian who’d responded to the radio message stood ten feet away. He was the clichéd Russian bear, a huge man, whose shoulders and chest stretched the leather of his long black coat. His head was square, with a severe buzz cut topping heavy brows in which cold grey eyes twinkled. Ramm checked out the man’s hands. They were calloused, and massive: the favoured weapons of a killer who preferred to stare into the face of those he throttled to death. Slung over the man’s left shoulder was an AK47 assault rifle, but it was as if the gun was simply an adornment the guard was forced to wear.
            Ramm was his equal in height, if not in girth. But where the Russian held the upper hand in raw power Ramm held it in nerve and in righteous fury. Ramm moved on the guard. The big man was not the ox he first appeared. He pivoted at the sound of Ramm’s boots scuffing earth, and unsurprised at the man charging towards him, he opened his arms in greeting. He didn’t strike a wrestler’s pose, but made knives of both huge hands, grinning at the prospect of violence.
            The guard’s left hand scythed the air.
            Ramm ducked the solid edge of the hand, felt the wind that was displaced by the massive forearm behind it, and he swung with the barrel of his gun to check the follow up blow that came at his throat. The big man continued to move forward behind his blows, and he came chest to chest with Ramm. Taking a lead from his bestial namesake, Ramm butted his forehead into the man’s face and felt the squish of breaking nose cartilage. Such a blow would slow – if not totally disable - most men, but the big Russian seemed unfazed. He merely spat the blood out that streamed into his mouth, half-blinding Ramm. Then the killer’s knife hands jammed at Ramm’s torso. Ramm managed to knock an arm aside, but one stiffened set of fingers stabbed him in the gut, and it was almost as if he’d been speared by a lance.  He exhaled harshly, but only in anger. Then, using the Makarov as a bludgeon he cut an arc through the air that ended on the Russian’s skull. The raised sight on the barrel tore a furrow through the buzz cut, while the barrel itself landed with brunt force trauma. The Russian’s knees lost some of their bounce. Ramm disengaged, took a step to one side and delivered a roundhouse kick to the man’s testicles. As the man folded further over, Ramm holstered his Makarov, then plucked the AK47 off the brute’s shoulder, reversed the butt and slammed it repeatedly against the nape of his bull neck. The man fell prone in the dirt: he wouldn’t be getting up again.
            Ramm cast away the AK, plucked the radio and earpiece from the corpse and then moved on. The Russian was the first to die tonight, he told himself, more would follow. He fed the earpiece into his left ear, listening for clues of where he might find Missy or Gitchsler. The radio at that time was silent.
            Ahead, a trail wound through woodland, and he could see some sort of hut straddling the path about fifty yards in front. He padded along the trail. A word was spoken in his earpiece. It came too quickly to translate, but its tone told him enough to throw himself aside. Tracer rounds burned the air where he’d been a second before, and screaming projectiles tore the foliage to shreds around him. Ramm tucked and rolled, came to one knee, and in the same motion his hand found the Makarov and brought it up. He fired twice, the two rounds coming in such close procession that it sounded like a single crack. The shooter in the hut let out a cry, and his shots went skyward as he fell back into the darkness. Ramm thought the man dead – or severely wounded at least – but made sure. He rushed for the hut, vaulted through the open window and fired two more bullets into the prone figure on the floor, all before the man’s cry had stopped echoing between the trees.
            Gitchsler had many enemies. His normal routine would be to surround himself with armed guards. But it was apparent that the security levels had been raised. When Gitchsler’s people had come for Missy, it was with prior knowledge of whom she’d sought protection from. If the Russian mobster had checked him out, then he’d have learned that Ramm wasn’t the kind who’d let things lie. He’d mounted a defence in full expectation of violent retaliation. Proof of that was the way in which his men were primed for assault, and by the heavy artillery they’d brought to the fight. Unlike he had with the first guard’s AK, Ramm picked up this one’s gun, a Heckler and Koch MP5, a weapon he was more familiar with. He grabbed spare clips of ammunition from the dead man’s coat pocket, then was out of the hut and running through the woods before anyone could corner him.
            The big house loomed large in a clearing in the woods. Manicured lawns, topiary, fountains, the business. Beautiful in their way, but all that Ramm recognised the decorations as were barricades he could use as he approached the house. If Gitchsler had any sense he’d have had the woods felled, the grounds laid to gravel and given no cover to an invader. Ramm sprinted for a fountain, and crouched down behind the granite bowl, placing a statue of water-spraying nymphs between him and the gunman that opened up from a parapet on the roofline. Stinging shards of granite spritzed the air around him, buckled and spent bullets whining off into the topiary hedges nearby. Ramm waited a pause, then shouldered the MP5, and came out shooting. He didn’t go sideways, where was the sense in that? He made progress. Ever forward, that was his motto. He fired as he rushed fearlessly for the front of the house, forcing the man on the roofline to seek cover. Another man appeared to his right and Ramm cut him down without remorse. Blood hung in the air like a mist after the man had fallen.
            The huge door of the house felt the impact of Ramm’s size twelve’s, and it swung inward and slammed against the supporting wall. Ramm sprayed the interior with the MP5 on full-auto. Men who’d been kneeling in the hall, in anticipation of launching an ambush were cut to shreds. He snapped in a fresh clip of ammo, slapped the bolt to charge the gun and entered as he fired another volley of rounds. Voices called from the back of the house, and were played in stereo by the earpiece. He pulled the radio loose and threw it away now it was of no use to him. A man appeared, tall, skinny, pale eyed: Ramm put him down with a selected shot to the throat.
            Another two gunmen were partway up a staircase. The stairwell was opulent, looking like something out of Gone With The Wind. Ramm frankly didn’t give a damn. He tore the stairs, the oak bannisters and the two gunmen to pieces with a sustained burst of gunfire. The MP5 ran dry. He threw it aside. Brought out his Makarov. It was apt in his mind that the Russian gun should slay the Russian mobster.
            He’d lost count of the number of Russian mobsters he’d killed. Didn’t really matter. So far as he was concerned he’d keep on killing until there was no more Russian mobsters left in the world. It was the Russian Mafia who’d murdered his parents and younger brother five years earlier, and Ramm had been seeking those responsible ever since. For all he knew any of the men who lay in tatters at his feet could have been among the hitters who’d indiscriminately murdered his loved ones, as well as the other twenty-three tourists on the coach they’d shot to pieces. Reputedly Moscow was safe for tourists, and it had been sheer misfortune that saw the tour bus drive into the middle of a gang war having taken a wrong turn for St Peter’s Square. Ramm thought otherwise, and that the coach had been specifically targeted when it was learned that his folks were on board. Ramm, five years ago, had gone by another name – Codename Battering Ram – and he’d been the most feared guided weapon in the CIAs arsenal. Following the murder of his family, and the subsequent Burn Notice handed down by his former masters, Ramm had taken war to the Russian Mafia in his own inimitable way. Notwithstanding her current predicament, he wouldn’t have ignored Missy Dolan’s plight even if the Russian Mob hadn’t been involved, but he had to admit that it made this fight all the more personal.
            From above Ramm heard a scream. It wasn’t the shout of another of Gitchsler’s men coming to the fight. It was female, and a voice he recognised. When Missy had shared his bed she’d called out similarly, though at the time her voice had been throaty and less tinged with pain.
            He took the stairs three at a time.
            A burly man appeared from a doorway to his left, holding a large machete. He was as big as the first thug Ramm had killed tonight, but his skin glistened as darkly as the first man’s was pale. He was an unusual man to be in cahoots with the Red Mafia. Perhaps he’s one of those Black Russians he’d heard about, Ramm thought whimsically as he placed a round in the black guy’s forehead. He gave the dead man little notice as he tumbled over the banister and down the stairs.
            At the head of the staircase was a wide landing, and at its centre a huge double set of doors. From beyond the huge portal came the yelp of Missy Dolan once more. Also Ramm could hear the bark of Gitchsler, and the corresponding replies of a gathering of men. He was under no illusions here: he’d been drawn to this place, Missy being the bait. But it had always occurred to Ramm that, once his identity had been discovered, this was as much about drawing him into a trap as anything else, rather than it was Gitchsler simpler getting his main squeeze back. He wondered who was waiting for him behind those doors. Not nickel and dime punks like those who’d been sacrificed already, he bet.
            Ever forward, he told himself.
            But not by the direct route.
            Going through those doors was tantamount to instant death.
            He checked and saw another door to the extreme left and he went through that way instead, finding himself in a narrow stairwell that should take him to the roof. He recalled that there was a gunman up there. So what, he decided, last place anyone would expect him was up there. He went up the stairs and pushed out onto a balustrade that ran the length of the side façade of the big house. Crouching near the front corner was the rifleman who’d tried to kill him out by the fountain. The guy didn’t see or hear death coming for him. Ramm shot him in the back of the skull. Then he checked for what was a feature of this style of steepled roof: an access hatch into the attic space. He discovered it at the back of the house and went inside.  The attic was jet-black darkness and the footing precarious, as he would be traversing beams. Walking along the balustrade from front to back after killing the shooter, he’d counted his steps. He now stepped out three quarters of the same number along the central wooden beam. He checked his Makarov, held it close to his side, even as, with his other hand he eased out his Tanto blade. Then he took a jump to one side, snapped both heels together and plummeted through the fragile ceiling of the room where his enemies had gathered.
            His surprise entrance was both noisy, and disconcerting. While he bent his knees to absorb the fall of more than fifteen feet, his gun was already on its way up and he capped two shooters with their eyes screwed shut against the fall of plaster and dust. He pivoted, shot another man, then another. The rubble he’d knocked loose hadn’t even finished clattering to the hardwood floor before four men beat it to it. Shouts rang out; Ramm remained silent. His Makarov spoke for him. It barked once, twice, three times, and another trio of would be killers had the tables turned on them.
            Ramm moved.
            The initial surprise appearance was spent and guns began tracking him.
            Ramm counted figures.
            Eight still living: one of them Missy.
            A round hit him in the chest.
            Ramm staggered, but fired back, and his attempted killer fell with a gaping wound in his skull.
            Two men to his left, two to the right. They opened up, their handguns belching death. Sadly their target was no longer in their bullets’ trajectories because Ramm had tucked and rolled again. Crossfire took out a man to each side before those still living realised their error. By then it was too late for the man on the right. Ramm fired on him, took out his left knee, and as the guy crumpled in agony, Ramm put another round in his bean. That only left one of the original four standing, but Ramm was quick to charge in, taking another solid punch of lead into his chest on the way. The guy should have aimed higher, because his heart shots didn’t stop Ramm, only left him open to a swipe of the Tanto across his throat. Blood fanned the air around him. Ramm grabbed the dying man by his gun arm and twisted with him, placing the body between him and the other bullets seeking his life. Ramm felt the impact of half a dozen bullets in his human shield, even as he sucked in oxygen to shake off the wounds he’d taken.
            Dust still billowed in the room.
            More plaster fell from above, jagged lumps that thudded on the hardwood floor. In the moving dust clouds Ramm checked for his remaining three enemies. One suited and booted guy was crouching behind a plush couch, his silver hair bobbing up and down as he shouted orders. The silver crown belonged to Brandon Gitchsler and Ramm was tempted to put an extra splash of colour in it with a well-placed bullet, but he resisted the temptation: he wanted Gitchsler for last. The final two hitters had concluded that their sharp shooting skills weren’t as good as they hoped. They’d figured it out that Ramm was wearing a ballistic vest of some kind beneath his sweatshirt, and that they were wasting their time shooting at centre mass. They didn’t know that Ramm was wearing an experimental Israeli nanocomposite anti ballistic/stab suit beneath his entire clothing, and that bullets to his legs wouldn’t stop him either. They wasted a few seconds figuring that out too.
            Ramm fired over the corpse’s shoulder, taking out one of the men. Then it happened: the dead man’s click. The slide on his gun locked open as his ammunition ran dry.
            Ramm threw aside the now shattered human shield, and re-holstered his Makarov. The dead man’s gun was on the floor at his feet, but to bend for it would place Ramm’s unguarded skull firmly in the shooter’s sights. He gripped his Tanto and leapt for the man. The mobster wasted what little opportunity he had left in firing his gun at Ramm’s head. But the target was too elusive, the bullets missing entirely or whacking off Ramm’s Burly shoulders. By the time the gunman changed tactics and kicked out at Ramm, it was too late. Ramm’s blade danced in and out, slicing the tendons at the back of the thug’s knees, then as he collapsed like a clipped puppet, ended in the juncture of throat and breastbone. During Ramm’s vicious assault, he’d snatched the gunman’s pistol out of his dying fingers. He turned it on Gitchsler as the mob boss stood up, showing placating palms.
            ‘Don’t shoot, Ramm. I’m unarmed.’
            ‘Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t.’
            ‘Because I’m not your real enemy here.’
            ‘What are you talking about, punk? You kidnapped Missy. Laid this trap for me. Now you’re trying to tell me it’s all been some big mistake?’
            ‘No,’ Gitchsler said. ‘None of this was a mistake. It was indeed a plot to draw you here and kill you. There’s a rather large bounty on your head. But I wasn’t the one who wanted to claim it.’
            Ramm frowned at the man’s words. If not Gitchsler, then who?
            ‘It was me,’ Missy Dolan said from behind him as she brought down a heavy vase on Ramm’s head.
            Stunned by the blow, Ramm staggered. Missy followed quickly, tripping him with one of her finely turned ankles. He sprawled on the floor in a billow of dust and plaster particles. Gitchsler bounded at him, stamping down on his gun hand and pinning it to the floor. Missy snatched the Tanto out of the throat of the nearby corpse and placed it against the nape of Ramm’s neck.
            ‘Fight me,’ she warned, ‘and I’ll do worse than kill you. I will insert this blade between your vertebra and leave you a cripple from the neck down.’
            ‘Damnit, Missy, what’s this all about? You telling me you played me like a fool and set all this in motion? For what…Money?’
            ‘The money means nothing to me, Ramm. I am only interested in satisfaction.’
            ‘I gave you more satisfaction than this old man could, I bet,’ Ramm growled.
            ‘Is that all you think about? Sex?’
            ‘With you, Missy? No. There was more than the great sex, I actually thought I liked you too.’
            ‘Liked me, ha! Was that your big dream, Ramm? That we’d fall in love, live happily ever after? Did you really think I could love a man like you?’ Missy sneered. ‘You are a fool and an egotist to boot. I was just playing a part.’
            ‘So that wasn’t my name you were whispering during the throes of passion, you were just giving me instruction?’
            ‘Your ego is about the most inflated thing about you, Ramm. Now shut up and listen to me. It’s as I said: I want satisfaction.’
            Missy stood up relaxing the blade from his nape, but it was only a split-second before Gitchsler had the gun out of his hand and aimed at his skull.
            ‘Turn over on your back, but keep your hands where I can see them,’ Gitchsler warned.
            Ramm rolled over.
            He folded his hands over his abdomen. Prone, as he was, it was evident how many bullets had struck him from the number of charred holes in his sweatshirt and the strands of faux spider silk padding sticking out of them. The super tensile silk, and the nano-gel inserts beneath, had halted all the bullets. They had stopped the murderous projectiles if not the pounds per inch impacts and, beneath his suit, Ramm knew he’d be black and blue from neck to navel. The pain of his bruises would follow soon, if he was allowed to live that long.
            Gitchsler grinned down at him.
            ‘To think that some of the Red Mafia’s best have failed to stop you, and all it took to bring down the dreaded Battering Ram was to lay a honey trap.’
            Ramm ignored the mob boss’s taunting, looking instead at Missy. She mugged at him, hands at her throat, letting out a pealing scream the likes of which drew him to this room.
            ‘That was always your weakness, Ramm. Never could turn down a damsel in distress, could you?’ she said.
            ‘Actually, I don’t see it as a weakness,’ Ramm said. ‘In my book it’s a virtue.’
            ‘Yes, but when was that book written…the goddamn Victorian era?’
            Ramm smiled at her misplaced humour.
            ‘You know something, Missy. You’re even more beautiful like this. A little anger in your eyes, instead of the tears you used to suck me in to your trap.’
            She snorted at him.
            Ramm wasn’t telling lies. He did indeed believe she looked incredibly beautiful. But then Ramm always found serpents beautiful too, and he was under no illusion that she was as deadly as a nest of rattlesnakes.
            ‘What’s your real name, Missy?’
            Missy balanced the hilt of his Tanto in her left palm as she teased the diamond tip with a well manicured fingernail. ‘So you’re not as dumb as you look. You’ve figured it out, eh?’
            ‘You said you wanted satisfaction,’ Ramm explained. ‘If you weren’t talking about in the sack, then that leaves only one other thing: Revenge.’
            She flipped the blade, caught the hilt in her left hand, tossed it to the right, the blade projecting below her fist. She knew how to handle his weapon, Ramm noted. But that, he now understood, was always a given.
            ‘Missy Dolan. I get it now: You’re Mizinovskaia Dolohova? Daughter of Petrov Dolohov?’
            ‘The same Petrov Dolohov that you murdered, Ramm,’ she reminded him.
            He had no excuse. He had indeed murdered her father, albeit as payback for the murder of his own parents and brother.
            ‘You did not recognise me when I came to you like this.’ Missy ran a languid hand down her voluptuous body. ‘Not surprisingly, I suppose. I was only fifteen years old the last time you laid eyes on me. Aah, I see now that you remember. Yes, I was that plain looking child, yet to flourish into full womanhood, when you left me crying over the body of my dead father. I swore then that one day I would have the satisfaction of seeing you lying dead at my feet.’
            ‘And now that the time has come, does it give you the sense of justice you thought it would?’ Ramm asked.
            Missy eyelids flickered momentarily.
            ‘And yet you haven’t got it in you to kill me when you have the chance,’ he said. ‘As you did not when I lay asleep in your arms last night. You could have as easily took my knife then and cut my throat. I don’t think you know exactly what you want from me, Missy.’
            ‘Don’t flatter yourself,’ she said. Her gaze flicked to Gitchsler. ‘Do it, Leonid. Shoot him dead.’
            Gitchsler – or Leonid Dzerzhinsky – took a look around at the devastation that Ramm had wrought upon both his home and his personal army, and he smiled in satisfaction. ‘Gladly,’ he crowed.
            He pointed the gun at Ramm’s head, pulled the trigger and the gun bucked in his hand.
            Ramm didn’t die. Not because his skull was bulletproofed, but that he’d jerked to one side at the very last moment and the bullet only punched through floorboards. Jerking back again, Ramm’s one hand came away from where he’d unsnapped the buckle on his belt, while the other held a grip on the leather. As he continued to roll to one side, he unfurled the belt, swinging it up and out at Gitchsler. The holster and Makarov wedged into it smacked painfully against Gitchsler’s extended hand, knocking the gun aside, as Ramm smartly bounded to his feet. Before Gitchsler could take another shot, Ramm swung the belt and its load at his face, smashing teeth and jaw into pulp. Ramm had promised himself he would use the Makarov to kill the mobster, and that’s exactly as he intended now. He snatched the gun out of the holster, and drove the barrel deep between Gitchsler’s sagging jaws, directly through the soft palate and into his brain. The Russian mobster’s eyes crossed, then Ramm twisted the gun in his grip, stirring the grey matter with the extended sights on the tip of the barrel. As Gitchsler slipped dead to the floor, Ramm withdrew the gore-drenched gun and turned to face Missy.
            He thought her beautiful before.
            Now her face was twisted with the ugly light of murder.
            She shrieked like a wild cat and came at him, the glinting Tanto stabbing at his face.
            Ramm sidestepped her lunge, and as she had with him earlier, he stuck out a foot and tripped her. Instead of going face down on the floor, Missy floundered to keep her balance, but her heels skidded on the hardwood floor and she couldn’t halt herself. She pitched headfirst directly into one of the large floor to ceiling windows that Ramm had earlier wondered if he’d find her behind. The glass shattered, erupted outwards, and Missy flew into space, screaming. Ramm had noted on his way in the mobster’s lack of security arrangements concerning his grounds, and he knew now that Gitchsler had also been lacking when it came to shoring up his house. Some bulletproof glass would have stopped her plunge, saving Missy a smashed skull after falling thirty feet to the hard ground.
            Ramm stood at the shattered window, staring down at the dead woman.
            Shame, he thought, because he really had liked her.
            No regrets, he told himself. Missy had been the daughter of a Russian mob boss. Judging by the apparent power she’d held over Gitchsler, she herself had rated highly in the hierarchy, and his enemy.
            Ramm picked up Gitschler’s discarded weapon.
            There were still Russian mobsters alive in the house and grounds.
            He wasn’t going to be finished until he’d killed every last one of them.
            Now that the parameters of this night’s mission had altered, their deaths would be Ramm’s only guaranteed form of satisfaction.

Copyright Matt Hilton 2012

Hard Boiled Collective : Timothy Hallinan's The Bone Polisher

2011 Edgar and Macavity nominee Timothy Hallinan's sixth and final novel featuring erudite Los Angeles private eye Simeon Grist takes place in the West Hollywood of 1995, where the community is shaken by the brutal killing of an older man who was widely loved for his generosity and kindness. In a time when the police were largely indifferent to crimes against gay people, Simeon is hired to catch the murderer—and finds himself up against the most dangerous adversary of his career, a man who kills his victims not once, but twice: once physically and once in spirit. The story's climax takes place at a memorable Halloween-themed wake, but there's a big plot twist yet to come.

BOOKLIST said, "Do yourself a favor and read it!"

MOSTLY MURDER called it, "Creepy and screamingly funny." 

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Dead Zone

It has been a funny old time for me lately, where life has impeded much more on my writing time than it has in the past couple of years. As a result, writing the latest in the Joe Hunter saga (No 10 working title: The Lawless Kind) felt different than when penning the previous books in the series. Anyone who knows me probably know also that I like to write from the seat of my pants and rip into the book with gusto. However, with life and all its little problems and connotations getting in the way, I wrote JH10 in fits and starts. I was grabbing time here and there, writing half a chapter here, half a chapter there, then a few days would go by, then another half a chapter and so on. It reminded me very much of what it was like when I was holding down a 'proper job' and only got to write during brief periods as and when I could. To be honest, it wasn't a nice feeling. But anyhow, that besides, the book is now finished and delivered to my editor, and initial reports are good indeed.

But now I'm at that shaky place authors sometimes find themselves, where they don't know what to get on with next. In truth, I'm well ahead of the game with my Hunter books, but don't want to wallow and prefer to get on with the next. However I also have some other projects in mind that I'd like to get out of my system.

My editor, with good intentions, suggested i should take a few moths off from writing and enjoy myself for a change. Good advice. Except I get my enjoyment from writing. No: I must write. I'm going to start throwing around a few ideas and see which one grabs me most. Don't know yet what it will be, but at heart I'm a thriller writer, so I bet my leanings go that-away.