Cure Guaranteed! – Short Story

It’s been ages since I last posted a short story here, what with launching my debut anthology, book reviews, and updating the book listing site for my Indie author review group, but I’ve finally managed to take some time out for another retribution themed tale, my favourite genre alongside humour – it’s a bit on the dark side, and crosses over into some rather controversial subject matter. As a writer I think it’s important not to shy away from such material, but at the same time, I think much of the detail can often be left to the imagination (as it is here) rather than writing purely for some sort of shock effect. 

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Cure Guaranteed!

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“Damn! The bastard’s got that prick Sullivan testifying for him.” The prosecution team were not happy, knowing that their job had just been made ten times harder on hearing the news. Detective Sergeant Nelson looked at the prosecution barrister quizzically. As far as Nelson was concerned it was an open and shut case; Cross was a monster, and he’d be going away for a very long time.

“So? What difference does it make, the guy’s as guilty as hell, and with his record what difference does it make who he’s got testifying for him?” The Sergeant asked.

“When it comes to Sullivan, believe me it does matter.”

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“Just who is this Sullivan bod? What can he say? I mean, we’ve already got a guilty plea. Nothing can change that?”

“Ahh, this is your first abuse case isn’t it?” Mr Jackson, the barrister replied, realising now the Sergeant’s confusion.

“So?”

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“It means you haven’t yet come across the renowned professor – eminent psychologist specialising in pseudo aversion therapy for those with sexual disorders – guarantees to cure all his charges – for a price!”

“Oh come on, Cross has gotta be looking at a five stretch at the very least!”

“We’ll see…”

***

Ever since the introduction of sentence hearing legislation for violent and sex offenders, prosecution lawyers now face the double hurdle of not only securing conviction, but also ensuring that such convictions actually mean anything. I don’t suppose I do anything to alleviate their task, at least not from their point of view. But it’s not easy what I do, being hated by relatives, victims, the police, and even my own contemporaries. But someone has to do it, and I suppose the money is a bonus too. But why do I do it, you might ask? I sometimes wonder that myself… I suppose it’s because I’m the best; because the law allows my clients the best testimony money can buy – and I do guarantee my cure. Personally I can’t see what all the fuss is about; my clients, or rather those of the defence lawyers who employ me, avoid useless spells in prison; I get paid lots of money, and above all, I really do help people. Still, it’s a pity that others have to be deceived into seeing things differently…

***

“Really, Your Honour. In light of the seriousness of the offence and the defendant’s past history, the prosecution cannot agree to the defence’s absurd request for supervised, but non-custodial treatment.” Mr Jackson can see where this is going. I don’t envy his position, or his frustration at the system that allows such absurd argument, but that’s his problem, not mine.

The judge looks up from the sheaf of papers he’s been reading before pulling his half-rimmed spectacles a further half inch down the bridge of is nose: “I shall decide what is and isn’t absurd Mr. Jackson.” The judge begins, before turning his attention to the defence barrister: “But in deciding so, I must confess to some degree of sympathy with the prosecution. Do you have anything to say in support of such a request Mr. Harris?”

“Not directly, but I would like to call upon the expert testimony of Professor Sullivan of the …

“Yes, yes, Mr. Harris. I’m well aware of the eminent Professor and his qualifications. Proceed.”

I enter the dock, calm and relaxed, mentally preparing myself for all too familiar onslaught.

“Come now Professor, are you really suggesting it would be safe to let loose on the community a convicted child molester?”

“I have not suggested anything as yet,” I reply, waiting for him to say, or rather, state something more concrete, something I can use to my advantage. I don’t have to wait long…

“But that is what you will be asking for, is it not?”

“No, Mr. Jackson. That is what you are asking the court not to allow.”

“Is there a difference?” Perfect, I think, so predictable. My advantage…

“Mr. Cross..,” I say deliberately (subtly separating him from the ‘defendant’ label), “…is an admitted paedophile, someone who is prey (making my client a victim too) to intermittent erotic attraction and fantasies, the subjects of which happen to be prepubescent children.”

“And the difference?”

“Perhaps none. Certainly not a quantative one from many of the attractions and fantasies of you, myself, or any other member of the public.” I’m careful not to include the judge in that list, whatever the truth of the matter.

“That is not the difference I was referring to.” As if I didn’t know, again so predictable. I say nothing, pausing for him to push home his perceived advantage: “Is it or is it not your assertion that it would be safe to allow a convicted child molester, a homosexual menace who preys on little boys to essentially walk free from the court, albeit under your supposed supervision at one of your clinics?”

I mentally sigh at the pathetic predictability of his logic; a wonderful but irrelevant piece of rhetoric better saved for a jury. When will these would be actors realise they’re not playing to an audience, I ask myself…

“I appreciate your expertise is one of law, and not of either psychology or psychiatry, and as such your ignorance in these matters can be forgiven. However, a man’s future is at stake here, as well as the well-being of potential victims…”

I must be careful here – mustn’t let it appear that my concern for the defendant’s potential victim’s well-being is secondary to that of my client….but to continue…

“…Firstly, a homosexual as I’m sure you’re aware is simply one who is sexually attracted to one’s own sex. Provided he or she is content with such feelings it is not classified as a disorder. A sexual offence is an offence whatever the sexual preference of the perpetrator, a fact recognised when dealing with heterosexual offenders – one does not hear of a man offending against young girls being referred to as a heterosexual offender. Sexual preferences determined at birth are not considered to be disorders, only some of their many variations which are shaped or developed through experience, social, or environmental influences. Paedophilia is such a variation in that it is volitional, and therefore curable.”

“In that case, surely their conduct is even more reprehensible? At least in the case of the former one can offer the excuse they can’t help themselves, that they’re born like it?”

I inwardly chuckle. The prosecutor thinks he’s got me on the ropes, that I’m digging myself into a hole of which can’t get out. I know it’s wrong – we’re both on the same side at the end of the day, want the same outcome – but I do so enjoy these little one-sided exchanges; slowly I begin to construct the arguments which will tighten and squeeze the emotional strength of his equally emotional rhetoric: “There is some truth in what you say. Even if innate homosexuality was considered a disorder it would indeed be appropriate to proffer the excuse that they can’t help it. But such an excuse is equally applicable to the paedophile. Environmental influences are every bit as powerful as those of our genes…”

A vague and broad statement, but one which I doubt he’ll see the contradiction in what else I have to say… But I digress…

“Such influences compel the victim to act as he does, and yes, I do use the term victim, for paedophiles are as much a victim as those they offend against…”

A risky but necessary line of argument if I’m to keep the pervert out of jail…

“Paedophiles are mostly the product of society, usually having suffered similar assaults to the ones they perpetrate.”

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“By your definition then Professor, any child that is molested will become a molester themselves, your words Professor, not mine.”

“No Mr. Jackson, your interpretation of my words. Of course not all children who are molested go on to become molesters themselves, but other factors can combine to make it more likely. But ultimately it is a matter of choice however compelling those factors – just like you or I are physically free to act in all manner of savage ways, but feel compelled not to act as a result of social conditioning – our choice. But change our environment, the rewards of our choices, and indeed so will our choices change.”

“But the fact remains Professor that recidivism among this type of offender is amongst the highest of any criminal group, sexual or otherwise?”

“In the main, yes,” I willingly agree, knowing what he is leading up to. I read him like a book…

“So you agree also the defendant’s likelihood of reoffending then?”

“Of course, that is if he is dealt with in the way you are suggesting. You see Mr. Jackson, there is ample evidence supporting the correlation between stress and instances of reoffending, and considering the nature of prison culture and the scorn and derision with such people as my client are subjected to in prison, stress levels are understandably higher than even the most well-balanced of us could be expected to cope with. The recidivist levels you refer to are largely compiled from previously incarcerated offenders. My own success rate is one hundred percent – not one of the offenders referred to my care has ever been reconvicted of a similar offence, which is considerably better than any record prison can offer amongst any category of offender.”

“But what you fail to take into account is that the prison service cannot choose its charges in the way you do. It has to try and protect society from all such offenders. At least by imposing a custodial sentence, society – its children – is protected from the likes of the defendant.” The prosecutor looks pleased with himself. He thinks he’s dealt a major blow to my reasoning, but all he’s succeeded in doing is set himself up…

“Yes, but for how long? My aim is to protect society – and its children (two can play at that game) – for the duration of the offender’s life, and not just until the rapid extinction of the limited coercive conditioning of a prison sentence. Unless society is willing to imprison such people for the rest of their natural lives then prison is not the answer. Whatever the understandable strength of desire for retribution, and as a father myself…” I pause for breath, and if I’m honest, for dramatic effect… the bit about being a father myself is always a good line…

“…as a father myself,” I repeat, “I do understand such feelings, but my concern must be for the long-term protection of the innocent.”

How easy it is to pull the rug from under him, I think. My job here is almost done, but not yet…

“But returning to your first point, that my exemplary success rate is based on the fact that I can pick and choose who I care to treat; such an assertion is only half true. The real truth of the matter is that I can only choose who not to treat. But anyone referred to me whom I consider curable, I feel compelled to treat. Mr. Cross is such a person; I feel compelled to treat him. If he were not such a person, I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending a lengthy prison sentence.”

“And what exactly is it that makes such a person suitable?” Poor old Jackson, he’s clutching at straws now.

“A number of factors, but primarily the offender’s desire to be cured. Mr. Cross asked for psychotherapy and psychiatric treatment even before he was convicted.” That last bit is a lie of course, but the doctor patient confidentiality laws prevent its exposure as such…

“Hmm… you say that your evaluation of suitability for treatment is based upon the offender’s desire to be cured?”

“Yes,” I agree, waiting for the punchline…

“And is that the only criteria, and not the offender’s ability to pay for such treatment? You do after all run a very profitable clinic.” A cheap shot, but just as I expected, I muse smugly. I wait for Mr. Harris’s equally predictable objection…

“Objection!” Right on cue, the defence barrister roars, springing to his feet: “Any question of monetary gain on the part of Professor Sullivan is irrelevant.”

“Overruled, but I would appreciate it Mr. Jackson if you would make clear the precise point you are trying to make.” It was obvious the judge would overrule. Perhaps Mr. Harris is feeling a little side-lined in our verbal sparring, though I can’t think why, I’m doing a far better job of keeping our little monster from the warm embrace of his fellow inmates than Mr. Harris ever could. But wait, Mr. Jackson isn’t done yet…

“Do you stand to benefit financially from Mr. Cross’s attendance at your clinic, not to mention your attendance here in court today?” Mr. Jackson continues, thinking he’s scored a point.

“Of course I do, just as you, the defence barrister, and all the other court officials, along with numerous other auxiliary staff stand to benefit by way of salary for doing their job. But to be more specific, I benefit no more than I would from any other patient, and, as a State referred patient, even less than I would from most of my private patients undergoing much less intensive and demanding treatments. And as for my court attendance, I stand only to receive reimbursement of my travelling costs, some twenty seven pounds taxi fare from my Harley Street London residence.” A warm glow overtakes me as I note the look of abject defeat in the prosecutor’s face. I know what’s in his mind, that another monster is about to walk free. I can’t help but sympathise… If only he could understand; he did his best, and I commend him for that, but it wasn’t, isn’t good enough. I watch and listen as he resigns himself to defeat, making one last appeal to the judge’s sympathy, for the right of Cross’s innocent victims for some form of redress, but knowing the battle is lost… Cross will walk free… again, if only he understood…

***

“I wouldn’t have believed it possible. I was sure I’d get another sentence, a long one this time. You really are the best,” Cross says to me, leaving the dock after being sentenced to two years’ probation under my supervision and minimal attendance at my country clinic.

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“I won’t let you down,” he adds, smiling as we leave the court…

***

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I begin Cross’s ‘cure’ the day following his sentence hearing. His is an easy case to deal with; no immediate family, or at least none that want anything to do with him. I look forward to transforming such a deviant individual into one who can contribute to the good of society. I stare across at him, holding his look as he tries to fathom what I have in mind.

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“There’s no need to be nervous,” I reassure him, “I’m here to help, to understand. I know that’s what you want. Now, tell me about… about what you did, what you still want to do.” He stares at me, puzzled: “Please Mark, I can call you Mark can I?” ‘Good’ I say as he hesitantly nods his agreement…

“It’s all about honesty… honesty and trust. Now tell me why it is you do what you do, feel the way you do… I’m not here to judge.”

Cross looks at me, hard – this isn’t what he was expecting. I stare back, just as hard. He averts his eyes and starts to speak: “It’s not like it seems, not like they said in court. I loved those boys, really I did. And they loved me. They wanted me to love them, to give them something special, offering themselves in return. But isn’t that the way of any relationship?” The monster wants me to agree, to absolve him from blame, confirmation that what he did somehow wasn’t wrong…

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Even he wouldn’t try to say that what he did was right, at least not to me…

I sit in silence, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. He takes this as a positive indication to continue his rationalisations: “It was they who seduced me… You must know how seductive some kids are, how they use their innocence and cuteness to get what they want… what’s a man to do?” I feel the contents of my stomach turning. As I said before, my job isn’t an easy one; you all have the luxury of openly displaying your disgust at such monsters. I have to actually listen to their diatribes of excuses. But I have a job to do…

“But it was more than that with you wasn’t it? I mean, you say you loved them, really loved them… especially David Franks, the little boy you were caught with?”

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“Yes… Yes I did, and they loved me… David most of all. It was special. Maybe that’s why I hurt him – they say you hurt the one you love and someday society will see that, that it’s just as pure and special a love as any other… One day it’ll be looked on as the most special love of all and not the one that dare not speak its name…”

“Perhaps…” I say, wondering if he knows from whom he’s quoting. Of course he does, this is not a stupid man whatever his other faults: “But there’s a world of difference between Oscar Wilde’s definition of the love of an older for a younger man, and that of an adult for a child, a very young child…” I deliberately use the words ‘very young child’ to emphasise the simplicity and innocence he refers to, that such simplicity and innocence is theirs, however deceptive he may perceive it to be. He must understand this before…

“But whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter…” I continue, “…Until things change as you hope they will, you have a problem, Mark…” I let the words trail off, to make him think about it, to place is trust in me to provide the magical cure that subconsciously he believes will allow him to ‘have his cake and eat it,’ for make no mistake, none of these monsters truly wants their desires cured – imagine if you can, being threatened with having your own heterosexual preference replaced by one of the many supposed paraphilia, or simply losing it altogether? Think if in years to come society should change so very much that heterosexual or any form of physical sex was frowned upon, would you be the first volunteer for removal of desire, your desire? Of course you wouldn’t…

“It’s society that has the problem, society must change…” He still won’t admit…

“But Mark,” I say reassuringly, “you must see the need to compromise, that I wouldn’t be able to save you from prison a second time.”

“So… But then…W-what, where to from here?”

“That’s good, Mark. You’re thinking of the future, and what can be done to control it… I take it your biggest fear is of going back to prison?” Predictably, he readily agrees to this, surprised and relieved that I’m not probing about the effects of what he did to all those boys… very young, innocent boys, I remind myself.

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“What we’ve got to do is make sure you never get caught committing a similar offence again, would you not agree, Mark?” Of course he agrees, he says, nodding at the same time. But I can see he doesn’t like it, being in the company of someone who can have him sent back to prison at any time they like if he doesn’t cooperate or do as he’s told… too much like the position of the boys… We’ll see…

“But… How, Professor?” I can see he’s puzzled. No other therapist has ever stated or even implied the simplicity of his ‘problems.’

“Oh, a variety of approaches, all geared to your successful integration back into society.” The word ‘variety’ clearly worries him, it worries them all…

“What approaches? One doctor they made me see suggested drugs… Wanted to chemically castrate me… You wouldn’t do that?”

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“No, no, no,” again I reassure him: “They’ll be nothing like that, and nor will there be any of those other out-dated modes of treatment; no group therapy, no EST, no one-to-ones with any of your victims, and no aversion therapy.” He shudders at them all, but the last in particular – I’m not surprised; having electric rings placed round your penis and receiving often quite painful shocks for becoming aroused at the very things that make you you.

“You see, Mark, what we do here at the clinic is prepare you for life, not some artificial psychological interpretation of it, but real life, free of the temptation you’ve had to endure in the past. We deal in the practicalities here; once you leave my care you’ll be provided with the means to make a new start, a new identity, away from anyone who knows your past. You’ll be above suspicion; not only will you be ‘cured,’ you’ll never have had a problem in the first place.”

He smiles, relieved at how agreeable, how sympathetic I am towards him and his kind, that I understand. And he’s right, I do understand, all too well, which is why I do what I do, why I’m compelled to treat him just as much as he feels compelled to do what he does. There! I’ve answered your original; question, ‘Why do I do it?’ – Because I really do understand… Perhaps there’s more to self-analysis and all this psychological mumbo jumbo than I give credit for.

***

“Congratulations, Mark. It’s been a long, hard two years, especially this past six months living away from the clinic (but still well away from temptation, I made sure of that), but I’m sure you’d agree it’s been worth it?”

“Definitely,” he says, thinking that’s what I want to hear. He knows I’ve been keeping his libido artificially low – not so low as to disappear – he’d never stand for that – but low enough for him to control, to still enjoy the memory of times gone by. Yes, he thinks he’s fooled me into believing he’s cured. Not to worry though, they’re all like that at this stage, but the time will come, I silently promise him… Soon, very soon, I promise myself too…

“As you know, I have to produce evidence that you’ve completed certain prescribed modes of treatment, otherwise the courts wouldn’t recognise my competence to recommend your release from psychiatric probation; group therapy, mild aversion therapy, one-to-one counselling – all those I can fudge the paperwork on, all except one last aspect of your treatment, the victim confrontation one, but that can be gotten round by a simple letter of apology from yourself to the court, asking it to pass on your deepest regrets and apologies to the boys, saying that it was entirely your fault what happened, but that you’re going away somewhere so they never need worry about you again.”

I’m sure you all know what I mean, the courts like that sort of thing…

“Yes, yes I can do that, Professor, Just so long as I don’t have to see any of them… I won’t… will I?”

“No, you won’t have to face them, not ever again. In fact, you just write me a draft of what you feel you should be saying, and I’ll make sure it’s appropriate for what I think will most impress the court. Just leave it all to me…”

***

I call on Mark to collect the letter. It’s quite early, but he’s already up and dressed. I suspect he hopes I’ll be gone quite soon, leaving him the rest of the day to visit some school he’s no doubt scoped out in my absence… I think not…

Perfect, I say to myself; he’s written it just as I asked. I’m impressed. It could almost be sincere, but even he’s not that convincing a liar, at least not to me. But it will do very nicely, especially should it become necessary to answer any awkward questions into Cross’s whereabouts at some later date. I think, placing it in my inside jacket pocket.

He offers me a drink. I accept. I wait for him to pour himself one before asking if he could fetch some ice to go with mine, knowing that the kitchen is at the far end of the secluded cottage I had set him up in. He fetches me the ice. Long enough, the deed is done. All that remains is for me to wait for the cocktail of drugs I added to his drink to take effect. Five minutes or so and he should be in a semi-state of delirium. He doesn’t know what’s happening, which is more than can be said for those boys – they suffered every minute of their ordeals.

It doesn’t take a great deal of effort to get him to swallow a more than liberal amount of alcohol, and the thirty or so Valium I’ve brought with me. Meanwhile I return my own now empty glass to the drinks cabinet. It isn’t long before he lapses into unconsciousness. I haul him towards the open fireplace. The actual fire has not long gone out by the looks of it, but there are still sufficient hot burning embers for what I have in mind. I lift his body to a semi-upright position before letting it fall towards the edge of the coal grate. His head misses the brass spike I was hoping it would strike. It doesn’t matter. I simply raise it about nine inches or so and direct it myself, making sure of its impact this time. The almost pointed spike lodges in the side of his left temple a full three inches, stopped only by the ornamental criss-cross brass rail that runs round the edge of the grate. I position his hands in the dying embers of the fire in a way that suggests he tried to thrust them forward in an attempt to break his fall. By the time police arrive any trace of his palm or fingerprints will have been scorched out of existence, just like the rest of his previous identity. I’ve already checked that no dental records of him exist from when he was last in prison). It will be my creation they identify, the new life and identity I had promised him.

I’m careful to place a voice altering device over the receiver before calling 999 for an ambulance. I explain that I’ve taken an overdose, slurring my words at the same time. I let the receiver fall to the floor. A line trace will be automatic once the receiver has been left off the hook for more than three minutes; it saves me the time of having to give my name and address. There is only one more thing I have to do before I go. I place the organ donation card in his back trouser pocket, clearly stating Albert Peterson’s permission to use any of his organs in the event of his death, and of course, the absence of any next of kin.

You see? I do help people; I have integrated (bits of) him back into society. Who knows, he might well contribute to the successful and productive lives of several members of the community, perhaps even one of the young lives he tried so hard to destroy.

My thoughts return to the immediate task at hand: I leave the cottage. I must remember to add its cash rental costs to my fee from little David Franks’ parents. Another successful cure!

Of course, this particular cure isn’t applicable to all those I help, no indeed. For the more usual and less complicated cases, such as your average violent bully, wife beater or drug pusher I sometimes sub-contract their treatment to others more suited to such cases, men such as Ronald Hatch, or Hatchet Ron as he’s better known. Old Ron, as I affectionately call him, to all intents and purposes comes across as a hard and brutal money orientated hitman, but I know different – beneath that vicious exterior beat a heart of gold, and a real understanding of what’s right and wrong – I think that’s why I employ him from time to time. And for those less violent individuals but for which the world would be a better place without I sometimes introduce them to a former patient of mine, a legitimate patient and budding writer I might add, a funny little chap simply known as Mr. Brown. I do have to be careful with him though – the last person I sent his way ended up getting his head hacked off; Mr. Brown does tend to over react sometimes. He’s currently being treated in a prison hospital for that little outburst, but I’m hopeful of using my influence to get him released quite soon, but I digress, those stories are for another time perhaps…

***

“I suppose you heard about Deakins? Sullivan helped get him off with a year’s probation… Just so long as he undergoes therapy sessions twice a week,” snarled the detective constable who had helped convict Deakins for messing about with a three year old girl, one of Deakins’ own daughters in fact: “The man should have been put away for life for what he did.”

“I know, I know,” said the DC’s superior, Detective Sergeant Nelson, “it was only a few years ago I first came across the sodding professor myself. A guy I thought was going down for five years at the very least, walked out free as a fucking bird thanks to the good professor… he’s had more than twenty cases like that… if only he understood the harm he’s doing trying to protect these monsters…”

The Revenge of the Pumpkins – Short Story Review

It’s not often that I review short stories, but this particular one was so unusual and unexpected in its content that I thought it worthwhile to share it here. The Revenge of the Pumpkins is another story from the ranks of the Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group, namely Lacey Lane, who is also the author of a non-fiction book, details of which appear following this review. Further information about the author can be found at:

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https://twitter.com/laceylaneauthor
www.facebook.com/laceylaneauthor
Lacey Lane’s Amazon Author page:

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The Revenge of the Pumpkins

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By Lacey Lane

(Available FREE from Amazon Kindle)

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lacey1Anyone looking for a gory Halloween story for kids, say twelve or thirteen upwards need look no further than Lacey Lane’s The Revenge of the Pumpkins; we all know what happens on Halloween, or at least we think we do, when little boys and girls dress up for trick or treating, or carve shapes and faces in to unsuspecting pumpkins, and in that respect the story here is no different, or at least to begin with – what starts off as a fun filled day for the Smith family, dressing up, and indeed, carving their pumpkins in preparation for Halloween night, quickly descends into a scene right out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

What Lacey Lane has done with a seemingly harmless tradition, but which actually has its origins in ancient Celtic tradition when spirits and ghouls supposedly come back to haunt and cause mischief, is nothing less than sheer genius. The start of the story could easily be that of any traditional children’s story or perhaps a Roald Dahl tale, but it very soon takes a giant step into the much darker world of bloody and psychological horror – this is most definitely not a ‘young’ child’s bedtime story. Within this tiny tale of horror and revenge, and I say tiny because this really is little more than a ten minute read, the author has managed to take a traditional story format and turn it on its head; the combination of seeming innocence and normality with incredulous horror is done to perfection. Without giving anything away, all I would say is never underestimate or take for granted the power of a child’s imagination.

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Also by Lacey Lane: The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living

                             lacey2

Something Short – Book Review

Another book from the members of the Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group, this time an anthology of short stories by group member Angela Lockwood, co-authored by Elspeth Morrison.

Elspeth Morrison is a published author of historical non-fiction, namely The Dorothy Dunnett Companion vols I & II and editor of The Lymond Poetry. She has always enjoyed writing but only recently has had the nerve to publish her fiction. Some of her work is quite close to the bone, but in her short stories and her poems she strives to make an emotional connection with the reader. Elspeth works and lives in Edinburgh.

Angela Lockwood-van der Klauw was born in the Netherlands. She learned her trade as There she met and later married her husband Adam. Angela ran her own jeweller’s shop in Edinburgh for ten years before she and her husband moved to the south of France in 2011. Angela prefers the climate there, but often thinks about the town she left behind and its people.

Angela started writing in the spring of 2013, a very wet spring during which she found herself climbing the walls, frustrated that she couldn’t go out and have her usual long walks along the seafront. Seeing his wife’s frustration, Adam suggested ‘Why don’t you write a book?’ Angela thought about it for a few days, then switched on her laptop and started writing. She published her first book ‘Language in the Blood’ in August 2013.

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*All the author’s profits from the sale of this book are being donated to the support in Mind Scotland Charity, a charity seeking to support and empower all those affected by mental illness, including family members, carers and supporters. Details of said charity can be found at: www.supportinmindscotland.org.uk

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Something Short

By Elspeth Morrison & Angela Lockwood

(Available from Amazon kindle)

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angela1This is a delightful collection of fourteen short stories from two writers, each having contributed their individual efforts. With one exception, these are not conventional twist in the tale type stories but more a combination of snapshots of people’s lives, touching accounts of fascinating individuals, and brief encounters between a fairly diverse collection of characters. Every story was articulately well written, with good natural dialogue. Some were written in the first person whilst others employed an effective and flowing narrative to convey events, and though relatively short, each story has more than enough content (and quality) to engage and hold the reader’s attention, often leaving the reader with something to think about after the story has ended. Some of the stories are quite gritty, such as one where a woman’s encounter with an old boyfriend doesn’t quite go as planned to say the least or another where a young lad hurts his arm in the oddest of circumstances, yet each one still retains quite a ‘literary’ feel to them, such is the quality of the writing throughout.

I thoroughly enjoyed this anthology, particularly the last story Gimme Shelter which did indeed have a surprising ending. The variety of stories was particularly impressive, effortlessly switching between the more conventional type of story to those as much intended to make the reader think as to entertain. Sincerely hope to see more from both these authors…

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Also by angela Lockwood:

Language in the blood: Book 1

Blood Ties: Language in the blood – Book 2

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The Lunch Hour – Book Review

This is a book that came to my attention by way of personal recommendation from fellow bloggers and members of the Indie Author Review Exchange Group. Carl Jones is also the author of a non-fiction book, Essays on Popular History, a link to which follows at the end…

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Further links to Carl Jones and his writing can be found via: 

https://twitter.com/Carlcymrusblog  

https://www.facebook.com/carlcymruauthor

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The Lunch Hour

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By Carl Jones

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(Available from Amazon Kindle)

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carljones1The reader will find here a setting and host of characters that the vast majority of anyone who has ever experienced the conversation and banter of a workplace canteen or staff room will immediately recognise. Amid the bleak and often depressing perception of an unfulfilling job and workplace, we get a glimpse of how the different characters deal with the day to day drudgery, and with one another; the ensemble of characters practically guarantees a constant succession of minor conflicts and disagreement, all providing ample opportunity for comic exploitation. Divided into eleven chapters, each chapter is referred to as a ‘break’ for a particular day. Over the course of a week the reader becomes a party to the inane chatter, conversation, and banter of the co-workers during their twice daily breaks in the staff room, largely told from the perspective of Christian, a staff supervisor who, with his degree is vastly (or so he probably believes?) overqualified for his job; to his colleagues and the reader he comes across more as a weak willed pseudo-intellectual. The humour and dialogue is very topical, covering topics such as popular culture, politics, and sport to name but a few – Jeremy Kyle and the X-factor, along with heated discussions about the merits of Ukip are all explored amid the staff room ‘discussions.’ The only drawback with such topicality is that it might confuse some non British readers who may not be familiar with many of the references or uniquely British humour and dialogue, though for the most part, I think it provides such readers with a unique insight into British culture, despite all the generalisations and stereotyping that inevitably occurs during discussion among a cast of such vastly varying characters, and in this book in particular, to extremely vivid comic effect.

Much of the dialogue reads like unrelated snippets of a stream of consciousness in the way the conversation or topic of discussion at the time often switches between superficially academic point-scoring between Christian and one of his co-workers on some controversial aspect of history to, say, which football team is likely to finish top of the league, only to be then interrupted by one of the female staff suggesting everyone name their favourite film or song. The humour is very clever and witty, with some of the sharpest and funniest imagery and dialogue you can imagine. Amid the staff room gossip the reader also gets an insight into Christian’s hilarious private though often caustic speculations about workplace sexual encounters, character assessments (not to mention a touch of character assassination), and his self-deprecating self-analysis, all whilst he interrupts his staff room chatter to check and update his Facebook and twitter activity.

I did feel at times that some of the staff room interaction between Christian and his pseudo-intellectual rival, Barry, was overdone in its detail. I would also say the presentation and layout of some of the dialogue could have been clearer but all in all ‘The Lunch Hour’ by Carl Jones is without doubt one of the funniest books I’ve read this year; with its sharp and witty yet depressingly accurate take on the British public’s perception of modern day Britain, cleverly expressed within the setting of a typical workplace staff room, this is a book that would definitely transfer well to the theatre or small screen, ideally one of those clever in-house productions the BBC do so well – Think Ricky Gervais’s ‘The Office’ or the lesser known Brain Dooley’s ‘The Smoking Room.’ Despite a few reservations as mentioned, the sheer entertainment value and exceptional quality of the humour makes this an easy five star rating for me.

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Also by Carl Jones: Essays on Popular History

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Review: Paul Ruddocks Very Entertaining Short Story Collection, “Not What you Thought?”

echoesofthepen:

Some kind words and an encouraging review on my first book from the very talented Andrew Updegrove, author of the highly acclaimed ‘The Alexandria Project.’

Originally posted on Andrew Updegrove: Tales of Adversego:

Not What you ThoughtOnce upon a time – and a very long time it was – the short story was a well-respected form of literary fiction as well as an essential thread in the warp and woof of everyday life. Whether we’re speaking of one of Aesop’s moral lessons or an offering from one of the many modern day exemplars of the form, ranging from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Isaac Bashevis Singer, there has always been a wide appreciation for a good, entertaining, short read. Until, for some reason, they wasn’t.

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The Inlooker – Book Review

terrytumblerAnother book from within the ranks of my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group.. The Inlooker, by Terry Tumbler.

Terry Tumbler, like myself, is one of our more ‘mature’ members, having taken up writing relatively late in life when time and circumstances made it possible. Now retired, Terry Tumbler currently lives in Spain with his wife. Prior to his current writing endeavours, he spent the greater part of his working career in the computer and I.T. industries. In addition to the Inlooker, Terry tumbler is the author of several other comic Sci-Fi novels, details of which can be found at both his website and Amazon Author page. 

Further links to the author and his writing can be found at:

http://www.terrytumbler.com/

Terry Tumbler’s Amazon Author page:

http://terrytumbler.blogspot.co.uk/

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The Inlooker

 By Terry Tumbler

(Available from Amazon)

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terry1Although primarily a science fiction book with many traditional science fiction themes, there are all sorts of other elements thrown in the mix too: sharp political satire and intrigue, comic and dark humour, and a host of funny yet chillingly accurate observations of the world we live in. The main premise of the book is a man who has the ability to look into and subjugate the will or ‘soul’ of others – whilst not an entirely new concept in the world of science fiction, or indeed other genres, its treatment here is both funny and original, and at times, bordering on the comically distasteful; the central character, upon learning of his newfound abilities, does little to ingratiate himself with the reader, initially choosing to use his abilities to gratify some of his own baser instincts and sexual fantasies, along with inflicting his own unique brand of vigilante justice on several wrong-doers his abilities lead him to – In fact, Thomas Beckton actually comes across as quite dislikeable, and never truly progresses to the point where the reader can or might want to identify with him in the traditional ‘hero of the story’ sense, but neither is he one that the reader find it in their hearts to wholly reject either. In many respects, our central character is somewhat of an anti-hero; with his god-like abilities and power to shape world events, he is remarkably unassuming most of the time, quietly (and not so quietly on occasion) shaping and directing mankind’s future, quite ruthlessly when called for, and with a quite chilling disregard at times for those he is manipulating, yet still retaining a semblance of humanity about him.

The narrative is well written, and although written in the third person, perfectly matches the tone and feel of the central character, giving much of the book a sort of first person feel to it, but without any of the restrictions that come with such a perspective. Likewise with the dialogue – sharp, witty, and often quite caustic in its observations, but always complementary and wholly in tune with, and effortlessly interwoven into the narrative. This is definitely a book where the author’s voice and I suspect much of his own character, really shines through on every page and in every word and idea within the book.

If I had but one minor criticism it would be the author’s use of an explanatory introduction to each part of the three parts of the book, sign-posting as it were what’s to follow – I know this is a popular and often effective writing technique but personally I feel it to be unnecessary here, that the strength and clarity of the author’s writing allows the story to unfold quite naturally without the need for any such artificial pointers.

My overall rating for this book would be on the plus side of 4.5 stars, the slight deduction being on account of the unnecessary introductions as already referred to, but apart from that, I found this to be a highly original and indeed funny take on some traditional science fiction themes; the author’s treatment of aliens and their technology, spacecraft, and extra ordinary abilities and powers, was reminiscent of say Douglas Adam’s Hitch Hiker’s Guide or Grant Naylor’s Red Dwarf writing, but without trying to imitate in any way, creating its own unique and refreshing comic sci-fi style with added touches of Jonathan Swift’s political satirical style thrown in. If you like your science fiction a little zany with a touch of sharp humour, definitely worth a look!

Further works by Terry Tumbler:

Santiago Tales

Seb Cage Begins his Adventures

Magic Carpets, Turkish Carpets

The Rough & Tumbles Of Early Years

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All Bloggers and Writers Should be on Flipboard: Here’s Why, and an Idea on Collaborating

echoesofthepen:

An interesting article on using the mobile app. ‘Flipboard’ for blog and book promotion…

Originally posted on Silas Payton:

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If you’re not Flipping your writing, you should be.

How are you driving people to your blog?

If you have a blog, chances are you want people to read your words. If you didn’t, you’d be keeping them on your computer and not loading them up for the world to see. Once you have a blog and some content, the trick is to get people to your site…to get people to actually tune in and see what you have to say.

Most bloggers I know turn to Twitter and Facebook which are fun and a great way to build a following and meet connections. But, one of the best ways I have found to increase hits on my blog, is with Flipboard. It involves a very low time commitment and draws viewers from around the world. Once you have it set up, you can load post in seconds.

A…

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A Taste of Honey – promotion

echoesofthepen:

One of my favourite authors, whom many of you will already be familiar with from some of my reviews of his work here… Tom Benson’s latest novel, A Taste of Honey, is currently on a Kindle countdown promotion, and in his latest blog post he gives us some insight into how such promotions work…

Originally posted on Tom Benson - Creative:

This week, commencing Sunday 29th March 2015, I am promoting A Taste of Honey with a Kindle Countdown Deal.

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What does that mean to the buying public?
Although the title of the promotion suggests a countdown, it is the period of the promotion that is counted down – not the item price. The item price starts low and goes back up.

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How does it work?
– The book price is adjusted by the author to be at an accepted minimum price, and that is a minimum set by Amazon; not the author.
– The book will be available at the lowest price for a period of perhaps one, two or three days.
– The price will go up in increments at each stage, until it returns to the original price after the week-long promotion.

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In the case of my books I maintain a low price. I…

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Henchmen – Book Review

Eric1This is a book that has been on my tbr list for some time now; for some reason the cover and the title just didn’t prompt me to pay it much attention, but seeing the increasing number of good reviews it was getting from within my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group I thought it was high time I gave it a closer look. In addition to being an active contributor to a number of online review groups and a regular blogger, a he is also a programmer, a database engineer, and Kenpo practitioner. He enjoys martial arts, coding, and of course, writing. Henchmen is his first novel, and he has written a sequel to this called ‘Arise.’

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Further links to Eric Lahti and his writing can be found at:

www.ericlahti.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/EricLahtiAuthor

www.ericlahti.com

Eric Lahti’s Amazon Author page:

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Henchmen

By Eric Lahti

(Available in eBook format from Amazon)

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HenchmenWhere do I start with this one? This is a full-on action thriller that throws in elements of Sci-Fi, mysterious aliens, the supernatural, and a body count not seen since the days of the great flood. The Henchmen are a varied group of guys and gals you really don’t want to get on the wrong side of; led by a seven foot bullet-proof Amazonian blond bombshell, this assortment of characters possess both the will and the skills to literally change the world. Anyone expecting a typical macho ex-military commando type outfit will be pleasantly surprised; apart from Eve, their super humanly strong and virtually invulnerable leader, among the Henchmen there is the latest addition to the group, a drop dead gorgeous kick boxing ex-nude model, Jessica, who doesn’t think twice about killing someone in the most brutal of ways when circumstances demand, computer and security system hackers gay couple Frank and Jean, Jacob the gun mad biker, and last of all, Steven the narrator.

Despite their propensity to violence and a desire to kill off the entire American Congress, you can’t help but like every last one of the Henchmen. The book completely turns on its head the idea of good and bad guys; the violent chaos causing Henchmen are superb in their role as sympathetic super villains, while the American Government is clearly cast in a bad light. Some of the background plot, and just what it is the Henchmen hoped to achieve was a little light on detail at times, but then again, any attempt to elaborate there might well have slowed down the pace; there’s plenty of explosive action, fighting, fire-fights, and realistic and accurate weaponry and computer security detail to give the book authenticity in these areas, but not so much as to bog the story down in such detail. Given the unusual nature of some of the characters and the mixture of genres, the reader does have to suspend disbelief to some extent, but you’re so engrossed in the moment of what’s happening you rarely give it a second thought.

Written in the first person from the perspective of Steven, the author manages to give the narrative a real sense of character and a distinct ‘voice.’ By making the narrator a close ‘member of the team’ so to speak, the author managed to combine the intimacy of this point of view with the sort of overview usually associated with a third person perspective, yet still providing the opportunity for some sharp and witty humour and satire by way of Steven’s own thoughts and observations of those about him; the author’s ability to lampoon and caracature the male psyche was as funny and sharp as I’ve read in a long-time.

Following a literary roller coaster ride of combat and fire-fights leading to a literal world changing finale, the author nicely rounds up the conclusion, giving a brief post-script to the characters. I did think that some aspects of the cataclysmic conclusion were a little vague, and there are lots of unanswered questions about the characters, in particular the Amazonian like, Eve, but given there’s a sequel, one imagines much of this may well have been intentional. Overall I was kept hooked from start to finish, laughing out loud at times, and gasping for breath at others. Will I be reading said sequel? Absolutely!

Sequel to Henchmen – Click on thumbnail for details:

Arise

Saving Grace – Book Review – Kindle Short

kathyTucker‘Saving Grace’ is a short story, or what is often referred to now as a Kindle Short. W.K. Tucker is someone I met during the AtoZ April blogging challenge by way of posts we both responded to, and have since kept in touch via blogging. Although relatively new to self-publishing and the world of amazon publishing, W. K. Tucker has a long and successful history of short story writing, having been published in various magazines over the years. In addition to ‘Saving Grace,’ she is also the author of another short story, ‘Pearls Before Swine,’ also available as a Kindle Short from Amazon.
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Further information and links to the author’s work, along with several free short stories and poetry can be found at her wordpress blog:
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http://wktucker.com/

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Saving Grace

By W. K. Tucker

(Availabe as an eBook Kindle short from Amazon)

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Tucker1This is a lovely and delightful little story. Aggie, the narrator, is an elderly woman living alone in a remote house in some woods with just her ageing dog Penny for company most of the time. One night something extraordinary happens – something lands in the woods, something ‘otherworldly’ from the sky, and together they discover a small almost transparent jellyfish-like creature. Being a good and kind woman, and seeing that it’s cold and in need of help, Aggie takes the creature in, naming it Grace; what follows is a gripping story of how the creature develops, and how it more than repays the kindness and trust shown by both Aggie and her dog, a kindness that the whole of mankind will ultimately benefit from.

Written in the first person, Aggie conjures up a perfect image of the deep south of America, of the southern cornfields, rocking chairs on the porch, and the old ageing dog in the background. Not only does she achieve this through some quaint imagery and terminology, but she takes the brave decision to write entirely in the local southern dialect and accent; whether this would be a good idea in a longer story I don’t know, but here it works perfectly, giving the narrative and dialogue a real flavour of the south to them. There are some subtle references that add to the atmosphere too such as her mistrust of the ‘government’ men who may take an interest in ‘Grace.’ Although ultimately this has a real feel-good factor to it, there is a nice mix of danger and suspense too – an effective blend of sci-fi and horror all mixed up in a very real down to earth setting. My only disappointment with this story was that it eventually had to end. Highly recommended.

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Also by W. K. Tucker:

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