It was reasonable to assume Melina Jackson was her name given that was the only female name on the list of doorbells.
The 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.
Over 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.
… 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.
Finally satisfied with the level of detail he’d achieved in his latest serial killer story, Mr Brown typed … The End.
Finishing 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:
Tom Johnson spent twenty years in the military, and after retirement, he and his wife, Ginger, went into small press publishing for the next 22 years. Tom continues to write and Ginger edits and proofs his work. They also review books from numerous publishers.
Following the author’s social media links immediately below, it is my great pleasure to provide my reviews of just two of Tom Johnson’s extensive library of books …
Click on links below for Tom Johnson’s social media:
Author website: Tom Johnson: author
Blog: The Pulp Hermit
Blog/Books: Fading Shadows Books
The Spider’s Web
This is a super novella-length story from the pulp-fiction author, Tom Johnson. A straightforward ‘good vs bad, hero vs villain,’ type story, one where the reader just sits back, suspends disbelief and enjoys the fun.
For first-time readers of Tom Johnson, this a fine introduction to his stories and style of writing, and indeed to the genre as a whole. What we have in The Spider’s Web is a tale of masked avengers and vigilante-style crime-fighting heroes and villains; yes there’s lots violence, killings etc, but the author doesn’t dwell on explicit descriptive detail in that respect, preferring instead to concentrate on writing more of a gasp out loud roller-coaster of entertainment.
Although of novella length, content-wise there’s as much going on here as in many a longer book; Tom Johnson constructs the background of the ninja-like ‘Spider’ character extremely well and succinctly, wasting no time in incorporating it into the wider story. The other main character here, the mysterious crime-fighting ‘Black Ghost,’ is one that features elsewhere in many of the author’s earlier books so there is less explanation of his origins and character, at least not initially though still enough detail to make for a satisfying stand-alone story; having said that, if you already enjoy this style of writing/genre it might be worth scrolling back through the author’s previous books for a more chronology-based decision as to which one to read first. Related to what I’ve just said, there is a bonus story/material, The Black Widows, at the end that expands on the Black Ghost’s character and youthful origins and background. I must say too say, the bonus story has a somewhat darker feel and tone to it, but every bit as enjoyable and complementary to the first story.
I’ve not read much in this genre and style of writing before, or rather not since I was a boy, so it’s hard to make comparisons with current authors. If I were to make a film or tv analogy, think along the lines of a modern-day Fu-Manchu or Bruse Lee’s Kato character in the Green Hornet for atmosphere and overall feel, though there are several others I could quote too … older readers will know exactly what I mean.
For anyone looking for gritty realism, lashings of sex and/or gratuitous violence, or the sort of plot complexity to rival the De Vinci Code, this certainly won’t fit the bill. For those readers though looking for a romping good read, good fun-filled and escapist storytelling, and where you don’t have to scratch your head every five minutes wondering what’s going on, The Spider’s Web provides exactly that.
Carnival of Death
What a cracker of a wee tale this is – a body count not seen the time of the Black Death, masked crime fighters, ninja assassins, British secret agents, rogue ex-military, and an equally dynamic supporting cast to complete the package. It’s a novella length story, but one that packs in way more content than its 82 pages would suggest. This could easily have filled the pages of a full novel, but Tom Johnson has stripped away every superfluous word or bit of character background building. There is a prequel to Carnival of Death, The Spider’s Web, featuring the same characters and set-up, which is probably why the author allows the story to hit the ground running so to speak; having said that, although this is a sequel to a previous story, it reads surprisingly well as a stand-alone story too, though it will inevitably leave the reader curious to know more about the characters. The ending does leave open the likelihood of further stories in the series I’m pleased to say.
Without spoiling or giving too much away, it’s basically a story of vigilante crime-fighting justice, but more in the style of The Shadow, Doc Savage, and Zorro rather than Michael Winner’s ‘Deathwish’ character. As the author himself says, the main character here, The Black Ghost, is his homage to such characters and the pulp fiction magazines of the 30s and 40s. Another comparison I would add to the author’s own references is to Warren Murphy’s Remo series in which the main crime-fighting character, though not super-human, seemingly borders on it. Unlike those of his literary heroes though, Tom Johnson has set his story in a modern-day setting, combining that pulp-fiction feel with just the right blend of high-tech and reference to the present.
Whilst I would say one has to suspend disbelief to some degree, it’s a fast-paced and action-packed story, one that takes me back to the sort of comic book style stories I enjoyed reading as a boy, but which I once again find myself enjoying as an adult. Overall, a fun, entertaining, and escapist tale of good guys versus bad. Will I be reading more from this author? Absolutely yes!
See HERE for Tom Johnson’s Amazon author page and his fascinating and extensive back-catalogue of books.
More about the author …
Born July 26, 1940, in Seymour, Texas, located in West Texas, US veteran Tom Johnson has been a voracious reader since childhood, beginning with the Golden Age comic books to classic literature. Exciting adventure stories entertained him until he discovered science fiction and hardboiled detective mysteries. By his early twenties, he discovered The Shadow and Doc Savage pulp reprints in paperbacks and was hooked on the fast-paced action novel. This led to collecting and research, which eventually interested him in writing. Today, he still loves an exciting action novel over movies and television. Tom and his wife, Ginger, have received numerous awards in the field for their work in keeping the old stories in the spotlight for new readers seeking escape in a thrilling adventure novel.
Please click HERE for the author’s full biography and writing history/links …
Look out too for Tom’s latest work … NEW PULP HEROES
Click HERE for Amazon US purchase link
What are the odds on that?
Howard Jackson was a careful man. He had to be to have gotten away with his twenty-seven murders to date. Today he was hoping to add number twenty-eight to the tally. The young man sitting alone at the table in the service station diner looked a promising candidate. Howard estimated him to be in his late teens, or at most, his early twenties. He doubted if the young man had enough money for another coffee, having watched him nurse the one he had for over an hour. It wouldn’t be long before one of the staff insisted he buys another or be on his way. With the rain now pelting down outside, Howard was optimistic, knowing the weary hitch-hiker wouldn’t relish the prospect of walking however far to the next rest-stop. He had a knack for spotting the most vulnerable and trusting ones.
“Another coffee or something? Howard asked, having strolled over to the young man.
“They’ll be asking you to leave otherwise,” he added by way of reassurance.
“Uh? Oh right. Yeah, thanks, mister.” This was going to be so easy, Howard thought to himself.
“So, how far you going? I’m driving south if that’s any help?”
“Yeah, sure would be … and thanks for the coffee too. I was dreading having to start walking in this weather to wherever the next truck-stop is.”
Howard and the young man drank up and made their way to Howard’s car in the customer parking lot.
“Grab yourself a candy bar or a soda from the glove compartment if you want?”
“A soda would be good. And you? You having one too?”
“Nah, I’m good thanks, I had enough in the diner.”
With the rain at full pelt, Howard was driving slower than he usually would. The young man continued to sip at his soda. An hour into the journey, the young man looked like he was nodding off. Howard pulled into a layby, confident the sedative had done its job.
Howard had long since discovered strangers were more ready to accept food and drink from a stranger in their car if it was in a sealed container or wrapper like a soda can or candy bar. The screw cap soda cans were of his own design, practically indistinguishable from the real thing, and the candy bars had each been injected with a liberal dose of etorphine, a powerful animal tranquiliser. Administering it via a soda or candy bar reduced the speed with which it took effect, but it was a safer alternative to risking the recipient putting up a fight if Howard failed to inject the drug at the first attempt. Howard hadn’t forgotten the one that got away, his only failure some six years previous when the sixteen-year-old intended victim hadn’t accepted either the soda or a candy bar and escaped after managing to block the etorphine-filled syringe with his rucksack. From that day on, Howard made it a rule not to proceed if the victim didn’t accept one of the drug-filled sodas or candy bars.
With his intended victim seemingly fast asleep, Howard got out of his car to retrieve certain items from the trunk: a length of rope chord, some industrial strength duct-tape, and a surgical scalpel. As expected, the young man still appeared completely out of it – Etorphine was a thousand times more potent than even morphine. With that in mind, Howard felt quite confident it was safe to proceed. He intended to strip his victim naked, and then use the rope and duct-tape to fully restrain and gag him. And then there would be Howard’s favourite part, a brutal assault and mutilation of the vilest kind of the victim’s lifeless body. First though, he reached down to begin unbuckling the young man’s jeans. What followed was most definitely not part of the plan that had succeeded on 27 previous occasions …
“Not this time, mother fucker!” the young man said, ramming a solid uppercut under Howard’s chin before dragging him out through the adjacent car door. Though not as effective as Howard’s etorphine-filled soda can, not that the young man had actually drunk any of it, the upper-cut had stunned his would-be killer sufficiently for the young man to quickly bind and gag the weaker and older Howard with the minimum of fuss or resistance. Oddly, the tone of his voice wasn’t loud, angry, or the outraged sort you might expect from someone unexpectedly finding themselves in that situation. If anything, it was eerily calm and controlled, much like the way he went about slitting Howard’s throat before dumping his body in the trunk of the would-be killer’s own car, sending both to a watery grave several hours’ drive later.
Oh, he’d been careful alright, but just a little too careful this time … it never occurred to Howard that someone else might have similar thoughts on their mind, and the same obsession with not getting caught. After all, what were the odds of a highway-driving serial killer picking up his opposite number among the waifs and strays of the hitch-hikers?
The twenty-two-year-old young man had been killing the likes of Howard along the highway from the age of seventeen, barely a year after hitching his first ride at the tender age of sixteen. It was Howard’s attempt at adding the young man to his tally of victims six years before that had set the young hitch-hiker on his path of seeking out and slaughtering men like Howard … Howard’s fate had been sealed the moment he’d been recognised in the diner … by the one that got away.
For more stories like this and a whole host of other genres besides, stay tuned for … Flashbulb Moments, scheduled for late 2019 …
Based on an Fb news post that was shared with my ISAD writing group, I decided to apply a little of the ‘Rudders Writing’ touch to it. Hope you enjoy it …
Sonia Dixon just loved to read. Her favourite genre was crime and murder, the bloodier and gorier the better. She was also a successful author, blogger, and reviewer, and just as she strove to produce the very best in her own writing, she demanded it too in the many books she was sent for review on her blog.
The cover and blurb for ‘Piling up the Bodies’ by Nick Hazelwood had promised much but delivered little. In fact, it was by far the worst book she’d read since she couldn’t remember when. Unfortunately, Nick had already been blogging and posting that the famous authoress, Sonia Dixon, was eagerly devouring his debut novel, even before she’d read the first page. In doing so, Nick had made it difficult for her to privately message him with a polite ‘it’s not really my thing, sorry. Good luck with your future writing.’
Well okay, he would get his public review …
‘A great idea for a story but poorly handled. The methods of execution and body disposal were too bland for me. Personally, I prefer something a little more imaginative than simple bludgeoning and dismembering and feeding the bodies to the dogs? Sorry, but not my cup of tea.’
To say Nick Hazelwood wasn’t pleased with the review of his literary masterpiece would be the mother of all understatements. He imagined all manner of horrible things he would do to the high and mighty Sonia Dixon, ways of killing her far worse than that of any of his literary victims, though not of course before giving her a piece of his mind on how wrong she was about his fantastic book. With the aid of social media, it was a straightforward matter tracking down the address of a high-profile authoress. It was a bit out of the way, some farm in the middle of nowhere in fact. That suited his purposes perfectly …
Living in the remote highlands of Scotland, Sonia Dixon wasn’t used to visitors, so was more than a little intrigued at who might be at the door …
“Hello, can I help you?” she asked the man standing before her. It wasn’t anyone from one of the neighbouring farms, and yet, he looked familiar, though she couldn’t remember from where
“Call yourself a writer?” Nick screamed at her, “what’s wrong with feeding body parts to the dogs? All the crap you write is more like the stuff of cheap, second-rate B-movie horror scripts.”
“Uh?” was her first response, not sure of what else to say?
“It’s writers like you who keep readers hooked on a diet of cliched rubbish while real talent goes undiscovered.” Sonia Dixon was confused. Yes, she’d heard the same old drivel a thousand time before, but only online, not on her fucking doorstep. Then the penny dropped, his mention of feeding bodies to the dogs. She remembered where she’d seen him before, well, his blog avatar anyway.
“Don’t you think it would have been more appropriate to say all that in an email rather than travelling hundreds of miles? Or did you just want to be offensive in person?” That wasn’t the response Nick had expected. She was supposed to be scared, terrified even of what was going to happen next, just like his literary victims. Instead, she was mocking him, just like she’d done in her review. He was about to push past her when she invited him in.
“Why don’t we discuss your issues inside? I’ll make you a nice cup of tea while you calm down, and then we can talk about your book and the review.” Nick nodded his agreement. The first thing he noticed were the shelves and shelves of ‘true and unsolved’ crime books lining the walls and every little nook and cranny. Meanwhile, Sonia had made her way to the adjacent kitchen. Nick kept her in his sight, checking she wasn’t using her mobile to call for help. Actually, that was the last thing on her mind. A few minutes later she returned with their tea.
Nick was too drowsy from the sleeping pills she’d slipped him to see the blow coming. A solid whack with a poker to the back of his head had put an immediate end to his now slurred droning of how wrong she was about bludgeoning victims to death and feeding them to the dogs.
One week later …
Nick’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time. ‘Writer’s Block’ had been crippling Sonia Dixon’s creativity, not that that stopped readers from screaming for another blood and gore fest horror from her. Thanks to Nick, she was now several thousand words into what she hoped would be another best-seller. She had to admit, elements of Nick’s story had worked a treat for her. She only had the one dog, ChiChi, a pint-sized sausage dog, and hardly big enough to devour a whole man, but she did have several pigs that fulfilled the role even better.
She made a note to write more scathing reviews in the future, especially for when the dreaded Writer’s Block hit again.
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like this, please stay tuned for:
Scheduled for publication, June/July 2019
Welcome to another report from SNNC, the Silly Nonsense News Channel, your reporter as always, P. A. Ruddock
The Flat Earth society had already gotten plenty of flak for their latest conference, claiming members from all around the world were attending.
A number of ‘experts’ had been assembled from among the farthest fringes of the crackpot science and conspiracy theory communities. The attendees were to be treated to the very cream of implausible nonsense to explain away such inconvenient concepts as gravity in a two-dimensional world and photographs of the earth from space
‘– they’re all fakes, just like the moon landings, it’s all big conspiracy by the global – err, sorry, I meant big-business corporations,’ a flat-earth spokesman told SNNC.
There was even to be a weird and wonderful explanation as to why people should end up back where they started if they kept travelling in the same direction – apparently, the closer you got to the edge of the world, it would increasingly tilt so you sort of rolled back to the middle, I kid you not – It’s still under discussion, we’ll keep you posted.
Also on the agenda was to be a debate on the general consensus that giant impenetrable and unclimbable mountains, a great wall of ice, or Antarctica surrounds the edges of the world as we Round Earthers call it. It was these mountains that, apparently, stop us all from falling over the edge like we would a cliff, and of course the oceans doing the same. This last aspect was also to be an urgent topic of discussion: not all flat-earthers are utterly bereft of common sense or indifferent to the wider scientific community, and climate change was troubling many of the society’s saner members.
They worry that all the ice mountains are going to melt. Others were less concerned, claiming the situation is all under control – Donald Trump’s plans to build a giant wall to keep out all those awful Mexicans is really just a clever ruse to disguise the wall’s real purpose – it was to be much bigger, all around, oops, sorry, along the circular perimeter of the earth, and that would be our new sea barrier
– yes, that’s right, Donald Trump is going to save the world! Hmm? Hillary Clinton was asked for her comments on that last bit … probably best not to repeat her reply.
Needless to say, the broader public has some difficulty getting their head around the idea of the earth being a giant pudding bowl, attracting ridicule from all around the world, especially from among their equally deluded arch rivals, the Hollow Earth believers.
But getting back to the conference – the original proposal was to hold it in Australia, but they eventually agreed on Birmingham instead after the Flat Earth central committee decided that said continent didn’t really exist and that it was actually a huge compound at a secret location somewhere in South America, filled with American actors.
When approached, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, stars of the Australian telly super-soap, Neighbours, appeared amused at the Flat Earthers’ claims but were otherwise unavailable for comment. On the other hand, Australian authoress, the lovely Patricia Puddle, while initially dismissive, has admitted, albeit amid fits of giggles, she intends to learn Spanish – “ Just in case.”
It seems too that all the world’s airlines, pilots, and astronauts are also all in on the giant hoax, but nonetheless, oversees Flat-Earthers were not deterred from hopping aboard budget flights to Birmingham, especially after their membership being offered generous flat-rate discounts from local hoteliers.
Unsurprisingly, Australian membership of the Flat Earth society has somewhat flatlined since. On the plus side, the people of Birmingham can sleep secure knowing that their city really does exist, and by default, the rest of the UK too.
To attract more believers to their cause, the Flat-Earthers have taken a leaf out of Scientology and its dodgy Hollywood advocates. They cite several celebrities who also question the ‘global’ view of the earth – there’s Lofty Whatshisname, the well-known American basket-case, sorry, basketball player, along with British celebrity and former cricketer, Freddie Flintoff who has also admitted to coming round to their beliefs after asking several deep and meaningful questions …
“… If you’re in a helicopter and you hover why does the earth not come to you if it’s spinning around?
“Why if we’re hurtling through space, why would water stay still? Why is it not wobbling?
“The middle is the North Pole, around the outside is the South Pole which is like a big wall of ice. This is why all governments now have bases on the South Pole.”
(All true, we’re really not making this up!)
SNNC did approach several leading scientists for answers to these probing conundrums, but unfortunately, they all claimed to be doing something far more important than dignifying such bollocks with an answer, like counting the grains of sand on the beach.
(Ok, we admit it, we did make up this last bit, but only because we already knew what the answer would be).
And that, readers and viewers, brings us to the end of our coverage of this year’s Flat-Earth conference.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on those bloody flat-earthers; they’re much closer to the truth than they realise,” the Galactic Council’s chief scientist was telling his mate.
“You’re right there. The only bit they’ve got wrong is that the water’s kept in by the sides of the petri dish – perhaps we should put them in a bigger one, just so we’ve got room for an Australia too?”
NASA scientists finally release …
… REAL photos of earth from outer space.
For the very best in internet bollocks, stay tuned for future reports … upcoming features include:
The Moon? Did we really land on it & Is it Really there?
Hollow Earth theories? Are they based on ‘solid’ science or just filled with hot air (or molten lava)?
Alternatively, keep a lookout for my upcoming book, Flashbulb Moments – Ninety-nine flash-fiction stories – some silly, some sad, and some plain scary ones.
Another Flash Fiction short story, under 700 words this time. I’ve been inspired to look again at some of my past abandoned stories following a recent flash fiction challenge in the IASD writing group. Along with compiling many different stories from the group for an IASD anthology in the near future (news of which to be featured in a forthcoming blog post), I hope to publish my own collection of flash fiction too.
Jeez, I love what I do! It’s no mean boast, but I’m probably the best in the world. I’ve a room back home full of trophies and awards. A few years ago, I shot the last white rhino. Before that, I was the first to bag one of the few white tigers to have successfully survived in the wilds of the Indian jungles. To do what I do requires all the stealth and cunning of the wild animals I track. Only my peers and contemporaries can ever truly understand the thrill, the adrenalin rush, that sense of achievement that comes after days, weeks, and even months of tracking and stalking your prey until you finally corner it into position.
My latest quest is the most ambitious yet. Rumours of its existence have been floating around the net for years. The biggest liger ever seen, or so the locals say. Yes, that’s right, a cross between an Asiatic lion from the Gir forest in India, and a Bengal tiger.
No one knows quite how this wild liger came about. Tigers are jungle cats while lions are found on the plains. But India has both, so it’s not impossible.
It’s started attacking domestic livestock from the outlying villages surrounding the forest. That’s how its existence has been confirmed.
With the intimidating size and strength genes of a tiger and the ferocious fighting skills of a lion, it’s a truly magnificent beast. It’s reportedly 12 feet tall on its hind legs and possibly 1000 lbs in weight – heavier and taller even than Hercules, officially the biggest cat in the world. It could be the crowning achievement of my career. I’m determined to have it!
After my arrival at Keshod airport, it was still another 3-hour drive to the area just beyond the southern outskirts of the Gir forest where the liger was last seen.
After a few days’ preparation, I begin my hunt. It was last spotted nearby in the Gir National Park, probably in the hope of mating with one of the Asiatic lionesses, so that’s where I start.
Possessing twice the size and strength of a regular lion, it’s difficult to imagine any of the alpha males fighting off the intruder to the resident Prides.
Three days I lie in wait, shrouded in natural camouflage, smeared with the local vegetation and scent of the plains. The Park authorities are aiding me in my quest, appreciative of the publicity my success would bring to their tourist business.
It’s a dangerous spot. Being the only sanctuary in the world for the Asiatic lion, there are lots of them about. These are no tame, domesticated varieties you might find in a city zoo.
Sanctuary or not, these are dangerous wild animals that hunt, kill, and rend their prey limb from limb to satisfy theirs and their cubs’ hunger; human flesh would be a more than acceptable alternative to their more usual diet of zebras and giraffes.
I remain aware of the danger. But from years’ experience, I know how to protect myself. I focus instead on the job in hand. I finally spot my prey. I’m staggered by the size of it, even from two hundred yards away. It’s like some monster from the id, more like an image of a prehistoric Sabre Tooth than a modern-day hybrid.
He’s in the cross-hairs of my telescopic sight now. A headshot I decide. I take aim. I’m hoping it will turn to face me. To capture that glint in its eyes, that moment of recognition between the man and beast, there’s no other feeling quite like it.
Turn will you, turn, I urge silently. He does. He’s magnificent. He’s mine!
‘Best photo of the year,’ said the New York Times.
‘Simply Superb’ was the verdict of the Association of Professional Wildlife Photographers’
And my favourite – ‘Another breathtaking glimpse at the majesty of nature, from Nature Magazine.’
Jeez, I love my job!
Here are my reviews of two short stories written by Rhonda Hopkins, an avid reader and prolific reviewer as well as being a valued IASD member and contributor. Having already read and enjoyed ‘The Consuming’ I knew I was on safe ground taking advantage of the free download of ‘Survival’ (though it has now reverted to its original price. Having said that, both are free to read if you have Kindle Unlimited).
Amazon Description: Survival: Survival Series Prequel
When Sarah escapes from her brutal abductors, she promises to return to rescue her twin sister, but with the walking dead invading Fort Worth, TX, she is forced to rely on a competitive coworker who made her work life hell for years. With her coworker weakened by cancer treatments, her sister still imprisoned, and zombies looking for an easy meal, Sarah’s only plan, if she can pull it off, is Survival.
SURVIVAL is a 14,000 word (approx. 45 pages) short story and was originally published in the Let’s Scare Cancer to Death anthology.
I haven’t read all that much in the Zombie genre so I can’t say how this compares with similarly themed stories but it certainly sets off at a cracking pace with the fight for survival starting right from the opening sentence almost; it was a nice touch that the initial ‘survival’ efforts were quite unrelated to the Zombie apocalypse occurring. It’s probably premature to make comparisons but the opening scene could easily be one straight out of the hit tv series ‘The Walking Dead,’ though the cover does invite such comparisons, which given its current popularity, I’m not sure is such a good thing.
Although it would read quite well as a stand-alone story, I’m glad the author indicates there will be future instalments thus hopefully allowing the reader to explore the characters in greater depth. It’s impossible to tell what direction the story will take in the future but the story has been written in such a way as to leave open all manner of possibilities and a yearning to know the hows and whys of the current situation the characters have found themselves plunged into.
Amazon Description: The Consuming
Serena knows her late uncle wasn’t crazy. So when she inherits his sprawling Carolina mansion and leaves the big city to restore both his home and his name, she uncovers a mystery that could cost much more than her sanity. As the house slowly reveals its dark secrets, and the extent of her peril becomes evident, she’ll settle for escaping with her life—if it isn’t already too late.
A supposedly haunted dilapidated old house you’ve just inherited, the sudden death of an uncle you haven’t seen since childhood, rumours of madness, the locals refusing to go near the place, and a psychic best friend who warns you not to go near the place … It’s hard to say too much about a short story without giving too much away but here we have all the ingredients of a spooky little ghost story, the sort that would make for a great episode of Hammer’s House of Horror. I liked the author’s style of writing, hints of a modern Edgar Allen Poe but obviously more current and without overdoing the gothic atmosphere, striking just the right balance at the beginning between outward normality while feeling and knowing something’s not quite right. Sometimes a short story will leave too many unanswered questions but in one such as this, a bit of mystery left to the imagination just adds to its enjoyment.
Taking just under an hour to read, this is the perfect story if you like a little mystery and the supernatural in your reading but aren’t in the mood to take on the challenge of a full-length novel. Personally, I would have preferred this to be a little longer, perhaps with more involvement of the psychic friend but overall a fine short story that horror fans will appreciate.
“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the literary version of what films like Paranormal Activity tried to be. This has the bumps in the night flying off the page.” ~~ TW Brown, Author of the Dead, and the Zomblog series.
“The Consuming is a wonderful, chilling tale that leaves you listening too hard in the quiet of a dark night, and jumping at shadows in mirrors. Definitely looking forward to more from Ms. Hopkins.” ~~ Stacey Joy Netzel, USA Today Bestselling author of Beneath Still Waters and Lost in Italy.
“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the perfect example of gothic horror…” ~~ Jennette Marie Powell, Author of Hangar 18: Legacy and the Saturn Society series.
“…Rhonda Hopkins’ The Consuming had me turning on all the lights in the house and checking behind doors.” ~~ Stacy Green, Author of Into the Dark and Tin God (A Delta Crossroads Mystery).
“…This tale will give you shivers up your spine, make you take second glances in mirrors…Superb!” ~~ Penelope Anne Bartotto, The Library at the End of the Universe.
More about the author:
Award-winning romantic suspense and horror author, Rhonda Hopkins, has learned firsthand that truth is stranger than fiction. Her two decades of experience as an investigator for her state and family courts give her characters a depth and realism that gives truth a run for its money. In addition to stories published under her own name, Rhonda Hopkins has also contributed stories to a number of other multi-author anthologies. You can find out more about Rhonda at:
See also Rhonds Hopkins’ Amazon Author page for all the author’s books
Tom Benson is a multi-genre author and artist whose work I’ve reviewed several times since first discovering his writing on his wordpress site (see link below).
In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army. Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992. He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.
Tom is a prolific writer and book reviewer and has been writing since 2007. He has published seven novels, five anthologies of short stories, a five-part novel, a five-part series of erotica novellas, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry. In addition to his own writing, Tom Benson has contributed short stories to several other multi-author anthologies both commercially and in aid of various charities.
Tom is presently working on a number of other projects including helping manage and promote an international collection of indie authors on the indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com website which he helped create.
A collection of 12 stories created using a wide spectrum of scenarios. Military experiences can be funny, heart-breaking and, everything in between.
This anthology is a blend of my personal experience and knowledge together with specially created pieces to highlight the highs and lows of service life.
These tales can be enjoyed equally by those who have served and, those who have never donned a uniform.
Humour, fact, fiction, and fantasy are used to portray service in theatres as varied as Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Ancient Briton, the Persian Gulf, Africa, and elsewhere.
By Tom Benson
(Available as an eBook from Amazon – click on above title for link)
Of all the short story collections the author has written this is by far and away my favourite. Tom Benson has drawn on both his imagination and his considerable length of service to craft a poignant collection of short stories across a variety of military theatres. Unusually for a short story collection, not a single story here disappointed or fell even slightly below the high standard of every other.
Throughout this collection, Tom Benson has applied meticulous attention to authentic military detail but not to the point of overkill as to confuse the non-military reader. As anyone who has served will know, the army and other services practically speak another language with all the acronyms, slang and other assorted colourful phrases, but the author’s clever use of dialogue and context give all the slang and military terminology clear and obvious meaning thus ensuring the non-military is never left confused or wondering at certain words.
The opening story is a real ‘lump in the throat’ one of courage and self-sacrifice but it is immediately contrasted by the side-splittingly funny satire of the second, one that any military wife (or husband for that matter) will immediately identify with but its razor-sharp humour it cannot help but appeal to all. In the third, the author takes a somewhat personal trip down memory lane in a way that we can all relate to from some time in our lives when we were determined to prove our doubters wrong. Others in the collection highlight much of the military ethos of courage and protecting the weak and vulnerable but still providing the reader with a captivating story, and in the case of Photographic Memory, a real ‘punch the air feel good factor. In The Odd Couple we get a glimpse into some of the more covert activities of ‘The Toubles,’ bringing back painful memories for some of real events that mirror some aspects of the story. Another thing I liked about this collection was its sheer variety; from modern-day Afghanistan and Northern Ireland right back to the 2nd Century, from Jungle warfare to covert missions in the desert, from the sadness of a family torn apart from being on opposite sites to the sort of comradeship that transcends family that can only be formed with those you would die for and they for you. One story that is particularly pertinent to modern times is that of Walking Wounded; with today’s modern medicine and better field facilities, many more servicemen and women are surviving the sort of injuries only a few decades ago would have spelt certain death. The downside to this, of course, is that we have a whole generation of soldiers returning from conflicts having to face and cope with life-changing disabilities, and it is easy to understand the increased cases of PTSD in many such people. In the Walking Wounded we see the beginnings of one such man’s journey in finding a reason to look to the future with some hope, and with an unusually heart-warming twist too.
In ‘The Afterlife’ the author once again uses mostly his personal experience to round off the collection, giving the reader some brief comparisons of his life since leaving the army with that of a younger man who has never served and through it we see just why so many ex-servicemen refer to themselves as such rather than simply accepting their post-service ‘civilian’ status.
Overall, a thoroughly entertaining collection that will not only entertain but give the non-military reader some rare insights into military service. For others, again it will entertain but also bring back memories, some good, others not so maybe, but if nothing else, for me personally they remind me how very much I have to be thankful for still being in a position to read such stories when so many others are not.
For further links to Tom’s many other books please visit his Amazon author page by clicking on the link below:
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Tony McNally served in the British army as a Royal Artillery Gunner. At 19 years old he was sent to fight in the Falklands War as a Rapier missile operator where he shot down two enemy jet aircraft. After serving in Northern Ireland he left the forces and was diagnosed with PTSD (Post traumatic Stress Disorder) and told to go away and write down his thoughts and feelings.
This lead to him writing his No1 best selling book Watching Men Burn. He now lives in the tranquil English Lake district with his wife Linda and their two Labrador dogs, where he continues to write, especially poetry, which he finds very therapeutic and helpful with his PTSD. His other interests are Rugby League and enjoying his family. He has now published his page turning new book of Trauma poetry and a short story about World War One titled Screaming In Silence as reviewed below, and is working on his first eagerly anticipated military thriller fiction novel about terrorism and the Special Forces.
For further links to the author’s writting see:
Author website: www.tonymcnally.co.uk/
Tony McNally is a Falklands War veteran and the best selling author of Watching Men Burn. A tireless campaigner for better understanding and treatment of servicemen and women suffering from mental health problems like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
After leaving the forces he was diagnosed with PTSD by a civilian doctor and was at first unable to talk about his War time experiences, he was told to go home and try and write down his thoughts and feelings. He soon realized that writing was therapeutic and began to write poetry and short stories, Screaming in Silence is his first book of poetry and a short story about the First World War. Written from the heart this is a powerful collection of works that can only be written by someone that has experienced the brutality of War and mans inhumanity, which is apparent with his colorful and brutal and then at times beautiful, poignant and gentle words. He covers a wide range of subject matter, Politics, murder, homelessness, divorce, Religion and obviously War, McNally hits the readers with the ferocity of an exploding grenade then the gentleness of a poppy petal blowing gracefully in the summer breeze.
By Tony McNally
(Available from Amazon in eBook & Print formats)
.As accurate an insight into the mental trauma of front-line service you can get short of actually suffering it yourself…, 12 Jun. 2016 – By Rudders
There are many books and websites that describe and address PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from a clinical or diagnosis perspective but none that bring home the true reality and potentially devastating long-term effects more effectively than the words and thoughts here of someone with personal experience of it. Screaming In Silence is a collection of poetry high-lighting the grim reality and after-effects of being on the frontline of modern warfare. With over a hundred poems here the author covers every aspect of his personal experiences in both ‘The Troubles’ of Northern Ireland and the much shorter but equally violent and horrific conflict of the Falklands War. There is also a very personal introduction outlining the author’s childhood, early training experiences as a sixteen year old ‘boy soldier’ recruit in the British army, and his subsequent marriage break-ups and suicide attempts, all of which hints at and sets the tone for the poignant poetry to follow. In this introduction Tony McNally also emphasises, almost apologetically, that he is not a professional writer, that his reasons for writing this collection was to help him and others deal with their war-related PTSD. There are a few grammar and typo issues in the introduction but beyond that the quality of writing in the poetry is nothing short of superb.
The poems here are relatively short but every word is carefully chosen to convey the author’s feelings and thoughts, snapshots as it were of his experiences. Tony McNally doesn’t choose his words to contrive a consistent succession of rhymes simply to entertain or produce what we expect from more traditional poetry, but those which most aptly portray his feelings and what he’s trying to say. In some of his poems there is a prose style to relate a story such as in ‘Sticks and Stones’ where he tells of being a six-year-old boy with a pretend gun to a cadet with a rifle, and then from firing a Howitzer at sixteen to shooting down an enemy plane with a missile at nineteen, to finally looking back on being a little boy again. Some also reflect on his and others’ post army careers, alluding in once instance to the contrast between the pride of being a British soldier only to find oneself homeless or in a prison cell for shooting the enemy, an indirect reference to the highly publicised and controversial case of Marine ‘A’ now serving a prison sentence for a supposed war crime. In others he pays poignant and humbling tribute to the fallen of such conflicts. In parts there is understandable regret and bitterness about his experiences, condemning both governments, politicians, and religion for the needless loss of life, as well as the lack of care and treatment of those who return home from such conflicts, often ill-equipped to cope with the trauma they’ve suffered or the transition to civilian life. In contrast to the poems the author concludes his book with a moving and tragic short story about a young man serving at the front during the First World War.
If I were to compare Tony McNally to any of the more historically well-known poets it would have to be Wilfred Owen rather than the more romanticised works of Robert Brooke, perhaps not in style or technique but certainly for impact; and of the more current war poets, some of the poems compare with the more prose style of Tom Benson’s equally emotive collection Military Matters.
For those who have served, particularly in the same theatres of war as the author this collection will no doubt be a difficult read, likely bringing back painful memories of their own experiences. Despite this warning I have no hesitation in recommending it; in his writing the author has confronted and come to terms with many of the demons that form an integral part of his own PTSD, and if his words help others do the same I can only applaud the author on producing such a thoughtful, powerful, and well-written collection here.
Felipe Adan Lerma is a prolific author, having written numerous books in a number of genres ranging from short thrillers, as reviewed here, to poetry, photography, travel, and many more. He is also a prolific book reviewer, contributing to a number of online Indie author review and writing groups as well as offering help and advice whenever and wherever he can. On a personal note he has also proved to be an invaluable and valued member of my Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group and website of the same name, having blogged a number of posts in support of the IASD anthology You’re Not Alone in support of the cancer charity, Macmillan Nurses.
Click IASD thumbnail for website: Click thumbnail for Felipe’s blog post.
Click on thumbnail for link to Blog Review:
Part of a series of short stories, Texas Shorts.
“Dirty Sixth Street, Austin”
This short story is a first of several shorts.
My first story that takes six of my cast of characters in my fiction, the young cousins traveling and hanging around with each other, down into one of Austin’s most well known party streets.
Another first, is their involvement in a minor, but nevertheless, scary crime.
And a mystery, also of a sorts.
Besides the six children, Antone, Cherise, Simone, Tabitha, Buzz, and Zilker, two new characters, from Vermont, are introduced. Sam (Samantha) and her brother Matt. They’re adults. 🙂
Dirty Sixth Street, Austin
By Felipe Adan Lerma
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)
Nice little thriller … Moves along at a cracking and entertaining pace. By Rudders on January 10, 2016
Another short thriller from Felipe Adan Lerma but again one that packs a lot more into it than the relatively short word count would suggest. In his writing, the author strips away every superfluous word of needless padding, once again putting me in mind of Hemmingway. What’s left is a short hard-hitting thriller that moves along at a cracking and entertaining pace.
For a short story there are more than the usual two or the three characters, in this case there being six young cousins as well as police officer and child advocate Sam (Samantha) and her geeky brother Matt. At a little under eight thousand words the author manages well to bring to life the settings and busy atmosphere in which the story unfolds. The central character, Sam, is visiting Austin, Texas, to attend a law enforcement conference and job interview. Right from the start there are hints at Sam’s background, and some of the traumatic events she’s witnessed in the past. To relax and get away from things, she goes for walk in the evening along the busy Sixth Street. During that walk she encounters a group of six children of varying ages, the youngest being a boy of about eight who happens to be crying at the time. It turns out there have been a recent spate of robberies, one of which involves the children; being a police officer, and one particularly interested on the effects of crime on children, she sets about her own investigations, getting to know the children better along the way.
Another aspect of the author’s writing that impresses is the authentic characterisation and dialogue of the children and their interation with the adult police officer, Sam; quite often when writing children’s dialaogue, it can be difficult to get it just right or believable but the author succeeds in this area better than most, especially given the varying ages of the children in the story, a testament possibly to the author’s own extensive family background and interaction with his own children and grand children. The writing is actually quite enchanting, and though a thriller that doesn’t shy away from reality and the criminal undertones of the story, it does not rely on excessive violence, making it a suitable story for reading across most age groups and tastes.
An engaging and quick read, and one that will particularly appeal to fans of the crime, thriller, and short story genres. I won’t say more other than that as well as enjoying the story you may feel the urge to eat a spicy taco too… Why? You’ll have to read ther story to discover that ….
Born and raised in Texas, and now a young senior living in Vermont, his wife Sheila’s home state, Adan brings a gentle infusion of yoga and fitness to bear on life long interests in writing, painting, dance, photography, and the arts in general.
Determined to learn about the ideas of Western Culture that have informed our civilization, Adan put himself through college with the help of his GI Bill benefits. More recently, he has added certifications in fitness and yoga.
His self stated mission on his website, reads, “a Beginner’s View : Integrating Yoga Fitness and the Arts.”.
NEW: Over 50 titles available FREE in Kindle Unlimited.
Fiction, photography, poetry. Family, mystery, and (new) thriller fiction. Set in Austin Texas, Paris, and Vermont.
Images and poetry from all three locations.
Further links to the authors numerous novels and poetry collections can be found at:
Felipe Adan Lerma’s Amazon Author page
And lastly, a few words from Felipe Adan Lerma himself …
As the oldest of six, a father of three, and a grandfather of five, and married over thirty years, I believe, in writing stories and poems, I’ve found a perfect outlet for my years of living.
I have been writing and creating pictures since high school in the sixties, and began writing more seriously in the late 70s and early 80s.
One of my more recent surprises has been to read a definition of Romance that seems to generally fit the majority of both my poetry and fiction: a central story involving the relationship of two people, and a generally optimistic and satisfying ending.
With that revelation, I now view Romance fiction in a whole new light. 😉
But if I had to give one word about most of my fiction and poetry, and even my images, it’s relationships.
The interactions of people, especially couples and among family, seem to have the strongest hold on me. That would also help explain why even in my poetry about teachers and nurses and others, it is the relationship aspect that usually is my focus.
The Processing my Fiction series on my site has more detailed specific articles that might be of interest.
I hope you can take advantage of the half dozen or so titles I offer free for downloads, and will also consider and enjoy my other work. Thanks so much!
Felipe Adan Lerma