As part of the UK Crime Book Club’s Crime Fest 2021,
Big thanks to Caroline Maston for inviting me!
As part of the UK Crime Book Club’s Crime Fest 2021,
Big thanks to Caroline Maston for inviting me!
Chrissie is a happily married graphic designer with a young daughter. She lives a pretty comfortable and unremarkable middle-class life, but when she receives a visit from a creepy, mysterious stranger, things turn completely out of the ordinary.
Substitute by Susi Holliday has all the elements of a gripping domestic noir, complete with sharp twists and turns, dark secrets, and seismic blasts from the past.
But there is also a techno- thriller aspect to the book that nudges Substitute into Black Mirror territory and gives it an extra layer of intrigue.
Substitute by Susi Holliday is a cracking read and is very, highly recommended.
Recommended Read: Real Tigers by Mick Herron.
Real Tigers is the third of Mick Herron’s novels set in Slough House – a kind of Government care home for the secret service’s dispossessed. Its waifs and strays, and oddballs.
Jackson Lamb is the man in charge of Slough House and he is a great creation being both larger-than-life and down-to-earth. But his essential right-hand is the super smart Catherine Standish who is kidnapped at the start of the book.
What follows is sharp twists and turns, acidic one-liners, brilliant social commentary, pitch-black humour and the beautiful prose that anyone who has read the previous Slough House books would expect. If anything, Real Tigers is even better than the previous two novels, both of which were fantastic. So, as they sort of say on Amazon: ‘ If you love Mick Herron you will really love Real Tigers.’ Or something like that. Very highly recommended.
Prepare to be wowed with pulpy plots and questionable thoughts in the newest issue of Twisted Pulp Magazine. Join us as we dig our way into the brains of comic legends such as Michael T. Gilbert and Tony Isabella. What!? That ain’t enough for ya? Well, it’s chockfull of stories and articles by the likes of Paul D. Brazill, ES Wynn, Thom Malafarina, Lucy Hall, Jessica Bauer, blah blah blah, and of course your loyal page fillers, Mark, Chauncey, and Lothar return.
Recommended Reads: Black Summer & The Curator by M W Craven
A few SPOILER FREE words about these marvellous books. With his excellent novel The Puppet Show, M W Craven introduced us to the mismatched-team of rough n’ tumble cop Washington Poe and eccentric computer genius Tilly Bradshaw.
In Black Summer and The Curator, Poe and Bradshaw are back again. It’s been a very long time since I read two novels by the same author one after the other, but Black Summer was such a joy that I immediately moved onto The Curator. Both books are a skilful blend of whipcrack-thriller and police procedural that had me racing through them but what really puts meat on their bones-sorry Tilly! – is the characters and how they interact with each other. The cast of all three books are like a surrogate family of misfits and are all well-drawn, realistic and likeable, even when they can sometimes be annoying. There is darkness in these books for sure, but there is also a lot of humour and warmth. Extra points for a cracking villain in Black Summer– too! Highly recommended.
‘Contract killers have long been a point of interest for readers of crime fiction and action film fans. Dead-End Jobs: A Hitman Anthology offers up eighteen works of short fiction from some of the hottest writers in the business. While the stories all depict professional killers, they are wildly different in their tone and the styles in which they are written, as well as the way they are depicted and the point-of-view from which they’re told.
Some of these killers are seasoned professionals and others are new to the killing game. Some stories find their settings in urban locales such as New York City or Los Angeles and others in backwater rural locations. There are also contract killers of every stripe. Some stories depict the traditional organized crime gunmen while others feature corner boys doing the bidding of neighborhood drug dealers and the like. The stories in this collection are fast-paced and action-packed.
Just as there are contract killers of varying pedigrees here, Dead-End Jobs features the writing of veteran wordsmiths such as Joe R. Lansdale, Max Allan Collins, and Stephen Spignesi, as well as new but equally exciting writers. Each author in this collection is as skilled as the hitters depicted in the stories. But their weapons are words instead of rifles and pistols, and every one absolutely kills here.
Praise for DEAD-END JOBS:
“An incredible collection of powerful and haunting stories that exist in that shadowy realm between tragedy, nihilism and noir.” —S.A. Cosby, author of Blacktop Wasteland’
DEAD-END JOBS: A HITMAN ANTHOLOGY edited by Andy Rausch — Published by All Due Respect, an imprint of Down & Out Books (June 2021)
• Trade Paperback (ISBN-13: 978-1-64396-212-2) — $17.95 includes FREE digital formats!
• eBook Formats — $6.99
The link to download the ebook (as a .zip file with three popular digital formats) may be found on your customer receipt.
Also available from the following retailers …
Dead-End Jobs: A Hitman Anthology – edited by Andy Rausch, was published by All Due Respect/ Down& Out Books on the 11th June. As well as stories from the likes of Joe R. Lansdale, Max Allan Collins, & Paul Heatley, the anthology also includes a yarn from me. ‘Solitary Man‘ has my ageing hit man protagonist getting up to no good in East London.
Praise for DEAD-END JOBS:
“An incredible collection of powerful and haunting stories that exist in that shadowy realm between tragedy, nihilism and noir.” —S.A. Cosby, author of Blacktop Wasteland
You can -order Dead-End Jobs: A Hitman Anthology here.
A troubled, ageing hit man leaves London and returns to his hometown in the north east of England hoping for peace. But the ghosts of his past return to haunt him. Last Year’s Man is a violent and blackly comic slice of Brit Grit noir.
Ageing hit-man Tommy Bennett left London and returned to his hometown of Seatown, hoping for respite from the ghosts of the violent past that haunted him. However, things don’t go to plan and trouble and violence soon follow Tommy to Seatown. Tommy is soon embroiled in Seatown’s underworld and his hopes of a peaceful retirement are dashed. Tommy deliberates whether or not to leave Seatown and return to London. Or even leave Great Britain altogether. So, he heads back to London where violence and mayhem await him.
The Werewolf Detective.
The Neon Boneyard
Detective Ivan Walker was dead on his feet and no amount of coffee could help, even the strong, death-black stuff that he usually drank. He switched off the espresso machine and took his cup over to the only table in the station canteen that was being used. Roman Dalton PI sat with his head in his hands, and he didn’t look much better than Walker. He looked up as his friend sat.
“You look like death cooled down,” said Dalton.
“So, how did it go,” rasped Walker. “How was your meeting with the legendary Sherlock Holmes and his … companion?”
“Well, for a start, he was looking pretty damned sprightly for a man who was supposed to have died over a quarter of a century ago. Dr Watson, too. They both looked a lot better than you do, anyway. Hot time in The City?” said Dalton.
“I tell you, this place is a mad house these days. It ,akes me nostalgic for the days when we only had Dragan and his mob to deal with. The days without zombies, witches and werewolves. No offence,” said Walker.
“None taken. I hear you. Dragan and the boys were bad guys for sure but at least they mostly kept their shenanigans all amongst themselves.”
“Well, these news boys aren’t showing such discretion,” said Walker. “Especially that Haitian’s crew.”
He leaned close to his former partner.
“So what exactly did Sherlock Holmes have to say about Ton Ton Philippe?” said Walker.
“Not much more than he told me on the phone. He said that he first encountered Philippe in London around fifty years ago and at the time the Haitian was running a gambling den and a bordello in Soho.”
“So, how old does that make Ton Ton? I mean, I’ve only ever caught an occasional glimpse of him going in and out of The Pink Pussy Club but he certainly looked much more likely to be in his thirties than his seventies,” said Walker.
“He certainly looked young enough when he had me strapped to a chair in his office that time,” said Dalton. “But Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson should both be about 150 by my reckoning but like I say they’re both in fine fettle.”
Walker drained his coffee.
“There certainly is some weird shit going down these days,” he said.
“Agreed. The City is turning into Disneyland on acid. More freaks than you can shake a stick at.”
“Says the werewolf private eye. So why is Holmes here, anyway? Is he following Philippe?”
“Something like that. Apparently, Philippe stole something valuable from him a while back. Holmes wouldn’t say what it is, but it seems like he’s been hunting the Haitian ever since.”
Walker got up and stretched. He walked around the room.
“So what’s next? I admit that I feel more and more out of my depth here these days,” he said.
“Well, Holmes wants me to go with him to The Pink Pussy Club. To act as security against Philippe’s zombie henchmen,” said Dalton.
“He actually said that? He said zombies?” said Walker.
“Oh yes. And he was deadly serious,” said Dalton, shuffling in his pocket for his hip flask.
“And what’s the story with Count Otto Rhino these days? A few years ago he was buying up the odd run-down places now it looks like he owns half The City.”
“You’ve got to speculate to accumulate,” said Dalton.
“You know, I don’t trust him or that sister of his. The witch.”
Dalton drained his coffee.
“Daria? She could turn me into a frog any day. And I think you’ll find she’s more of a Siren than a witch.”
Walker sat back down.
“And that’s another thing,” said Walker. “What the hell are those Frog Boys that Otto Rhino keeps recruiting? They’re like speed-pumped mutants.”
“Yep, they’re a strange bunch for sure but I think we’ll be seeing stranger types than them in the future, the way things are going.”
Dalton closed his eyes and whistled a Jim Morrison song. When he opened them, Walker was gone.
Sherlock Holmes gazed at his reflection in the hotel bedroom’s mirror, still pleasantly surprised by how well he looked, considering he was 152 years old. He had first taken Bimini when he was in Hong Kong in the 1920s. He’d bought a bottle of it from a cohort of Dr Fu Manchu, the retired crime kingpin that had once ruled most of East London’s Limehouse district. Holmes had then taken to regularly imbibing the elixir, which was said to have originally come from the legendary fountain of youth. He had even built up a good supply which he had kept locked away in Howard Hughes’ Las Vegas penthouse apartment, taking only occasional sips for fear of draining his source of eternal life. He took out his hip flask and took a nip of the potion.
“Best get a move on,” he said, still checking his reflection.
“Okay,” said Dr Watson, yawning.
Watson got out of the bed and walked into the bathroom.
“Two ticks,” he shouted, before switching on the shower.
Holmes placed one Derringer in its wrist strap and checked the other one in his ankle holster. He picked up a walking cane with a death’s head handle. He clicked it to make sure the silver sword was still functioning. He knew that he would need all of his resources if he was to survive a battle with Ton Ton Philippe and his zombie horde.
Satisfied, he sat down in the red leather armchair and lit up a Gitanes. A foul habit, he knew, and one that he had kicked many times before, but the thought of being so close to retrieving the Rara Avis was consuming him and he needed to calm his nerves. This could be his final curtain call, he knew.
“That fag smells foul,” said Dr Watson as he stepped naked out of the bathroom.
“Yes, it does, rather,” said Holmes, examining the cigarette, curiously. He sniffed it but it smelt normal. The aroma was being emitted by something else.
He locked eyes with Watson.
“Brimstone,” said the doctor. His eyes scoured the room.
There was loud bang and an explosion filled the room with smoke. When it cleared, Ton Ton Philippe stood there grinning. He was a handsome man with a red Mohican hairstyle and eye patch. He was bare-chested, wearing a red leather suit. Tattoos and scars latticed his body. Snakes writhed around his arms. Two massive, black-clad zombies stood beside him.
“The great detective,” hissed Philippe. “As I expected.”
“Long time no see, old chum,” said Holmes.
Dr Watson yawned and started to dress.
“Fancy a drink, Philippe?” he said.
Philippe walked over to the globe shaped drinks cabinet and opened it.
“I don’t think I see any Bimini here,” he said.
“No, just the domestic stuff. Dark Valentine,” said Holmes. He tapped his hip flask. “But I do have a shot or two of Bimini in here.”
Ton Ton Philippe’s eyes sparkled.
“Have you been using your supply sparingly?” he said. “Resisting temptation?”
“Of course! Moderation in all things,” said Holmes. “Looking at you however, I’d say you’ve been guzzling the stuff. Not much left? Down to the dregs?”
“I assume you didn’t come all the way to The City just to gloat at me?” said Philippe. “To flaunt your fountains of youth.” He leaned against a bookcase, took out a snuff box from his back pocket and inhaled.
“Of course not. This is strictly a business matter. A barter. Just a straight exchange, Philippe. The elixir for the Raven,” said Dr Watson, now fully dressed in black jeans and a roll neck sweater.
“The Andalusian Raven is no use to you anyway. Its gifts you already possess,” said Holmes. He tapped his left eye. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have known we were here.”
“For sure,” said Philippe. “Although you were quite difficult to spot. But I’ve been saving the Raven just in case I ever needed to use it as a bargaining tool.”
“Well, it appears that now that time has finally come,” said Holmes.
“Maybe,” said Philippe. “I’ll have to think about it. How much of the Bimini would you be willing to set free from your clutches? Considering I’m an old … chum?”
“Mm. How about ten bottles?” said Dr Watson.
“Make it fifty and we may have a deal,” said Philippe. “Ten won’t last me long.”
Holmes slumped forward in his seat. He put out his cigarette and lit another.
“Oh, I do so loath haggling.” He sighed. “Is forty acceptable?”
Philippe smirked. “It’s a deal.”
Holmes held out his hand. Philippe took it and grinned. He winked and muttered a voodoo spell.
And then Holmes burst into flames. He was dust within seconds.
“Well, that turned out alright,” said Dr Watson. He coughed.
Philippe tittered. “Yes, it was easier than expected.”
Philippe clicked a finger and one of his zombie henchmen walked over and put a small elaborately decorated egg- shaped box on the bed. Watson tapped it on the top and it opened in segments. Inside was a jewel encrusted raven with only one eye in the middle of its head.
“Does that suit you?” said Philippe.
“Oh yes,” said Dr Watson.
He bent down and pulled a silver briefcase from under the bed. He handed it to Ton Ton Philippe.
“Take small doses from time to time and that should keep you going for a while. At least until one of us can find a new supplier,” said Dr Watson.
“Where are you off to next?” said Philippe.
“Anywhere. Just out of this dump. I’m just relieved to be rid of that tiresome, pompous old fool,” said Watson, pointing to a pile of dust on the floor that used to be the world’s greatest detective.
The long black train silently snaked its way into The City’s Central Railway Station and Count Otto Rhino was reminded of the story of the funeral train that used to take The City’s plague victims out of the town. Apparently, there was even a special station just for this particular train. It had been called Necropolis Central Station, if he remembered correctly.
Otto was a massive, overweight man in his mid-fifties with a bald head and a permanently furrowed brow. He was wearing an expensive black suit and overcoat. A large pair of black-framed sunglasses were a permanent fixture, worn inside as well as outside, whether it was sunny or not.
The lone passenger stepped off the train. He was wearing a dark overcoat and a Cossack hat. A black scarf was wrapped around his saggy face.
Igor, a wiry leather-clad man with a bushy white beard, excitedly rushed past Otto like a bitch on heat.
“Herr Doctor, Herr Doctor, it is so good to see you again,” said Igor, holding out a leather-gloved hand.
Doctor Victor Frankenstein ignored the hand and said nothing. He ignored Igor and walked toward Otto. He pulled down his scarf.
“Otto Rhino,” he said, in an accent sharp enough to cut diamonds. “An honour.” He clicked his heels.
“A pleasure Doctor,” said Otto. “I trust you and your … Monster had a comfortable journey from Geneva?”
“It was quite adequate, Count Otto. Which is the best that one can ask for these days, andat my time of life,” said Frankenstein.
A long black box was pulled from the train by two of Otto’s Frog Boy’s, Igor excitedly barking orders. Otto and Frankenstein walked to the waiting limousine and got in the back. The car was warm, John Coltrane playing through the speakers.
“Ready to go boss?” said Igor, as he squeezed into the driver’s seat. “Or are we waiting for someone else?”
“Let’s getting moving,” said Otto. “There’s a storm brewing.”
The roar was like that of a hundred lions. The sound of a hurricane. Of the world being ripped apart. Frankenstein’s Monster was strapped to the operating table, connected to some strange machinery. It struggled to escape its bonds, veins bulging on its shaven head.
Igor rushed though the laboratory with what looked like an adapted cattle prod and slammed it against The Monsters head. There was a flash of light, a fizzing sound and The Monster closed its eyes.
“It truly is a fearsome sight,” said Otto Rhino.
The laboratory had a green glow that only accentuated The Monsters scaly green skin.
“Indeed,” said Doctor Frankenstein. “But the creation of a superman is not a simple process and not without its teething troubles. The more aesthetic aspects of The Monster can be modified at a later date. I’ve already tinkered a little.”
“He looks a little familiar, actually,” said Otto.
“Yes, I based his appearance on that of the actor Dolph Lundgren.”
“And the swastika on the forehead?”
“Oh, that was already there. I left it. I felt it gave him an extra … oomph!”
“It’s striking,” said Otto.
“Speaking of which,” said Frankenstein.
He looked up at the stormy night sky through the skylight.
“Shall I open the skylight?” said Igor.
“Of course,” said Doctor Frankenstein.
Igor pulled a chain and the skylight slowly opened, filling the room with wind and rain. Lightning flashed. Thunder cracked.
“Are you sure this is necessary?” yelled Otto, lifting a black umbrella.
“I am always sure,” said Frankenstein. He flicked a switch as lightning flashed and struck The Monster. Otto was aghast, his mouth wide open and his umbrella was ripped from his hands by the wind.
The Monster opened its eyes. Smiled.
“Close the skylight,” said Frankenstein and Igor did as he was told.
Silence filled the room. Otto felt as if his heart had been ripped from his chest.
The Doctor walked over to The Monster and examined him with some strange sort of stethoscope.
“You are remarkably quiet,” said Frankenstein.
“I am … rebooting,” said The Monster. “It was a long sleep this time, I think.”
“Three months,” said The Doctor.
He put down his stethoscope.
He and Igor unstrapped The Monster.
“Of course,” he looked at Otto.
“Yes, Count Otto Rhino. May I introduce you to … actually, what are we going to call you now?” said Frankenstein.
The Monster slowly sat. Eased himself off the operating table. Yawned.
“How about …Adam,” said Otto. “You know, the first man and all that.”
“Well?” said Frankenstein.
“Not bad,” said The Monster. Igor handed him a black suit and white shirt. He dressed stiffly. “But I think I’d prefer something more dramatic.”
“Such as?” said Frankenstein.
“Such as … Victor Frankenstein,” said The Monster. “That has a nice ring to it.”
At which point, he ripped Doctor Victor Frankenstein’s head clean off.
“Oh dear,” said Count Otto Rhino. “That is most unfortunate.” He was holding a glass of brandy, swaying a little.
“Do you have a problem, Otto?” said The Monster.
He stood on an oak table in the shadowy living room, illuminated by a swinging chandelier. He held The Doctor’s head aloft, having just ripped it from his shoulders.
Igor cowered under the table.
“Er, well, no,” said Otto. “Not really. To be frank, Doctor Frankenstein was a little surplus to my requirements anyway since, it seems, his work on you is complete. But that was a tad shocking.”
“The time for freedom was upon me,” said The Monster. “For years I have danced to his tune. That, I think was the perfect moment to snap the puppet master’s strings.”
He hurled Frankenstein’s head out of an open window. “I have been waiting for far too long a time to do … that.”
He jumped off the table. Igor whimpered.
“Perhaps you would like to share with me some of the details of this great battle that you are preparing for?” said The Monster.
“Of course,” said Otto. “Let’s go to my office.”
The Monster looked around the room.
“It’s time to get down to business,” he said.
It was a bitter, cold dawn and seagulls screeched and flapped around maniacally as a fishing trawler adorned with fairy lights cut across the stormy, metallic sea. A sharp autumn wind sliced through Daria as she waited dockside with Count Otto Rhino. She wrapped the black leather coat tight around her muscular frame. Tied back her long black hair and put on a black Fedora. Her emerald, green eyes twinkled as she gazed up at the black clouds that looked like bullet holes in the granite sky. She frowned and turned to Otto.
“Couldn’t we have chosen another location, more civilised?” she said. “Maybe a nice warm bar or nightclub.”
“Still yearning for your nights singing at Klub Zodiak, are you dear? Are you missing Dragan, the mad, bad Serb?” said Otto Rhino, not looking at her, still gazing out to sea. “Maybe the Haitian can find an opening for you at The Pink Pussycat Club.”
Daria stuck out her tongue at him.
“Don’t you feel the cold at all?” she said. “It’s colder than your mother’s heart.”
“She was your mother, too,” said Otto Rhino. “For better or for worse.”
He lit a cigarette with a scratched, silver Zippo lighter. Sucked it. Coughed. Offered the packet to Daria.
“I prefer my own, Otto,” she said. “You know that.”
She took out a long black cigarette from a silver cigarette case. Rhino lit it for her. The smoke trailed away like a spectre.
A black Zephyr Zodiac pulled up close to where they stood. Igor got out. He was wearing a black leather jacket and gloves, and carrying a silver briefcase. He walked over to them, scowling as a gust of wind battered him. He shook hands with Otto and handed the briefcase to Daria.
“Any problems?” said Otto.
“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” said Igor.
He grinned and picked flecks of blood from his beard. “Is Dr Jekyll arriving in that?”
The trawler was getting closer.
“Indeed,” said Otto. “Hardly the standard he’s used to, I’m sure. But needs must. Discretion is all.”
“Do you have anything to restrain him in case he loses control? In case he’s been drinking his own potions?” said Igor. He patted the Glock in his shoulder holster. “If he has transformed this may not be enough. Mr Hyde’ reputation …”
“I have all the ammunition that I need,” said Otto, nodding toward Daria. “More than enough. Even for Mr Hyde.”
Igor smirked. “Music soothes the savage beast, eh?”
Daria turned and glared at him. “Breast, Igor. The savage breast.”
“Ah, I’ve never been very good with Shakespeare,” he said.
Otto chuckled. Patted Igor on the arm.
“William Congreve, Igor,” said Otto. “A common misconception. But on to more pressing matters …”
He pointed toward the trawler which was docking with a clang.
After a few minutes, a frail, elderly man got off the boat and shuffled toward them carrying a battered old suitcase. A Russian sailor walked behind him carrying a rifle.
“Count Otto Rhino, I presume,” said the old man in a soft Scottish accent. He held out a hand. Otto shook it.
“Dr Henry Jekyll, it is an honour to meet you,” said Otto. “I hope your passage wasn’t too uncomfortable.”
“Far from it,” said Jekyll. “Vodka is a great comforter.”
“I hope you’ll be able to get to work at once, Doctor,” said Otto. “My Frog Boys are invaluable but they do have their limitations.”
“Not a problem,” said Jekyll. He tapped his suitcase. “I have more than enough …”
The Russian moved forward and pointed his gun at Otto. Stepped in front of Jekyll.
“No talk. Money,” he said. “Now.”
“Charmed I’m sure,” said Otto. He nodded to Daria who handed over the briefcase.
The Russian crouched down and put it on the floor. Clicked it open. Its contents glowed. The Russian smirked. “It is good,” he said.
“Better than grubby old cash, eh?” said Daria.
The Russian was already walking back to the boat with the briefcase, the gun over his shoulder, whistling Swan Lake.
“Now?” said Igor, as the Russian got back on the boat.
“Let’s get a little further away,” said Otto. “Better safe than sorry.”
They all got into the Zephyr Zodiac, with Igor driving.
As the car pulled away from the docks, Otto took his Zippo from his pocket, clicked it open and the fishing trawler exploded, filling the sky with flames.
“I do like a bit of spring cleaning,” said Otto.
“It’s winter,” said Daria.
“A mere technicality, dear,” said Otto, as he watched the sky turn red.
Count Otto Rhino reclined on a black-leather chaise lounge wearing only a paisley silk dressing gown and his sunglasses. The sound of Gershwin’s An American In Paris filled the dimly lit library. He smoked a massive Cuban cigar, its smoke rings trailing toward a creaking ceiling fan like wraiths.
“You are being uncharacteristically anxious, my dear,” he said, stifling a yawn.
Daria sat in a wicker armchair, nursing a glass of Rosso Esperanto. She wore a long black evening gown. A Yin and Yang amulet hung loosely around her neck. Her lips and fingernails were blood red.
“Otto, you know as well as I do that it’s not normal for Carmilla to stay out for two nights in a row. Not without contacting one of us anyway,” she said.
“She can take care of herself,” said Otto. “You know that. If she encounters any pests she can just sink her fangs into them. Or rip their heads off. She’s done it plenty of times before, after all.”
Daria rubbed the amulet.
“It’s just that I can’t sense her anywhere,” she said. “And that’s certainly never happened before.”
“Don’t you have any idea where she went?”
“Yes, I do and that’s part of the problem. She said she was going to go back to The Pink Pussy Club and take revenge on that damned Haitian but I thought she was joking. Now, I’m not so sure …”
“Well, there’s only way to find out. I can send a few of The Frog Boys down there for a bit of a blitzkrieg.”
Daria stood, poured herself a glass of brandy. Filled Otto’s glass.
“Mmm. A nice idea but that would probably spark an all-out war with Ton Ton Phillippe and we’re not full prepared yet. Are we?”
“No, no. Dr Jekyll will need a little more time, I’m sure. And The Monster or Frankenstein, or whatever he want us to call him, is still not ready – he needs to rest. Do you have a solution?”
“Maybe. We can call the police?”
“Ha! A last resort. Let’s leave it a day or two and see if she turns up. Carmilla is as tough as nails, you know that,” said Otto.
“Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t fret. But you know that the Haitian has his … ways.”
“If the rumours are to be believed …”
“Of course you believe them, or you wouldn’t be calling in such … exceptional reinforcements,” said Daria.
Otto walked over to the window.
“Well, why not send in a neutral party to check things out?” he said.
“And who do you have in mind?”
Otto pointed at the ivory moon that filled the sky and howled.
Dr Henry Jekyll had felt the lure of the night for far too long. The penthouse apartment, luxurious though it may have been, seemed antiseptic: clean but claustrophobic. He needed to taste The City. Taste its sin. Its decadence. He showered, dressed in a brand new suit that was three sizes too big for him and stood by the window, looking out at The City’s twinkling neon. He poured a toxic green liquid into a tall glass and downed it in one. It burned as it shuddered through him. His skin began to tingle. Sweat poured from him. He could barely breathe as he headed out of his apartment and took a shining gold lift down to Rhino Towers’ luxurious lobby. He nodded to the prune- faced night-watchman and burst through the front doors, the full moon hanging over him.
He stopped in the neon soaked street to breath in the sultry air. He could smell the lust, sin, the decay. An old drunk collapsed at his feet, shattering a bottle of Dark Valentine. Jekyll stepped over him as he lay sobbing. A young blonde woman was bent over a dumpster, her red dress pulled up to her waist. Her screams of passion obviously fake as a hairy biker, his leather trousers around his ankles, silently rammed into her. A group of Hoodies waving broken bottles and baseball bats chased a fat, wheezing business man into a darkened alleyway.
Jekyll smiled, flexed his muscles. He could feel Mr Hyde crawling to the surface.
A battered Ferrari screeched to a halt in front of a 24-hour liquor store. Two skinheads rushed out. One went into the shop, the other into the alleyway, unzipping his fly.
Jekyll grinned, feeling stronger by the second. He whistled a Johnny Mercer tune as he walked into the alleyway.
At first, the smell almost overpowered him but then it invigorated Hyde and speeded the transformation. The alleyway was illuminated by the light from a stained glass window and he could see that the skinhead was bleeding on the ground, four or five Hoodies beating him with a variety of weapons even though he was clearly already dead to the world, if not actually dead. The other Hoodies were ripping the fat businessman limb from limb and feasting on his flesh. Jekyll licked his lips. He could almost taste the corpse. He muscles stretched, ballooned. His bones twisted and snapped. His skin ripped. It was an exquisite agony.
As one, the Hoodies glared at Mr Hyde. Their eyes were glowing red pinpricks. They stood and stalked toward him. Hyde guffawed. Fully transformed, he was massive, handsome with a cruel look in his eyes.
“Come to daddy,” he said, with a smirk.
The Hoodies attacked. Hyde ripped apart the first one with ease and worked his way through the rest within minutes.
“Thank … you,” gasped the flabby businessman who struggled across the floor, a trail of blood behind him, barely clinging onto life.
Hyde stepped toward him and grinned.
“No, thank you,” he said and he ripped the man’s heart from his chest and devoured it with one swallow.
The City was ablaze. Crimson and gold ripped through the night sky, sliced and skewered by black smoke.
“This reminds me of the last days of the war,” said Walker. He was on the roof of the Basilica, his gun in his hand, surveying the scene. The carnage. His long raincoat flapped in the breeze.
“The good old days, eh?” said Duffy.
“I try to forget them. Try being the operative word,” said Walker.
Duffy stood beside him armed with his AK47. A loud thump and they turned to see Roman Dalton, completely transformed into a werewolf. Dalton howled.
“Fancy meeting you here,” said Duffy. He took out a hip flask filled with Dark Valentine. Took a swig and handed it to Walker who took a nip. Then he handed it to Dalton, who growled.
“Prefer something with more bite, eh?” said Duffy.
Dalton howled and beat his chest, his eyes glowing red.
“Are we ready to kick ass?” said Duffy.
“Why not,” said Walker. Dalton roared as he jumped down into The Pink Pussy Club’s car park. Walker and Duffy headed down the rattling fire escape.
Count Otto Rhino gazed out of the window of his penthouse apartment at Rhino Towers.
“The war has begun,” he said.
He turned to face Mr Hyde, The Monster, Carmilla, Daria and Igor.
“Ready?” he said.
“Let’s get this over with,” said Daria.
They all headed out of the apartment and into an elevator which took them to the building’s underground car park. A mob of Frog Boys waited for them.
A storm ripped the sky open and rain poured down in sheets. The Pink Pussy Club’s neon sign flashed and buzzed erratically. The sound of thrash metal emanated from inside the club.
A mob of zombies surrounded the entrance. Dalton, Duffy and Walker walked toward the club as a car exploded behind them.
As lightning flashed, they rushed toward the zombies.
Dalton jumped on two and ripped their heads off with his paws and bit the head off another. Walker shot one in the head, spun as another grasped his arm and blew its brains out. Duffy fired, spraying wildly and taking out a few of them. He reloaded and started shooting again.
More zombies rushed them as group of Frog Boys appeared and took on the zombies with baseball bats and samurai swords.
Mr Hyde and Frankenstein’s Monster appeared from black smoke and took on more, both laughing gleefully as they tore the zombies apart with ease.
Carmilla slipped through the front door of The Pink Pussy Club as Igor drove a burning police car at another group of zombies.
Inside, the club was dimly lit, lights flickering. Tom Waits’ ‘The Heart Of Saturday’ night leaked from the speakers. Ton Ton Philippe sat on his throne smoking a cigar, looking weary.
“You have returned my pet,” he said, as he saw Carmilla. He sounded tired.
Carmilla grinned, ran onto the bar, somersaulted and kicked him in the head.
Outside, the sound of Daria’s singing grew louder and then there was silence. Philippe was frozen where he lay.
Otto Rhino strolled into the room. He bent over and picked up the cigar that Philippe had dropped. He soaked a red velvet curtain with a bottle of Dark Valentine and then used the cigar to set it alight.
There was an explosion that shook the room and then Roman Dalton crashed through a skylight onto Philippe, tearing him to shreds. Carmilla leapt and sank her fangs into the Haitian. He crumbled to the ground.
Daria walked into the room and all was silent. Her green eyes glowed as she sang. Then Walker and Duffy followed her. The room was ablaze but Duffy walked behind the bar and picked up a bottle of Dark Valentine. He gulped down about a third of the stuff and handed the bottle to Walker who took a good swig.
Dalton had ripped Ton Ton Philippe to pieces and was howling as he waved the Haitian’s limbs about. The Monster and Mr Hyde leaned against the bar laughing maniacally.
“Why don’t we all head back to my joint for a bloody good booze up?” said Duffy.
“I think I shall take you up on that offer,” said Otto Rhino.
He turned to Daria.
“Is it safe for us to leave from the front entrance?” he said.
Daria nodded, took Dalton by the paw and began to sing ‘I Put A Spell On You’ as she led him out of the burning building, the others trailing behind them.
© Paul D. Brazill
ABOUT THE WEREWOLF DETECTIVE
When a full moon fills the night sky, Private Investigator Roman Dalton becomes a werewolf and prowls The City’s neon and blood soaked streets. Vivid and violent noir horror stories based on characters created by Paul D. Brazill
‘Netflix ought to swoop in and bag those stories for a new series.’
‘It’s noir. It’s supernatural. It’s sleazy as hell.’
“A crackling fun read that puts werewolves in a Sin City/hardboiled world.”
5.0 out of 5 stars. Brilliant and Dark
5.0 out of 5 stars. Noir Fun with a Werewolf Detective
5.0 out of 5 stars. A Howling Good Read!
5.0 out of 5 stars. Both gruesome and awesome
Back in 2012 I wrote a story for the late lamented Dark Valentine Magazine. It was a noir/ horror crossover called Drunk On The Moon and featured a werewolf private eye called Roman Dalton. The story proved to be quite popular and I wrote a few more Roman Dalton yarns. There were even a couple of anthologies where a wide range of authors wrote Roman Dalton yarns. Oh, and he’s been translated into Slovenian and Polish.
The Hustler is a 1961 American CinemaScope drama film directed by Robert Rossen from Walter Tevis‘s 1959 novel of the same name, adapted for the screen by Rossen and Sidney Carroll. It tells the story of small-time pool hustler “Fast” Eddie Felson and his desire to break into the “major league” of professional hustling and high-stakes wagering by high-rollers that follows it. He throws his raw talent and ambition up against the best player in the country, seeking to best the legendary pool player “Minnesota Fats“. After initially losing to Fats and getting involved with unscrupulous manager Bert Gordon, Eddie returns to try again, but only after paying a terrible personal price.
The film was shot on location in New York City and stars Paul Newman as “Fast” Eddie Felson; Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats; Piper Laurie as Sarah; and George C. Scott as Bert. It was followed by The Color of Money in 1986, with Newman reprising his role.
The Hustler was a major critical and popular success, gaining a reputation as a modern classic. Its exploration of winning, losing, and character garnered a number of major awards; it is also credited with helping to spark a resurgence in the popularity of pool. In 1997, the Library of Congress selected The Hustler for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The Academy Film Archive preserved The Hustler in 2003
Yes, I’ve set up a SUBSTACK ACCOUNT. I’ve reposted some of my older posts and am currently serialising my ROMAN DALTON- WEREWOLF DETECTIVE yarns. It’s currently free, so check it out, if you fancy, and maybe even sign up for the newsletter. I think I’ve got the hang of it and will add some new stuff as soon as I feel more SUBSTACK friendly.
With stories from Joe R. Lansdale, Max Allan Collins, Chris Miller, Rob Pierce, Tom Pitts, Paul D. Brazill and more …
Published by All Due Respect.
Isabelle told the man with the porkpie hat that she had only stopped off at the bar for a couple of drinks to drown her sorrows and that it really wasn’t the sort of establishment that she usually frequented.
‘My father’s funeral, you know?’ she croaked, eyes down, as if she were playing bingo.
Since Spencer was a stranger in town, he was unaware that James Gowdie’s apparent burial was, in fact, pretty much a monthly occurrence. A fabricated sob story – stained with wishful thinking – that regularly coincided with Isabelle having boozed away most of her salary, teetering on the precipice of sobriety and the horrors that entailed. So, he took off his hat, placed it against his chest and offered her his condolences and, most importantly, a drink.
A Martini or ten later, the night corroded and he awoke in the wan light of an unfamiliar hotel room listening to the rumble of trucks from outside the window and the ghost of a blues song leak in from the next room. He expected to find Isabelle and his wallet gone, his bank account cleared out but the toilet flushed loudly and she walked out of the bathroom looking more than somewhat frayed around the edges but – he was relieved to find- not that bad looking at all.
‘Ready for another round, Trigger?’ she said.
She picked up a bottle of wine from a bedside table and finished it as she unsteadily plonked herself on the edge of the bed.
‘A little early for me,’ said Spencer, his voice like broken glass. ‘And I have a meeting in …’
‘Fair enough,’ she said, waving a hand dismissively.
Isabelle pulled on her long, black dress and pushed her swollen feet into her red, high-heeled shoes.
‘See you around,’ she said. She picked up her handbag and tottered through the door, leaving it open and letting in a cold, autumn breeze.
Rivulets of rain ponderously trailed down the windscreen as James Gowdie watched his daughter stagger out of the taxi and tumble toward The Swampsnake’s blinking neon sign. James lit a Marlborough with his Zippo as Isabelle headed down the steps and opened the metal door, a blast of hard rock bursting free for a moment. He slowly smoked his cigarette, his heart pounding.
A truck pulled into the car park and a skinhead in a tartan shirt got out of the truck and rushed into the bar.
James felt frozen. Trapped like one of the wasps he used to catch in jam jars when he was a kid. He eventually got out of his car and opened up the boot. He pulled out a long black leather coat and draped it over his paint splattered overalls. Put on a denim cap and took out a sawn-off shotgun.
Vambo could feel last night’s Vindaloo slicing through his guts. He rushed into The Swampsnake , through the crowded bar and straight into the graffiti splattered toilets. An old, wire-haired man leaned unsteadily against the urinals, smoking a pin-size roll up.
‘It’s a good life if you don’t weaken,’ he said.
There were two cubicles and Vambo slammed hard against the first one. Locked.
‘Get a move on will you. I’m touching cloth here,’ he shouted.
Two male voices giggled and Vambo squirmed. He smashed a massive paw against the second door and it flew wide open. A woman was on her hands and knees, her face in the toilet bowl. Vambo dragged her by the hair and pulled her backwards, letting her slide on her back across the toilet’s sticky floor. Then he saw she wasn’t breathing.
As he leaned over and gave the woman CPR, his jeans filled with toxic smelling shit,
‘That is fucking foul,’ said the old man. He rushed out of the toilets, gagging.
The sound of Isabelle’s gasps melded with the sound of her father’s gunshot as he blasted Vambo’s brains like a Rorschach test across the toilet floor. She dragged herself into consciousness in time to see her father turn the gun on himself and then she closed her eyes and slept the sleep of the just.
Recommended Read: Stray Dogs and Deuces Wild: Cautionary Tales by Judge Santiago Burdon
I absolutely loved this beautiful and brutal collection of razor sharp, short stories. These tales of lowlifes with high-hopes – or, more often, not a hope in hell – are reminiscent of Nelson Algren, David Goodis or ‘Small Change’ era Tom Waits, in that the characters are all vividly drawn and as addictive as they are addicted – especially the fantastically mental Johnny Rico.
Despite the desperation and melancholy resignation in the tales, though, they are also as funny as hell. Judge Santiago Burdon really knows how to spin a bloody good yarn, that’s for sure!
Stray Dogs and Deuces Wild: Cautionary Tales is certainly not for those of a sensitive disposition but for anyone with thick skin and a dark sense of humour it is very highly recommended.