Author Archives: RuddersWriting

The Karen Carter series – review

US Amazon link: The Karen Carter series – by R.E. Sargent

Series summary:

For any brave soul who has put a short story or novel into the public domain for public scrutiny, they’ll well know that feeling of fear-filled excitement as they wait for the reviews to roll in – will their work be met with universal acclaim or be cursed by voices of condemnation, the dreaded 1-star reviews? Now, most authors when confronted by a scathing 1-star review will, quite sensibly, shrug it off and put it out of their mind. Sometimes of course, the review might be so unjustified the author feels compelled to reply online (this rarely turns out well!). But what if the author truly doesn’t take kindly to public criticism and possesses some dubious means by which to confront their reviewer in the real world? The Karen Carter series by R.E. Sargent tackles this very question in a deliciously dark and novel way, and whilst done so in a highly entertaining way for the reader, I suspect fellow authors will especially identify with where the author’s coming from here.

Three novella-length stories that, together, encompass the extreme lengths successful but sociopathic author Lana Brooks (aka pen name Karen Carter) goes to preserve her literary reputation, and of course the ensuing consequences; whatever those extreme and murderous lengths they might be though, as the series shows, she would have been wise to remember there’s always someone out there who will go further.

With literary success, amid the idolisation and adoring fans, there also comes professional envy and resentment, in this case for Lana Brooks aka Karen Carter, taking the form of an admiring fan turned obsessive stalker, aspiring writer Jessica Nichols. What we have are two darkly diabolical women for whom the civilised norms of behaviour simply don’t apply; Lana and Jessica are almost indistinguishable, the only real difference being the former possesses all the success and literary acclaim the latter still strives for … Jessica wants what Lana has and will stop at nothing to steal it from her – not just the success, fame, and money, but everything! … but will she able to hang onto it if she succeeds?

As in all devilishly entertaining tales of murder, greed, and otherwise despicable behaviour, our principal characters learn, to their cost, what goes around comes around – all in all, three cracking good stories with lots of twists and turns you don’t see coming. Though each instalment is relatively short, that isn’t for want of content, but simply because of the break-neck pace at which the author advances each story without succumbing to the temptation to pad them out just to up the page counts a devilishly dark and fun to read series – highly recommended!

ps, and definitely got my money’s worth from this month’s KU subscription! 😁

Click on each of the blue headings below for links to my online review for each instalment:

One-Star review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s one thing for an author to slice & dice their characters … but their readers too? Loved it!!!

Becoming Karen Carter ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A deliciously diabolical woman who knows and gets what she wants!

A Review to Die For ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Really liking Jessica now – clever, entertaining, and a nice dollop of gore, a smashing read!

***

Just a few of the many books by or featuring work by this author

Click HERE for R.E. Sargent webpage HERE for R.E. Sargent Fb page HERE for R.E. Sargent on Twitter … and HERE for R.E. Sargent’s US Amazon author page

Treasure of Indian Music – Meet the Author, Jaykishan Hariharbhai Kapdi

It’s very rare for me to reblog a post (lazy i just guess), but I’m happy to make an exception here … An absolutely smashing post from Sarah Stuart, and a fine tribute to one of the most supportive writers/readers among the entire Indie author writing community

Jaykishan, my friend from a country I’ve never visited, but nobody who follows my blog will be surprised; music flows through my writing, and this is a very special time.

An Editor’s Pick! Congratulations my friend. 

Jaykishan grew up in a family to which music is a blessing from God. Music is hereditary to him. He has learned music from his grandfather Shri Mohanlal Ramdasji Kapdi and father Shri Hariharbhai. He has an experience, how to teach music. He is “Upantya Visharad” in “Tabla” (rhythm).

His grandfather Shri Mohanlal Ramdasji Kapdi has established a non professional music class “Shree Saurashtra Sangeet Vidyalay” in 1935 in the Bhavnagar city-364001, Gujarat State, India, to spread & serve music.

This book is organized into three parts.
Part one addresses the musical terms generally used in vocal & instrumental Indian music. Topics covered include Understanding Indian and Western musical notation method, Signs of Notes…

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Basket Case – A bit of midweek Flash Fiction silliness

Basket Case

BC1What a glorious day, I thought. Already I had seen performing acrobats, listened to the sweet melodies of musicians, and taken in the salivating aromas of tradesmen selling the most delicious smelling pies and pastries. Many had brought their children to enjoy the numerous entertainments accompanying my own starring role.

It couldn’t have been far, no more than a few feet, but I remember hurtling downwards, swaying and spinning as I went. The pain was indescribable, admittedly for just a moment, so no need to dwell on that bit, at least not for now.

I had tried to keep my eyes closed at the start to avoid being blinded by the glare of the sun directly overhead. But curiosity compelled me to witness the event in its entirety. And why not? I was, after all, the star of the show.

The previously baying crowd were united in a rapturous thunder of applause. Many were in attendance, everyone from wealthy merchants, farmers, and the soldiers, of course, to the most wretched peasant.

People were enjoying what some might call a carnival atmosphere, encouraged by the warm weather and grandness of the occasion.

bc5It did anger me that despite being at the centre of the celebrations, I was somewhat restricted in my ability to enjoy the occasion to the full. Still, I guess I shouldn’t be too disappointed, I’d had the best view of all during my brief attendance. Had those in charge had their way, my last sight of the world would have been the insides of the cushioned wicker basket in which I, or rather my head to be precise, was meant to land – and stay.

The force of my landing, or rather my head’s landing, had sent the flimsy basket tumbling over on its side and me, my head that is, rolling two, maybe three feet, leaving it in a sideways position, skewing my view of the surroundings. I was just thankful for not having additionally suffered the indignity of my head rolling a little farther and bouncing down the wooden steps leading up to the platform. Given the mood of the crowd, I’m sure they would have taken the opportunity for an impromptu game of football with it.

bc4I had a perfect if oddly angled view across the town square. Unfortunately, I could also see the thick puddle of red, viscous liquid forming about me, no doubt the waterfall of blood flowing from the neck of my decapitated body. I was quite worried it might reach me and that I, my head that is, would roll over into it face-first.

bc2I needn’t have worried. The Judicial Executioner reached down to retrieve it, grabbing and lifting me up by the hair. I would guess this was an easy task now that that part, the bit that was still me, probably weighed no more than two or three kilos rather than my previous eighty.

I was suddenly aware of the panoramic view of my audience while the executioner turned 360 degrees to give everyone a good look at me. Once more, the crowds cheered their approval. 

Without warning, the executioner suddenly thrust me – my head that is – down over the top of a sharpened pike, the business end slicing through the underside of what was little was left of my neck, rising straight up through the brain and out the top of my skull. Oddly enough, that hardly hurt a bit, something to do with the brain not actually having any pain receptors of its own, just the ability to process pain signals from elsewhere about the body … well, that was hardly an issue for me now.

I was further enjoying my birds-eye view of the world as the executioner hoisted the pike aloft and vertically into the air. I was afraid I, my head, might slide down, but several protruding ridges along its length held me in position.

Shortly after, one of the soldiers carried the pike (with ‘me’ still on it like some piece of skewered kebab meat) all the way back to the Bastille.

bc3To this day, the pike and my now embalmed head remain there, embedded at a 45-degree angle from the prison walls for the public to come and gawp at like some cheap tourist attraction.

It’s not so bad now, well, except for the pigeons and other pests that use me as a landing perch (and other unmentionable things), but I do feel a little aggrieved. Admittedly I made my victims suffer quite horribly, but at least they all died … eventually.

I had expected a quick and relatively painless death. It was anything but … time had slowed to an incredible degree, much like all those stories you hear of your life flashing before your eyes immediately prior to death. I was sure that was what was happening with me, and as such, I was also experiencing a lifetime of pain in that same moment.

Perhaps this endless persistence of awareness in my decapitated head is to be my eternal punishment for ending the lives of so many others in my own butchering activities … I guess there’s a certain perverse karma in that.

*

bc6Arguments had raged for years about how long the victim retained consciousness after decapitation. The notorious Parisian serial killer, Henri Boucher, otherwise known as The Butcher, had been the clearest indication to date supporting the idea that life lingered on for somewhat longer than the few seconds advocates of the guillotine claimed. The Judicial Executioner and many in the immediate crowd swore on the lives of their nearest and dearest to observing Boucher’s eyes rolling from side to side in response to those watching, and movement of the mouth and lips in the manner of a scream when the head was forcefully thrust onto the pike.

Jack the Ripper Blood BackgroundPerhaps La Guillotine wasn’t the quick and painless death they imagined it to be?

No one could imagine the real truth of the matter … except perhaps, Henri Boucher.

***

 

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read many more like it, check out my latest collection of short stories on my Amazon author page links below:

Amazon UK:   Amazon US:

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The Punchbag – Flash fiction short story

The Punchbag

punchbag2Frankie Watkins was good with his fists, so good in fact he might even have been a champion. But getting a title shot would have meant hard-work and fighting guys who were also good with their fists; that wouldn’t have suited Frankie at all. You see, Frankie was a coward, and a lazy one too. The thought of someone hitting him back terrified him even more than hard work.

Knowing that he had let his chance of stardom pass him by, Frankie took out his frustration on all the young lads that attended his gym, particularly the ones willing to put in the work … and take the knocks too.

He encouraged the bigger lads to bully and go in hard on the little ones. And when he didn’t have some younger version of himself to do his dirty work, Frankie insisted on giving extra ‘coaching’ to the weakest and smallest boys. Few left without a fair few bruises or a cut lip – “just a bit of character building,” as he told them, “and don’t be such little cry-babies,” he would often add, delighted when he saw some frightened kid was trying to hide the pain he was in or holding back a tear.

*

Eleven-year-old Ricardo was the latest addition to Frankie Watkins’ stable of stardom-dreaming young boxing hopefuls. Even at such an early age, Ricardo had a natural boxer’s physique and determination—and Frankie Watkins took an immediate dislike to him for it, seeing in the boy the potential champion he could never be.

Ricardo’s dad, Samuel, knew how much his son wanted to be a boxer when he grew up, ever since the wee lad had marvelled at seeing Muhammed Ali knock out Sonny Liston on the television. It wasn’t a sport Samuel had much interest in himself, but since the death of his wife, Amelia, during the last hurricane back in Haiti and then the move to the US, he was determined to do whatever he could to fulfil Ricardo’s dreams.

 

Photo readerSamuel looked down and took hold of the ruby amulet he wore around his neck, the one Amelia had so treasured. It contained her soul, just as she had wanted. They had agreed that whichever one of them died first, the other would house their soul in the precious jewel in preparation for them to both take that last step to the afterlife. It was their wish to embrace Dambala together, their guiding spirit god or Ioa as it was called in the old language.

It had not been an easy ritual to perform, the transference of the soul from the body to an inanimate object, but Samuel and Amelia were both powerful voodooists, skilled practitioners of the old magic.

*

Samuel peered in through the small window, watching how Frankie Watkins ‘trained’ his young would-be boxers. He was no boxing enthusiast, but he’d attended just such a gym when he was a boy too, and as tough as they were, the coaching staff there would never have hit young boys as hard as Frankie did.

Depositphotos_180350446_xl-2015Like his own son, none of the lads complained, believing Frankie’s spiel about how he needed to be extra hard on them if they wanted to make ‘the big time’ someday. For many of the boys, they knew it was the only way they were likely to escape the poverty and squalor of the neighbourhood, and so they just accepted it as normal. But Samuel had noticed the changes in his son, his gradual lack of enthusiasm for the sport he loved, and then there were the bruises; he even suspected a possible hairline rib fracture judging by how the boy sometimes winced when he coughed or made a sudden movement.

This wasn’t training, Samuel thought, but plain and sadistic bullying masquerading as ‘coaching and character-building’, the very words he had prised out of his son.

*

He might not have possessed Frankie’s boxing skills or indeed, his son’s love of the sport, but since buying the gym following Frankie Watkins’ mysterious disappearance, everyone agreed Samuel was a much better coach and mentor.

A mischievous smile curled around his lips while answering young Eric Ruiz, the latest addition to the now Samuel’s stable of stardom-dreaming young boxing hopefuls …

Depositphotos_183854010_xl-2015“I know, everyone reacts like you do, but it’s just the leather and years of soaked in sweat that causes it to make that sound.”

“An … and the blood?” ten year-old-Eric hesitantly asked.

“That’s no mystery to that either. It’s just a trick of the light, and the red dye in the leather seeping out and getting mixed in with the sweat on your gloves and the perspiration in the air.”

 

Depositphotos_80689912_xl-2015Eric gave the punchbag another whack, and then another and another, chuckling at the gasp-like sounds the punchbag seemed to wheeze when he hit it.

That corner bag was a good one. It had a good feel to it when you gave it a solid whack. And the apparent squealing sound it made when you hit it made the lads laugh, imagining they had winded and blooded some imaginary opponent. Yes, the lads loved whacking that bag for all they were worth. They weren’t to know that Frankie Watkins felt every punch they landed, and as they got bigger and stronger, Frankie felt the blows even more. Had those that had previously suffered at the ends of Frankie’s fists known, no doubt they would have given it a few kicks too.

Samuel figured with regular re-stitching, the lads’ favourite punchbag would last another ten or twenty years before someone punched the last painful squeal and drop of blood out of Frankie Watkins’ trapped soul.

*

going out of hellIt had not been an easy ritual to perform, particularly transferring a soul into the battered old punchbag. Samuel doubted he could have completed it successfully anywhere else in the US other than the Creole quarter of Louisiana’s New Orleans. But Louisiana voodoo was almost as powerful as back in Haiti and West Africa.

*** 

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read many more like it, check out my latest collection of short stories on my Amazon author page links below:

Amazon UK:   Amazon US:

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Vivid Imagination – Flash Fiction short story from ‘Flashbulb Moments’

Vivid Imagination

It was reasonable to assume Melina Jackson was her name given that was the only female name on the list of doorbells.

FlatcapThe flat-capped, raincoat wearing man liked to stalk his victims first. He deliberately cultivated an unassuming, almost invisible appearance for the initial stages of his work for obvious reasons, ensuring that any possible description of him would be as nondescript as that of the nearest lamppost. The knife-wielding sociopath was most meticulous in his planning, proud indeed of his attention to detail. But then, of course, he had to be otherwise his career would most likely have been a short one …

*

The mere presence of Bartholomew Brown was enough to make the skin crawl – if he wanted. Mostly though, he was the most affable and charming man you could ever hope to meet.

He preferred to be called Mr Brown rather than Bartholomew – Bartholomew sounded too Bohemian, too pretentious, he thought. Mr had more of a cold and enigmatic feel to it, for, beneath his superficial charm, Mr Brown possessed the most twisted imagination ever; perhaps that was what compelled him to do what he did?

If you were foolish enough to ask Mr Brown about his interests, just five minutes into the reply would be enough to have the strongest of stomachs heaving and ready to expel their contents in a fit of projectile vomiting. You see, Bartholomew Brown was no ordinary man.

Flatcap2Over the past twenty-five years, he’d been responsible for the bodies in the canal murders, the butchering of seventeen prostitutes, and the cold-blooded murder of six unfortunate serial killer hunting detectives. And those were just what he considered his most notable successes; there had been many others, but they had been when he first started out, so he forgave himself for those initial somewhat sloppy and amateurish efforts. He’d long since perfected his craft though and was again looking forward to satisfying his darkest fantasies.

The next one was to be a woman by the name of Melina Jackson. Oh yes, she would make a fine victim, he thought, what with her sun-kissed red hair, those ‘come to bed and ravage me’ eyes, and the short, slutty skirt and high-heels that just screamed whore from head to toe. This one deserved a slow death, as painful and bloody as any to date. Mr Brown was determined to excel himself this time.

Sexy women waiting for customers at night street;… Melina Jackson left the upmarket hotel by the back entrance, her business done with her latest trick, her third of the night. With a bra stuffed full of cash, she walked along the dark side-street, intending to call a cab from the nearby taxi rank. It was only a short distance but enough to provide her assailant with sufficient cover to hide in the shadows before stepping out to confront her.

The serrated knife entered her breast at the same moment he looked into her eyes. A hand clasped her mouth before the merest hint of a scream could escape her ruby red lips. Her mutilated body would probably be found by an early morning street cleaner or perhaps even earlier, some late-night reveller turning into the dark street to take a piss …

Oh yes, Mr Brown was happy with his efforts with this one, of creating a scene of bloody carnage to rival that of the very best efforts of Jack the Ripper.

Thank god it was just Mr Brown’s vivid imagination, that the details of Melina Jackson’s death were simply the ones staring back at him from a computer screen, and later, some anonymous reader’s Kindle or while scrolling a Dark Web fiction forum.

flatcap3

 

Finally satisfied with the level of detail he’d achieved in his latest serial killer story, Mr Brown typed … The End.     

*

Bloody knife in kitchen sinkFinishing a story always gave Mr Brown another craving too, an almost ritual one of making himself a sandwich. He was about to cut himself a couple of slices of bread when he stopped himself … Mr Brown frowned, silently annoyed at himself; there was still blood on the serrated edge of his carving knife … even after twenty-five years, Mr Brown could still be sloppy.

***

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read many more like it, check out my latest collection of short stories on my Amazon author page links below:

Amazon UK:   Amazon US:

BookAdd9zzz

 

 

Return to Hiroshima – Book Review on behalf of Blackthorn Book Tours

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Bob Van Laerhoven is a 66-year-old Belgian/Flemish author who has published (traditionally) more than 45 books in Holland and Belgium. His cross-over oeuvre between literary and noir/suspense is published in French, English, German, Spanish, Swedish, Slovenian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Russian. 

My review of:

Hiroshima2

Return To Hiroshima

5starssgsZ

A darkly poignant dive into the underbelly of Japanese lore and mystery …

Hiroshima3

Steeped in intricacy and too many horrors waiting to jump out of the shadows as each element of the story begins to find its place, it would be impossible to do justice to any sort of plot summary here. Suffice to say, the reader is taken on one hell of a dark and often upsetting journey: a seven-foot woman haunted by either real or imaginary memories of childhood horrors and abuse, an investigation into the murder of a newborn child, a secret and clandestine wartime medical experiments, and Japanese suicide cults are just some of the pieces of this internationally flavoured noir thriller.

Despite this being a translation from the original, the writing is fluid and well-crafted, with clearly a great deal of effort having gone into maintaining the tone and feel of the original text. The complexity of the story is cleverly broken up into short, easily digestible chapters, each with their own little prelude as it were. I liked too the way the author alternates the point of view between that of the central and mysterious female character, Mitsuko, and the third-person perspectives of the other characters amid the wider story and sub-plots going on. 

 

This is a book that challenges the reader to step outside their comfort zone in terms of what they might be familiar with culturally, and perhaps their perceptions of Japanese culture and society. Quite apart from the story of Mitsuko, the author skilfully contrasts the western view of Japan (or Nippon as he refers to it in the narrative), managing to incorporate the Japanese fascination with Karaoke bars, manga comics, and the deeper philosophical and religious beliefs that underpin people’s lives in that part of the world, alongside an enduring sense of nationalism even among its younger generation. The reader gets to witness Japanese society from the perspective of its native population, visiting westerners, and, as in the case of police inspector Takeda, who despite being half-Japanese, doesn’t quite fit in with or enjoys the full ‘acceptance’ and respect of his peers.  As can probably be guessed from the title, the historical significance of Hiroshima and the aftermath of the nuclear blast are a recurring influence in how the story unfolds, though more as a historical backdrop and vehicle in which it has shaped the current story being told. Set in the mid-1990s, many of the characters still possess first-hand experience of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima while the next generation are equally affected by the resultant and continuing birth defects and associated cancers. Alongside the inevitable darkness such elements bring to the story, there is plenty of equally dark and horrific content emanating from the characters themselves: rape, violence, torture, murder, and a number of grizzly death scenes are described quite graphically at times, ironically almost on a par with how they might be portrayed in a manga comic. Like any good writer, the author doesn’t show his hand too soon in the story, encouraging the reader to reasonably draw their own conclusions and assumptions before allowing the real truth and direction of the story to emerge.

The farther and deeper you progress into this often disturbing and yet captivating tale, the more you will be rewarded as the different and complex strands eventually draw together. Be warned though, this is no easy story to read and one that demands the reader’s full attention and concentration. Nor as I’ve intimated is this a book for the faint-hearted or those who prefer neatly packaged happy endings or a book filled with easily identified characters you’re supposed to either like or hate. Nonetheless, a powerful and multilayered story for those willing to stray from the more conventional thriller style and setting.

***

Reduced Kindle price for the duration of the Blackthorn Book Tour promotion, and FREE to read for Amazon KU subscribers

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Bob Van Laerhoven’s social media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bob.vanlaerhoven

Website: https://bobvanlaerhoven.be/en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bobvanlaerhoven

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bobvanlaerhoven/

***

More about the author …

In Belgium, Laerhoven was a four-time finalist of the ‘Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year’ with the novels ‘Djinn’, ‘The Finger of God’, ‘Return to Hiroshima’, and ‘The Firehand Files’. In 2007, he became the winner of the coveted Hercule Poirot Prize with ‘Baudelaire’s Revenge’, which, in English translation, also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category ‘mystery/suspense’. His first collection of short stories ‘Dangerous Obsessions’, published in the USA in 2015, was chosen as the ‘best short story collection of 2015’ by the San Diego Book Review. The collection has been translated into Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.  ‘Return to Hiroshima’, his second crime novel in English, was published in May 2018 by Crime Wave Press(Hong Kong).  The British quality review blog Murder, Mayhem & More has chosen ‘Return to Hiroshima’ as one of the ten best international crime novels of 2018. MMM reviews around 200 novels annually by international authors. Also in 2018, the Anaphora Literary Press published ‘Heart Fever’, his second collection of short stories. ‘Heart Fever’ was one of the five finalists of the American Silver Falchion Award. Laerhoven was the only non-American finalist. The collection has been translated into Italian and Spanish. A German translation is currently in production.

***

See HERE for the author’s US Amazon author page:

Bob

Gabriela: Tales from a Demon Cat – Book Review

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Gabriela4Another new ‘creature horror’ author I recently discovered,Gabriela3 Richard “Rich” Rumple currently resides in Lexington, Kentucky, after having grown up in Indiana, with New York, Chicago, Mobile, Baton Rouge, and Europe all mixed in between. “Gabriela…” is his third release, following the highly successful “Horror Across The Alley” and “They Lurk In Summer.”

***

My review of:

Gabriela: Tales From A Demon Cat

5starssgs (1)

NOT the usual cute little kitty tales

– A ‘Must Read’ for all ‘Creature Horror’ fans.

Gabriela6I must confess to a certain bias here: as a huge fan of short stories and creature horror, be it cats, rats, bugs, or bats, this feline-themed anthology excels in both, just as I knew it would from the introductory story. The way the tales are introduced and their connecting thread, namely the perspective from which they were told, i.e.Gabriela’s past lives and experiences, owe a debt to the anthology format of films like the 70s Amicus Horror ‘Tales from the Crypt’ and its Grim Reaper like narrator – in this case though, the narrator is much more interesting, taking the form of a mouse-munching, demonic cat … what’s not to love about that!

Anyone who’s ever owned a cat (supposedly), or more likely been at the beck and call ofcat3 (1) a feline companion, will immediately recognise the traits and characteristics of many of the diabolical traits of our deliciously demonic narrator, Gabriela. The stories veer between more subtle and creepy horror as in the two opening stories ‘Why Didn’t I Get A Dog’, and ‘Kind of Handy’, to more traditional blood and gore orientated tales such as the humorously titled ‘Big Feet Minus Expensive Shoes’ and ‘Damned Whiskers.’ Oddly though, the central character in the stories isn’t usually feline as you might otherwise expect, or in some cases, any sort of creature at all, with the story simply being told by Gabriela, either having witnessed or heard it from another cat. Given the way the author links each tale through the continuing and darkly humorous dialogue between Gabriela and her latest ‘owner’, they almost read like the chapters of a novel amid Gabriela’s observations of her periodic trips to Hell.

This is creature horror at its best, combining lashings of claw, paw, and nail scratching savagery, a fair helping of all sorts of other creepiness, touches of light-hearted humour, and a page-turning sense of continuity with each individual tale. The stories are as dark, imaginative, and varied as I could have hoped for … so many good stories, but I think the author saved the best till last with ‘Cat’s Paws’, a tale of voodoo, spells, and a touch of savagery, quite my favourite I think … can’t wait to read more from this author, especially Book Two as the author promises, featuring more demonic tales from Gabriela.

***

RC Rumple’s Social media links:

Author website/blog: Richrumple.com

Twitter: @RichRumple1

Facebook Author page: @RCRumple

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Click HERE for Richard Rumple’s US Amazon author page …

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You Beneath Your Skin – Book Review

DB2

DB5Though this is Damyanti Biswas’s debut novel, it would be a mistake to give the impression of her being a new or ‘debut’ writer. In addition to this first book, Damyanti Biswas is a highly successful and respected blogger, and having read many of her posts and short/flash fiction pieces, one I have followed for many years and patiently waited in the hope she would someday write a full-length novel. Further information about the author and social media/contact links follow my review.

I can finally confirm my patience has been well-rewarded: My review of …

(click on Review heading for Goodreads link to review)

You Beneath Your Skin

5starssgs (1)

As rich in characterisation and atmosphere as any book I’ve EVER read …                    Simply Superb!

DB3The story centres around Anjali, an Indian woman with an American born mother and an autistic son, Nikhil, and Jatin, her married Delhi policeman and on/off lover. Nikhil and their personal lives aside, Anjali and Jatin are involved in the investigation of a new spate of serial murders, rapes, and vicious attacks on poor young women in Deli. Parallel to this, Anjali also volunteers in various other roles to help the poor and underprivileged of Delhi, especially the children. Set against the backdrop of their friends, colleagues, and relations, and all the social and cultural problems that beset Delhi, there are innumerable minor storylines, from tentative romance, drug dealing,  to family secrets and eventual revelations as brutal, horrific, and surprising as is possible to imagine

If one were to rely solely on the Amazon book description, a reader might be drawn into thinking the central premise of the book is a series of brutal attacks and murders of vulnerable women, and the subsequent efforts to bring those responsible to justice. Really though, ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ is so much more than a simple detective or police investigation; yes, the brutal attacks/murders, i.e. drugging women before raping/murdering them, and/or throwing acid in their faces form an integral part of the story, but it’s far from being what the book is really about. Whereas in a more, say, ‘traditional’ crime and murder story, such violence would be at its heart, perhaps for its shock value or to emphasise the need for a resolution to the crimes. In truth, the actual violence here is little more than a backdrop to the rich characterisation of everyone involved, and of the lives and society in which the multiple storylines take place; if anything, the real violence here, and indeed tragedy, is the fact that the murders and attacks are downplayed to some extent, a reflection of the equal or even greater horror that such acid attacks and the like are so commonplace they’ve become an accepted part of Indian culture/society in much the same way mass shootings in America or European terrorist attacks no longer shock or surprise us they way they once did. 

The writing is executed to perfection, with every character vividly brought to life through their likes and prejudices, their interactions with each other, their place in Indian society, and in way too many other subtle ways to mention in a single review. I was pleased to see the author in no way tried to pander or adapt her writing to accommodate the expectations of a western or European audience, which in my opinion makes for a better reading experience for anyone who reads this book. Having said that, some of the dialogue does, albeit only occasionally, switch to Hindi, which as a European reader, I obviously skimmed past. Also, it will take some readers a little while to get used to some of the Indian conventions of speech and dialogue, i.e. of people being addressed in different ways, and by different names/titles depending on the relationship between whose speaking (some parallels can be found in German, in the way you might address a child or someone you know personally or only a little).

It’s still difficult for me to appreciate this a debut novel rather than maybe the umpteenth from a well-established and best-selling author. As well as being a well-crafted tale of the most horrific crimes, their investigation, and a somewhat cynical conclusion, it’s also a brutally honest and illuminating look at and commentary on Indian society, both good and bad. Captivating, enthralling, and a real page-turner – a superb work of crime and social literature!

*

Editorial & peer reviews:

DB4‘Biswas’s masterful You Beneath Your Skin is an intelligent page-turner that mixes a thrilling murder case with a profound psychological and sociological study of contemporary India.’ – David Corbett, award-winning author of The Art of Character

 ‘You Beneath Your Skin is a gripping tale of murder, corruption and power and their terrifying effects in New Delhi. Highly recommended.’ – Alice Clark-Platts, bestselling author of The Flower Girls

‘Suspenseful and sensitive, with characters negotiating serious issues of society, this crime novel will keep you awake at night!’ – Jo Furniss, bestselling author of All the Little Children and The Trailing Spouse

‘Gripping…crime fiction with a difference. This is a novel full of layers and depth, focusing on class and corruption in India with compassion and complexity.’ – Sanjida Kay, Author of psychological thrillers, Bone by Bone, The Stolen Child, My Mother’s Secret and One Year Later

‘You Beneath Your Skin – beautiful writing, strong characters and a story that will stay with me for a long time. Set in New Delhi, this novel tackles important issues as well as providing a tension-filled read.’- Jacqueline Ward, Bestselling author of Perfect Ten

***

More about the author:

DB6Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore and works with Delhi’s underprivileged children as part of Project Why, a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. You can find her on her blog and twitter.

See also: Facebook – Damyanti at Daily Write

All the author proceeds will go to Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.

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           Other social media and site links:

  1. Link to Project WHY: https://projectwhy.org/
  2. Link to Chhanv Foundation: https://www.chhanv.org/  (Their social media name is StopAcidAttacks)
  3. Author website: https://www.damyantiwrites.com/
  4. Pls use the hashtag: #YouBeneathYourSkin for all social media shares

Check out #YouBeneathYourSkin by @damyantig @SimonSchusterIN, a #crime novel that raises many social issues.

All author proceeds go to: @stopacidattacks @projectwhydelhi

*

Amazon purchase links:

US:  Click HERE

UK: Click HERE

India: HERE

*

To get RTs and shares, pls tag:

 @SimonandSchusterIN @projectwhydelhi @stopacidattacks @damyantig on Instagram

  @SimonSchusterIN @projectwhydelhi @stopacidattacks @damyantig on Twitter

 

The Man who hated Cats – Flash Fiction short story

The Man who hated Cats

 

Cat Lady with CatsMalcolm’s rich old Aunt Matilda had finally died. Being her last surviving relative, Malcolm had high hopes of inheriting everything. The first thing he intended to do when he moved into her old manor house was get rid of all those bloody cats that still had the run of the place. Jeez, how he hated cats.

Malcolm’s hopes were further fuelled when he entered the solicitor’s office. Only he and the old woman’s aging housekeeper, Mrs Grimes, were there for the reading of the Will. He had expected she’d leave something to the woman who had been his aunt’s companion most of her life, but apart from that, there was no one else to claim a share of his inheritance, he thought.

After some brief formalities, the solicitor addressed Malcolm and Mrs Grimes. The latter was delighted to learn she was to be Aunt Matilda’s sole beneficiary. Legally, Aunt Matilda had left everything to the many cats she had always shared her massive house and estate with. Mrs Grimes though had been appointed their carer, and so, really, the house, land, and a high six-figure sum of money too were all hers. The only condition was that Mrs Grimes had to live in the house and continue caring for the deceased’s ever-growing family of cats.

Malcolm’s delight was somewhat less enthusiastic, the hundred pounds bequest his aunt had left him lacking as it did the three or four extra noughts he had been expecting, not to mention not getting the manor house.

When he thought about it, Malcolm should hardly have been surprised by the measly amount. He’d made no effort to ever visit her since he was a boy. In fact, she had always given him the shivers, what with her crazy beliefs in reincarnation, Buddhist mysticism and a whole lot of other mumbo jumbo bollocks. He thought when he was young, she might actually be a witch. But still, leaving the bloody lot to a manky pack of fucking cats was the last straw.

Something in Malcolm snapped. If he wasn’t to live the pampered existence he’d hoped for then neither would a lot of flea-ridden moggies … it even occurred to him with the cats out of the way, he might also have grounds to challenge the Will.

*

Cat2Rumours were rife that some cat-killing maniac was on the loose. Nine feline bodies had been found so far in various states of decomposition in and around the rural village. The first couple were assumed to have died from natural causes, despite there being no obvious sign of injury or disease. It wasn’t until a third, and then a fourth was also found, prime specimens of feline awesomeness, it became clear something wasn’t right. Mrs Grimes too was beside herself that several of the deceased Matilda’s own feline family had disappeared. Aunt Matilda and Mrs Grimes had never refused to take in an abandoned litter when asked, and all the local strays knew a tasty meal and saucer of milk would be waiting whenever they visited. But less and less were visiting now …

It had occurred to Malcolm it might arouse suspicion if it was only all his former aunt’s cats that had died when he eventually challenged her Will. With that in mind, he had set about poisoning many others too. Countless dead felines later, Malcolm was ready to start on the ones standing between him and his inheritance.

*

Malcolm awoke to the strangest sensation of not feeling himself. He’d had the most surreal dream, one involving hordes of cats eating his dead body. Most odd though had been seeing his aunt shoo them away and then hovering over him, muttering, and wittering away in some strange language – and that was the last he remembered.

His first sight as he slowly opened his eyes was the skirting board of the nearside wall to his bed. His mind was still in a bit of a daze, though with just enough grasp of consciousness to realise he’d probably tumbled out of bed during the night. For some reason, his nose and face were itchy. Instinctively, Malcolm reached to scratch at his nostrils. Even before his hand, or whatever it was reached his face, he could only imagine he must have knocked himself out for god knows how long judging from the amount of facial hair that had grown in the interim.

It wasn’t just the unexpected appearance of hair about his normally clean-shaven face that was confusing Malcolm. Everything looked so much bigger … including the cat looking down at him. Malcolm went to get up, intending to kick the cat away. Oddly, he hardly rose at all, barely four inches in fact, even on his hind-legs … his hind-legs?

The realisation hit him like a bolt of lightning to his tiny, fur-covered body – his dream had been real, he had died, and worse – had been reincarnated as … A Mouse!

That wasn’t the worst of it … there were now three cats circling him like the hunters they were. Any regular mouse with all the normal evolved rodent survival instincts would have scampered away, but Malcolm was anything but.

Close up of a black cat with his prey, a dead mouseThe cats would usually have rent him limb from limb before making a tasty meal of the tiny mouse after a painful but mercifully quick death. But the cats had no interest in eating the little mouse, at least not yet, not after having fed so well on the creature’s once human body … that part of his dream had been true as well.

Instead, they purred and toyed with him. For three days they teased and tormented him before the end. Malcolm’s death was a painful one, though neither quick nor merciful.

*

Epilogue

The local cat population soon returned to normal as many new litters were born in Aunt Matilda’s manor house. It was eerie how many of them had the same colouring and temperaments of the ones who had died … more reincarnations?

***

Enjoyed this story? Then for many more, much like this one, keep a lookout for my up-coming collection later this year …

a4x

Unrequited Love – flash fiction short story

 

 

Unrequited Love

Vector silhouette of a woman.Lucy Brannen simply adored Tommy, and why shouldn’t she? He was a handsome fella, what with his thick, jet black hair, and eyes that could entrance the most reluctant heart.

Everyone loved Tommy; Lucy’s parents, her friends, and even complete strangers too immediately took to him. It was something Lucy understood and accepted, having fallen for Tommy’s charms more than two years before. Yes indeed, Tommy was something special, even if his demands and attention-seeking sometimes made her feel invisible. She had some sympathy now for how new mothers must feel when everyone’s attention and compliments were all directed towards the baby, like the mother wasn’t even there other than as some glorified slave … where was the appreciation and attention she deserved? Whatever her occasional misgivings though, Lucy continued to dote on him, attending to Tommy’s every whim, everything from preparing his meals right down to even trimming his nails, nothing being too much trouble for her. All she asked in return was the occasional show of love and affection, to be treated as something a little more special than his personal servant.

It wasn’t entirely true of course; Tommy did treat her to the occasional glimmer of attention, snuggling up to her when she least expected it or gazing into her eyes, enchanting her all over again. But such emotional shows were few and far between, and invariably seemed to coincide with when he wanted something, like a snack from the kitchen; as smitten as she was, Lucy was not stupid, fully aware the relationship was utterly and completely on his terms, and not hers.

The truth was, Tommy treated their home as little more than a hotel, often lounging around all day while she went out to work. The least she could have expected was for him to be there for her after a hard day’s work, but no, Tommy was a law unto himself, coming and going whenever he pleased, and at all hours of the night.

Lucy often wondered if Tommy would even notice if she just left, walked out and never came back, at least apart from the need to get himself another dogsbody? She knew she never would though; Tommy meant too much to her, and besides, what would have been the point? Tommy knew his worth and would have been sure to land on his feet elsewhere, perhaps even with that little blonde next door, the one always paying him compliments and attention.

There was one person though who wasn’t seduced by Tommy’s charms, and that was Lucy’s best friend, Clara. She treated Tommy with the same indifference he pretty much treated everyone else. When Tommy and Clara were in the same room, you could almost feel a literal drop in temperature, such was the coldness between them. It was not surprising then that whenever Clara visited, Tommy would either make himself scarce all together or at best, somewhat rudely go and feign sleep in another room.

And so it was today when Clara called, Tommy just huffed his annoyance and flounced out past them when Lucy opened the front door to her friend.

 

“Sorry about that, he’s in a bit of a mood,” Lucy apologised.

“Don’t apologise for him, he’s always in a mood,” Clara reminded her in reply. “If he wants to behave like a spoilt brat, that’s his problem.” Lucy just shrugged, her loyalties torn as they always were.

“Look, Lucy, I’ve no sympathy,” Clara bluntly told her. “I told you at the start … if you wanted slobbering affection, undying loyalty and the rest of it, you should have bought a dog … Cats are different.”

*

Tommy surveyed his kingdom from atop the mahogany bookcase, having snuck back in via the cat flap. Satisfied that all was well, he looked down on his devoted human.

Even though Clara had now left, Tommy was in no mood to jump back into Lucy’s arms. No, he would make her wait for another snippet of the attention she so desperately craved and needed from him, and why not, she was after all his slave, as all humans were to their feline owners.

Clara on the other hand, she clearly had no understanding of the honour and privilege it was to belong to some feline God or Goddess, never having shown him the deference he was entitled to, not even so much as kneeling before him to present some delicious offering. Her presence or lack thereof was therefore of little interest to him, assuming her to be one of those evil creatures that didn’t bow down to their feline masters or mistresses, or worse still, she might even be … a dog person … urghh, was all Tommy could muse to himself at the thought …

Tommy leapt down from the bookcase, landing beside Lucy on the sofa. He had kept her waiting long enough, a suitable penance he thought for giving some of her attention to another. Nonetheless, he snuggled beside her, again gazing up into her eyes, allowing the soft touch of his fur to brush against her bare skin. He even allowed her the rare privilege of stroking and caressing him.

Any thoughts of replacing Tommy with some slobbering little puppy as Clara had suggested instantly evaporated, Tommy’s mastery and ownership of her once again more assured than any cage or set of chains could ever do.

cat3

 

***

Enjoyed this story? Would like to read more? Then stay tuned for the publication of Flashbulb Moments towards the end of this year …

Azzz

 

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