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Salby Evolution – Ian D. Moore’s soon to be released new novel

IanpicFollowing on from the success of his debut novel, this post is to introduce Ian D. Moore’s forthcoming book, Salby Evolution. First though, a little about Ian himself: Ex-soldier in the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers, internet entrepreneur, and truck driver, Ian D. Moore has a vast and varied array of life experience to draw on in his writing. Regular readers of my blog and book reviews will remember my first mention of him when I reviewed Salby Damned back in August 2015. Since then he has become an established and well-respected figure in the world of Indie writing and publishing, having been the driving force behind You’re Not Alone, an anthology of short stories by Indie Authors from around the world who graciously and freely contributed stories in aid of the cancer support charity Macmillan Nurses. In addition to the Salby series of books, Ian D. Moore has had a short story featured in Eric Lahti’s Holes: An Indie author Anthology. He is also an avid reader and book reviewer, an admin for a popular Fb author group and a founding member and admin of its accompanying website at: www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

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Salby Evolution is the eagerly awaited soon to be published sequel to Salby Damned. Salby Damned was a fresh and innovative take on the Zombie genre, combining elements of science fiction, big business, and the controversial topic of ‘fracking’ to produce an intelligently written eco-thriller with a zombie (with a small ‘z’) themed backdrop. It has been well received, accumulating impressive reviews on both sides of the atlantic, and on Goodreads …

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In Salby Evolution, the second book in the Salby series, the devastating virus that gave rise to the zombie deadheads of the first book is once again sweeping the country… In the author’s own words…

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One man holds the key to our future. One man holds the key to our extinction.

The merciless Salby viral strain, sweeping across the country, spawns a new breed of predator.

Simon Lloyd, borderline alcoholic, must vanquish the demons of his past and change his single-minded ways.

Filled with resentment, he enters a world far removed from his own. He must choose to take a stand or risk losing his estranged wife and children forever.

Against overwhelming odds, unethical science and the prospect of eternal exile, the decisions he makes will shape the future of mankind.

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Intrigued so far? If so then read further the exclusive preview …

Available August 1st(kindle) / (paperback TBA ): for pre-order at: Click here:

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Chapter 1 – Rude Awakening

Salby, North Yorkshire, 0100 hours, three hours before the viral outbreak.

The medicinal bottle, positioned in the middle of the table, beckoned me once more. The glass, my favourite crystal tumbler, specifically set aside for such occurrences, called to me. I couldn’t though, not before work. I wiped the back of my hand across two days of growth—satisfying the itch—removed my glasses and pinched the bridge of my nose. My routine, unchanged since the split, trudged onwards in an endless cycle of work, eat, drink, and sleep. The sorrows simply refused to drown, no matter how deep the liquid I immersed them in. After five years, you’d think I’d have snapped out of it by now, and yet as I sat here contemplating those very thoughts, the burden remained.

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My bag contained an unappetising sandwich, a limp, soggy ham and cheese, a flask of tea that usually carried an undertone of the contents before it mingled with plastic, and a book for the long nights spent waiting.

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For the last few years, I’d done little but walk the moors, aimlessly looking for something, only to return ‘home’ empty-handed. This wasn’t home, at least, not the home I recalled.

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In effect, my sentence was to serve the mundane, the flame inside me thwarted, extinguished to monotony with only the barest glimmer of hope in retirement for the future.

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This would do no good—it never did. I hauled my self-pitying bones from the chair, pushed it neatly back under the table and grabbed the workbag. I winked at the bottle.

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“I’ll be back for you, later.” I muttered.

*****

My day started normally—as mundane as the rest of the week, really. It wasn’t until the early hours that things began to get a little strange. I worked the graveyard shift as a railway junction box operator and signalman for a major rail freight company. While a lot of the signal boxes and crossings were being made electronic, controlled by computers and machines, the company still had certain places that required the presence of an actual body. Me.

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I was on shift at a rural, local signal box, one I’d done many, many times before, one that was usually just a two-operation night. The 2159 from Salby came out of the power station, across the junction heading south for more coal, and then it returned from Leeds railhead at 0509 the following morning with a full load. That would pretty much be it as far as the actual traffic was concerned.

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Last night, it hadn’t happened that way—at least not entirely. Sure, the 2159 rumbled through with a honked horn from the driver as it passed. The locomotive ambled its way from the power station terminus to pick up the mainline route south, pulling the usual fifty behind it.

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I counted each and every one, just as I always do.

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The phone rang five minutes before; the railhead operator at Leeds Central let me know the train was on the way through, a safety procedure just in case any of the mainline trains had been diverted for any reason. That would allow me time to stop the train until I was given the all clear. There were no such concerns last night, and the train passed as usual, without incident.

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After it had gone, I settled back down in the worn, threadbare easy chair to watch a little TV. I’d maybe finish another chapter of the current book I was into, an indie author novel from an unknown writer, werewolves of all things. To be fair though, the book was very good.

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As usual, my mind wandered back to the break-up of my marriage. This ritual became my nightly, futile attempt to figure out what went wrong, who was to blame, and what the future held. There hadn’t been much contact with my ex-wife since the split; what dialogue there had been, usually ended in bitter arguments. The filing of divorce papers hadn’t helped matters much either, let alone what I thought were vastly over-calculated maintenance payments for our two children.

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Although I visited my son when he was little a few times, lately there hadn’t been much in the way of quality time with either him, or his sister, whom I had yet to meet. This was something I planned to resolve, and I’d reached a point where rationality dawned. It told me that no matter what, it could never be the fault of the children for the break-up. I was, and would always be, their father.

*****

Now, marginally calmer having reached this conclusion, I pulled the plug on the TV and turned on the small radio to listen to the news bulletin. It was usually all doom and gloom, but there were some uplifting stories, sometimes. The music they played was a little more to my taste, too, given the hour. I sipped at the tepid tea from the stainless wrapped plastic of the flask lid.

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At 0400, the radio presenter announced that an additional “breaking news flash” would interrupt the usual programming. I turned up the volume a little, listening intently as the newsreader reported an explosion, close to my home on the outskirts of the town. It wasn’t a million miles away from where my wife—stupid—ex-wife and children still lived.

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I thought nothing of it. The report was pretty vague: people missing, presumed dead at some sort of gas drilling site. From the beginning, it was vehemently opposed by the residents of Salby anyway. Hell, I signed the petition against it myself.

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When the 0509 to Salby failed to arrive, that was breaking news, at least as far as my job was concerned. It never failed to turn up, nor, if I remembered correctly, had there never been a phone call from the main rail office to let me know that it wasn’t coming. Very strange. The procedure was simple from here on in. Dial the number to the rail office, which was only a small control centre on the tracks that passed Salby town, inform the controller, and log the call. No response. The phone rang and then rang some more. I dialled again, this time, the central rail control office in Leeds.

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The fact that the train hadn’t been seen would have to be reported; then it could be left in the hands of people who got paid a whole heap more than I did to worry about such things. Today, of all days, this had to happen. Why, oh why can’t people do their jobs properly?

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If there’s one thing that really gets on my nerves, it’s slackers.

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The merciless, nicotine-stained clock on the wall jeered on— it must have been there for years, the same uncaring, unknowing regulatory professor of time. Tick, tick, tick, tick!

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At 0600, I would be turning the points back over to remote control at Leeds. The power station line only operated during the night hours, due to the length of the trains. I began to pack my night bag ready for the sedate ride home.

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It was only a few miles, usually no more than twenty minutes. All of the roads were national speed limit, 60 mph stretches, and at that hour, I usually missed the first of the early commuters heading in. Despite trying to call for half an hour without response, I transferred the signal box back to the main signalling offices at Leeds.

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With a last look to the grimy interior, I closed the door to the raised cabin and locked it with the master key—just in case there should be any curious kids playing near the lines later in the day.

*****

Once the proud owner of a shiny 4×4 with a whopping 2.8 litre V6 in the front, I found its days were numbered after the separation. It had cost me a pretty penny to get new furniture, not to mention the sizeable deposit on the rented house, now called home. The badass, gas-guzzling monster had to go, replaced with a more efficient, but slightly-the-worse-for-wear Vauxhall.

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That was another of the niggling grievances in my mind. Every time I drove it, I always felt that it wasn’t supposed to be like this, that it wasn’t fair, and more to the point, that it wasn’t my fault.

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I got behind the wheel and slammed the driver’s door a little too hard, forcing the ignition and revving the engine a little too much as the car rattled into life. The dust and gravel track road leading to the points’ office proved no match for the tyres as they kicked up plumes of chippings. I vented my angst on the accelerator, and took out my frustrations on the car itself, before mounting the blacktop main road with a distinct squeal as the traction changed.

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“Screw it, and screw you for leaving me!” I snarled at the windscreen. The stressed, furrowed face glared back without compromise. I fumbled in my jacket for the crushed pack of smokes. With a well-rehearsed tap on the centre console, the filter rose just enough for me to get a hold with my lips and pull the cigarette clear. I dropped the pack as the car lighter clicked its indication of readiness, pulled out the glowing red-hot implement, and seared the tip of my fix.

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That first long, slow, deep drag was always the best one, and it calmed me down a little. The familiar tingle as the toxins hit the back of my throat, despite the constant angel at my shoulder, which waggled an ethereal finger along with the words: ‘You really should quit,’ felt comforting. The wisps of smoke curled up around my face as I blew out through my nose, slowly, revelling in the moment and in utter defiance of my impromptu celestial saviour.

*****

There were some nasty turns as you got out towards Salby—if you didn’t know they were there, they could take you by surprise. With a certain sense of ‘I told you so’, I noticed a car at the side of the road, the front end embedded in the drainage ditch. Skyward tail lights created a luminescent beacon in the surrounding mist. The driver, not used to the road, must have lost control. I slowed the car to a crawl as I passed the stranded vehicle, which didn’t look like it had been there for very long. Curled smoke from the tailpipe suggested that it had only recently come to an abrupt stop. No sign of the driver; perhaps they had gone for help to the small-holding nearby, in the hope that the farmer might tow them out to continue their journey.

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Given the weird night I’d had and the dark mood I was in, I decided to carry on home and pushed down on the accelerator once more. The front end of the car rose slightly as the power surged through the front wheels.

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My focus shifted back to the road, just in time to round a sweeping bend, but too late to avoid the sickening thump as something bounced off the bonnet. In my wing mirror, I saw it catapulted to the roadside by the impact of my car, nudging 60 mph. Unsure of what I’d hit, I slowed and pulled over, the engine still running as I sat for a few seconds just staring into the rear-view mirror, hoping it was just an animal that had run out of luck.

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The undulating mist obscured my vision as I peered into the murky half-light. The sun began to warm the morning dew from the grassy fields on both sides of the main drag, which sent ethereal, spectral formations floating up and over the hedges. I looked back over my shoulder towards the car, the gesture more to reassure myself it was still there, rather than anything else. An odd, uneasy, churning sensation in the pit of my stomach urged me to turn tail, return to the car, and flee—but I couldn’t though, it wouldn’t be right would it? I mean, what if they, or it, were still alive, lying there injured? I had to know. I had to find out. I popped the door and walked back towards the location of the body.

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“Uh—hello, is anyone there?” I called out sheepishly. I prayed for a clear window through the rising vapour or any chance of an unhindered view.

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“H—hello. Are you hurt? I have a phone. Do you need an ambulance?” I was conscious of the waver to my voice.

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A shape forming in the swirling maelstrom just up ahead made me stare first in disbelief, and then in horror, as a gap in the mist shifted between us. No more than thirty feet in front of me, the grey, boiler-suited form of a man, but that wasn’t what made me tremble.
The impact of the car had caught the victim at his right knee-joint, literally spinning the man’s leg and foot around 180 degrees. His left foot faced forwards, and his right foot faced directly behind him, yet the man still attempted to stand and miraculously, made it to his feet. He began to limp towards me. His twisted leg dragged behind him as he drew closer.

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I could see the expression on his face, which sent a cold chill running through my whole body. It pushed the boundaries of my resistance to the fear welling inside me to the absolute limit.

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“Jesus Christ! Your leg, mate! How can you possibly stand?”

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The wounded man staggered towards me. His face appeared distorted by a grimace that I could only put down to the agonising pain of his injury, enhanced by a low, guttural growl that came from between his tightly clenched teeth. When he was less than ten feet away, the piece of wood protruding from his chest registered in my brain. It was all I could do not to double over, instead gasping in a lungful of air in amazement as my gaze locked onto it, clearly able to see that it passed right through his body.

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When my car hit him, he must have been flung into the air and landed upon the wooden fencing which ran alongside the fields, shrouded by the hedgerows. I deduced that the impact must have sheared off part of the fence which he had become impaled by, piercing him a fraction below the breastbone, which surely must have missed his heart by mere millimetres. Yet here he is, limping ever closer.

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“Stop! Get away from me, dammit. How the hell are you still alive?” The question, I knew, was utterly ludicrous.

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No response from the approaching figure, no cries of pain, and no visible blood trail either despite the horrific wounds to his chest and leg. His right foot dragged uselessly across the ground every time he moved forwards, the sound chilling me to the core.

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He struggled to maintain balance, which caused him to veer off farther into the centre of the wet, misty road. I kept my eyes fixed upon him, unable to break my compulsive stare towards the fence stake, which rose and fell as he advanced. I had the good sense to take slow and measured steps backwards and to the side, in an attempt to get to the relative safety of the grass verge. This road had a reputation for high-speed at the best of times, an accident blackspot, in fact.

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I heard the rumbling diesel engine a matter of seconds before two bright, white eyes pierced the mire. The bulk grain wagon ploughed through the swirling mist. It hit the staggering, overall-covered man full on. The impact caused his body to fly past my position, held by the inertia of the truck before the driver punched the brakes. In a surreal moment, my head instinctively turned to follow as the truck screeched past me, missing my car by a hair’s breadth. My eyes followed the grain wagon; I cringed when I saw the sickening sway of the chassis as the wheels passed over the body. The truck lurched forwards as the brakes finally brought it to rest. Several haunting hisses, followed by one long exhale, saw the truck roll no farther.

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The driver’s door opened and I could just make out the figure of a burly looking trucker. He rubbed his eyes and forehead with a bit of rag in disbelief at what had just happened, stuffing the torn piece of cloth into his back pocket, where it dangled as he walked. Both of us stared at the crumpled pile in the wake of the truck, the mangled mess almost indistinguishable as ever being human.

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The embedded fence post stood vertical, akin to a stunted flagpole, which marked the spot where the body lay. Roadkill.

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The truck belched hot steam from its punctured radiator, merely adding to the swirling mist.

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“Don’t go any closer if you know what’s good for you. Just get back in your cab and drive. I’m out of here! There’s some weird shit going on,” I barked, as the man began to edge closer.

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“I had no chance to avoid him, did you see? He was in the middle of the road, I had no chance to miss him. You … you must have seen,” the flustered trucker babbled.

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“I saw everything, graphically. Get back in your truck, light a cigarette to calm yourself, and then get the hell out of here. I gotta go, this is some freaky shit,” I reiterated, already moving towards the car and fishing in my empty pockets for my cigarettes.

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“Here, buddy, take one of mine,” the trucker offered—his hand shaking as he held the pack. “What the hell should I do? I mean, I killed him, right? He’s gotta be dead. I need to call someone, the police, ambulance—someone.”

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“Just hold on there—um—” I began.

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“Oh, Jack—the name’s Jack.”

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“Well, Jack, just hold on there before you do that. You see, I hit him first. Just like you, he came from nowhere, in the middle of the road. He should have been dead, his leg was—and he’d been impaled through the chest, a piece of wood musta gone clean through him.”

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It poured out of me, to this trucker I’d only just met, in as big a mess as I was. I took a deep breath in, matched Jack’s earlier brow wiping pose and offered up a solution. “Okay, we need to see if he’s still alive, though I don’t know how he could possibly be. I thought I was having a bad day but—I’ll get my phone from the car first,” I resolved, as my senses began to return.

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I flopped into the driver’s seat. What made me check the rear-view mirror just then, I’ll never know, but I did. The mist began to rise slightly, and I could see the crumpled pile just behind and to the side of the large truck. I noticed the fence post, which should have been vertical, was now horizontal. The impact had pushed the post back through the body of the man, so it stuck out even farther from the front of him.

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“Shit, no way, man. No way! Screw that, it can’t be—there’s no way.”

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The sight sent me into panic overload. My hands fumbled with the ignition keys as I yelled over my shoulder through the open window.

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“Jack, get in your truck and drive—now!”

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I didn’t hang around to witness more as the car spluttered into life. I rammed it into first before I popped the handbrake, revving the engine enough to make the tyres deposit a layer of burnt rubber as they fought for traction. I slammed the car into second and my foot to the floor. I was heading for the centre of town. I had to pass through it to get home.

*****

I came across only one other vehicle for the remainder of the journey, a sporty-looking Ford parked up in the lay-by, opposite Salby’s one and only pub on the main drag. It wasn’t easy to see in the early morning light as I approached. The hazy, halo hue faded to reveal the car more clearly. My gaze on the road ahead faltered, drawn to the vehicle, and I peered through the driver’s window. Empty.

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“Stuff stopping again. Wherever you are, you’re on your own.” I stated, resolutely.

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The town centre, eerily quiet as I drove through and minus the usual steady trickle of cars city-bound, was also a little strange. Was it a national holiday? Did I miss something? I didn’t know and couldn’t focus. My mind raced over the imprinted images, trying to figure out what could possibly have allowed that man, that thing, to live after so much damage. He/it was either very lucky, or very unlucky, whichever way the coin landed. I drew too hard on the fresh fix. The hot ash fell from the tip, landed between my legs, and onto the seat. My eyes followed the rolling ember as it disappeared under my crotch, and I frantically tried to get to it before it could burn a nice, round hole in the cloth covering.

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The first thing to hit me was a pungent, singed material smell; the next was the bee-sting pain on the inside of my leg. In what can only be described as borderline panic and unable to see clearly, I anchored on, pushed open the driver’s door, and practically fell from the vehicle. As a matter of instinct, my hands shot to my burnt inner thigh, swatting and patting even though the heat had gone. Anyone watching would have thought I’d finally flipped out. Content that I wasn’t actually on fire, annoyed, and in shock, I resumed my journey, cursing the tobacco angel.

*****

I pulled up outside my rented property, scanned through the windows, and half-expected to see the mashed body of the man crawling towards me as I surveyed the street. I could almost hear the scrape of the wooden fence post on the ground as he moved closer—but there was no such thing, only my mind playing more vivid tricks.

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Could it have been a weird dream? I’d been doing a lot of overtime hours lately; could I have imagined the whole thing? Being a thinker didn’t help matters. That was a personality trait of mine—as well as being analytical, logical, and direct, just like my father was. He was a draughtsman in his day, precise and reasoned.

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‘Everything in its place, a place for everything,’ he’d said.

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I remember his forefinger, stressing the importance of his imparted wisdom, waggled inches from my adolescent, acne-rife face.

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I locked the car before walking around to the front. The shallow dent to the corner of the wing provided visual confirmation. On balance, I resolved to deal with it after some sleep. It was just too much to think about right now, and the prospect of trying to explain it to a desk sergeant at the police station didn’t seem too appealing. Besides, I had twenty-four hours to report an accident and I wasn’t the last person to run over the guy.

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After a good few minutes of mental debate on my way into my second-floor apartment, I’d argued myself into a plausible plan, and finally, at 0730 as the sun broke through the veil, I pulled the blinds and fell to my bed.

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It took over an hour of tossing and turning before my mind committed to rest, and then only for a couple of hours of short, fitful sleep.

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For further links to Ian D. Moore and his writing see:

Blog: The Quill Pen Writes

Blog: IndieAuthorsupportanddiscussion

Amazon: Author profile

Goodreads: Author profile

Twitter: @ianstories

A Life of Choice: Part One – Book Review

TBfacepicA Life of Choice by Tom Benson is the first part of a five partIASDpic series about a young recruit to the Royal Corps of Signals of the British Army. There are many authors who have drawn on their past military experience to write both fictional and non-fiction accounts of their military careers and quite a few who have relied purely on research and their imagination.  Quite often, though by no means always,  such books will either lack the authenticity of genuine military experience or be steeped in realism and authenticity yet be let down by the execution of the writing. A Life of Choice falls into neither category having been written by a man with not only over twenty years experience as a soldier but who has also been perfecting his writing skills for nearly the past ten years, having read and written in multiple genres. Regular readers of my blog will know from past posts that as well as being a prolific writer, book reviewer in his own right, and contributor to a number of online writing groups but is now an Admin for the Indie Author Support & Discussion site, highlighting and supporting new and established Indie authors. In addition to his own short story collections, Tom Benson has had short stories published in a number of other author’s collections too:

                               PR1  EL1   Youre Not Alone 3d inamge (1)

Further links to Tom Benson’s writing:

Twitter:  @TomBensonWriter

Website: www.tombensonauthor.com

Blog: www.tombensoncreative.com

Blog: www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

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Amazon Description:

A teenager feels there must be more to life than a dead-end office job and no social life. During his lunch-break one day in 1969, while walking the city streets, he stops to look at the pictures in an Army Careers Information Office window. How far might he go?

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A Life of choice: Part One

By Tom Benson

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

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timberwolfamazonA trip down memory lane that has you rooting for the young would-be soldier… loved it!, 1 April 2016

TBn5From what I understand this is the first of several parts to an ongoing saga of the life of a young serviceman. When Jim Falkner joins the Royal Corps of Signals he does so as a shy and quiet teenager with little experience of the world beyond his native Glasgow. Through this story the reader is immersed in the young would-be soldier’s training and those first tentative friendships formed, many of which would last a lifetime. It’s often claimed by those who served that joining the army is what made a man of them, and for many that’s true but what the author shows with equal emphasis is that it can just as easily lead to ruination; just as the young Jim Falkner grows in confidence and into the man and soldier he wants to be, we also see the him being drawn into the services drinking culture and hints at the problems that might bring with it in later years. There is also an excellent preface and first chapter that proceeds the start of our young character’s military career portraying a family background and life that might well have played a part in Jim Falkner’s decision to join the British Army, a background that was indeed shared at least in parts my many of the young recruits of the day.

Written in the first person, the story has very personal feel to it, enabling the reader to get to know Jim as a real flesh and blood person rather simply as a well-constructed character. The dialogue is entirely natural and the chronological way in which it’s portrayed and divided into twelve easily digestible chapters makes the story fluid and easy to read. There are many good things about being in the army as the author clearly shows but he doesn’t shy away from the negatives and hardships along the way. Another thing that impressed me was the author’s honesty in the events he portrays; he doesn’t exaggerate or sensationalise in pursuit of a more exciting or gripping story or try to give the impression that Jim is on course to be another Andy McCabe or other such well known military figure.

Although this is a fictional portrayal of Jim Falkner’s early military training and experiences, the author has drawn heavily on both his own life and those of his immediate comrades of the time, making ‘A Life of Choice’ as authentic as any entirely factual biography. I was pleased to discover when reading this that it wasn’t just another ‘pull up a sandbag’ type account relying on the legendary squaddie humour and colourful language for it entertainment but actually a thoughtful and well-written account of those times; yes those elements are present but they are not exaggerated or over-emphasised, though when they are alluded to it’s done to perfection…

“… The creases in his green denim trousers were sharper than the razor I’d used only the day before for the first time…”

“… Where I came from a steam iron was used to settle domestic disagreements…”

Anyone who has served as a regular in the army, or even one of the other services will from the beginning see familiar elements of themselves and their own experiences and might well read this like a trip down memory lane, bringing back happy and sometimes not so happy times. For others, particularly those who may have had or have friends or family who served, this book provides an honest and, true to military life, humorous insight into army training and life and just a few of the many colourful characters. Beyond that though this is also a compelling coming of age story, of the journey from boy to man, accelerated by intense military training along with all the usual landmark experiences of a young man growing up fast – being away from home for the first time, the pain of first love and its loss, learning to drive (in a land rover as opposed to the usual little bubble type cars that most people learn to drive in), and trying to fit in with his peers and all the pitfalls that entails. The heart of this story commences from 1969 through to 1971 when the army then was a very different thing to what it is today, and again, Tom Benson portrays that here to perfection. By the end of this first instalment, Jim Falkner has long since completed his basic training and is now a fully-fledged Signalman en-route to his first overseas posting to Germany. I look forward to reading of his further training and adventures…

 

Further works from Tom Benson: For further information on any of these books please click on the link to the author’s Amazon Author page:

Tom Benson’s Amazon author page:

Short story collections:

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Poetry

TBv1 TBv2 TBv3 TBv4 TBv5

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Novels

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                        TomB1  TomB2  TBn3

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The Fifth Seed: Volume 2 (Beyond the Pale) – Book Review

The Fifth Seed is the sequel to  Senan Gil Senan’s superb debut Sci-fi novel, Beyond the senan1Pale. Science Fiction is a genre that allows the writer’s imagination to run wild, possibly more so than in any other and Senan Gil does not waste that opportunity. The prequel to this took me completely by surprise, being very different to what I had expected but one that I nonetheless enjoyed from start to finish. This time I wasn’t quite so surprised but I was no less intrigued and entertained.

IASDpicSenan Gil Senan is another author I discovered via my Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group, and his own writing has proved every bit as good and insightful as his reviews of many other authors. In the spirit of science fiction and the new and exciting ways of presenting supplementary material, further information about the author, and some fascinating background to both this and his debut novel can be found at his blog:

https://senangilsenan.wordpress.com/

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In addition to this review, there is also a link below to the author’s recent interview by fellow blogger and book reviewer Andrew Updegrove, author of the highly acclaimed Sci-Fi thriller The Alexandria Project.

.Andrew Updegrove interviews Senan Gil Senan

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Further links to Senan Gil Senan’s writing:

 Twitter: @AngusCactus

Amazon.com: Senan Gil Senan – Author page:

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Amazon Description:

A young outlander begins a spirit quest, which is not expected to exceed a handful of days. In this coming of age ritual, he must spend time alone in the wilderness and forego food, water and shelter. He has to learn to place trust in his inner spirit and intuition, and follow wherever it leads him. It leads him to New Denver, a somewhat dystopian metropolis that is a showcase for a transhumanist future society. The young truth seeker expects personal revelation, and change. What he encounters instead is an adventure that brings change to all around him. Unfortunately, it also brings danger to the people he loves, and threatens the existence of the outlander community that supports him. A chain of events follows one another in a synchronistic fashion, which introduces action, romance and intrigue. These events are also the catalyst to a Machiavellian struggle between three major protagonists. One is an emerging sentient artificial Intelligence born out of the surveillance culture. Another is a controlling ancient subterranean race, and then there is the spirit-questor himself. His human physiology is so special that it represents an evolutionary leap forward for humankind. All three, potentially provide a blueprint for the future of humanity. Set in a future landscape of the American mid west, this story is as much about a father’s determination to find his son. The Fifth Seed also has some strong female leading characters, and is a feel-good inspirational story, as much as it is a thought experiment into a potential future. Set in a future landscape of the American mid west, this story is as much about a father’s determination to find his son. The Fifth Seed also has some strong female leading characters, and is a feel-good inspirational story, as much as it is a thought experiment into a potential future.

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The Fifth Seed: Volume 2 (Beyond the Pale)

By Senan Gil Senan

(Available from Amazon in both print & eBook formats)

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timberwolfamazonA skillfully crafted blend of traditional sci-fi and the esoteric… 22 March 2016

the-fifth-seed-senan-gil-senanSet in a not too distant dystopian future, The Fifth Seed leaps slightly forward in time from where its prequel ends not long after the birth of Ethan, the central character’s son. Ethan is now a young man and largely replaces River, his father, as the central character here. I won’t reiterate too much of the plot from the previous book or the amazon description for this one. What I can say is that this book is every bit as entertaining and thought-provoking as its predecessor. Although a sequel, this also reads very well as a stand-alone book; there are plenty of flashbacks and references to the past that ensure the reader isn’t at a disadvantage not having read the prequel, though I would still recommend reading Beyond the Pale first to make for a more complete reading experience.

In addition to the divided society of the first book, namely the technologically advanced walled-in cities surrounded by the more spiritually motivated tribes that inhabit the world outside, the author introduces some more good solid science fiction concepts here in the shape of sentient artificial and non-human intelligence, mental and physical enhancements,  both technologically advanced and tribal dystopian societies. In contrast though the author skilfully blends these concepts with the past into a wider story, encompassing man’s physical, mental, and spiritual evolution. Apart from such classics as 1984, Logan’s Run, and The shape of thing to Come, the author draws on many less obvious different sources for inspiration that have echoes of Ron L. Hubbard and to lesser extent a more coherent putting together of some of some of David Icke’s theories of Reptilian races. As in the first book, much of the science has its roots firmly in the science of today. Likewise with the more esoteric aspects of the book, i.e. the spirituality and the alien reptilian races are rooted in Native American spirituality and folklore as well many of the fringe theories of past civilisations, so even without a detailed knowledge of these things, there is still a believable familiarity in the writing and elements of the story.

On a slightly negative note the author does occasionally over explain some of the science and spiritual aspects of the book, though having said that, I prefer direct explanation over that of trying to show things by overly long and contrived dialogue. Explanations aside, the dialogue and writing flows easily and naturally. The story is divided into a large number of chapters, the lengths of which are dictated by their content rather than the author trying to maintain an artificial consistency.

This is an excellent sequel to Beyond the Pale, different enough to read as a separate story entirely yet sufficiently tied into the prequel to make for a more complete story. Towards the end it’s easy to see parallels between Ethan and the inhabitants of the dystopian New Denver and that of Moses leading his people out of Egypt, and the way in which the author portrays this is nothing short of story telling at its near best. Although firmly placed in the sci-fi genre, The Fifth Seed is as much a story of human beings of any time or setting and the problems they and society face as it is of a sci-fi defined dystopian future. The blend of hard science, spirituality, religion, along with the all too human concepts of love, greed, power struggles, and a host of other familiar themes create an enthralling story that will have sci-fi fans coming back for more. As I’ve said, a superbly entertaining stand-alone book, but an ongoing story that will be all the more enhanced by reading the prequel first, especially given the likelihood of more to follow in this excellent series.

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See Amazon link below for my review of Beyond the Pale

timberwolfamazon Superb glimpse into a divided Dystopian future…, 23 Jan. 2015

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Author biography:

The author was named Senan, by his father Patrick Gilsenan who thought that the name would look good on the cover of a book. He was an Irish printer who yearned to see his own prose and poetry appear in print. Sadly he died before achieving either ambition. Senan left behind the beauty of Sligo in Ireland to set off for London and oblique strategy of career choices. These included working fourteen years as a computer systems engineer. He has also worked as a self-employed financial trader, a writer, an employment adviser, and as a bar manager. He still lives in South London with his wife and family.

Timberwolf – Book Review

TomJulianpic1Tom Julian is another member from the IASD stableIASDpic of authors, writers, reviewers, and bloggers. In this, his debut novel, he has created a welcome addition to the amazing genre that is Sci-fi. In his own words: … is a military science fiction story influenced by Aliens, Battlestar Galactica, and Apocalypse Now…

Away from writing, Tom Julian works days at an Insurance comapany, and is a husband and the father of two children.

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Look out too for his soon to be released latest book, Breacher, available January 7th (available now for pre-order).

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Find Tom Julian on:

Fb AuthorTimberwolf page:

Fb Timberwolf author group:

Tom Julian on Goodreads:

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Amazon blurb:

Humanity has expanded beyond the borders of Earth into the far reaches of space. Human ingenuity has also expanded—as well as its theology.
On one side of an interplanetary war: a new religious order, dedicated to the expansion of human enlightenment. On another side, loosely connected to the order but hardly on the same page: the military, dedicated to the expansion of human influence.
And then there are the aliens. Worlds beyond understanding. Planets beyond comprehension. Forces which represent threats that cannot be calculated, and so must be eliminated.
Timberwolf is a soldier with too many voices in his head. Gray is a bishop with grander ambitions than his church. Highland is a planet run entirely by artificial intelligence—all of these factors point to the same conclusion: God has a story for everyone—or so the scripture of the day says.
This story is just beginning.

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Timberwolf 

By Tom Julian

(Available from Amazon in ebook & Print)

timberwolfamazonTraditional Sci-fi combining steampunk and space opera… Great debut novel!, January 2, 2016

timberwolfpicAs in common with many of the very best titles that Sci-fi has to offer, this is a story that incorporates many traditional elements of the genre; interstellar travel, alien species, and advanced technology to name just a few but amid all that, the real strength of the story is how those elements are used to draw the reader into what is a multi-layered roller coaster of excitement and intrigue. The story starts off exceptionally well, introducing Wraith, a bio engineered killing alien machine in the service of its human masters. Alongside Wraith we have several other equally engaging characters: first and foremost we have Timberwolf himself, a sort of cross between Stan Lee’s Ironman and Arnie’s Exterminator, and the only one capable of taking on Wraith. Opposite Timberwolf we have Emanuel Gray, the antagonist to Timberwolf’s protagonist, a former military man now using his supposed religious beliefs as vehicle for his own militaristic ambitions and agenda of seizing control of an A.I. controlled facility that would give him unprecedented military power.

Set as it is some 250 years in the future, there have not surprisingly been incredible advances in technology, enabling mankind to venture out among the stars, but not so far into the future as to have to change society and its technology beyond all recognition; artificial intelligence, nano-technology, and advanced battle armour, all with their roots in the science of today, give the sci-fi elements a topical and therefore believable feel to them. What hasn’t advanced though sadly in this vision of the future are some of the less than noble traits of mankind’s nature – greed, treachery, religious bigotry, and war feature most prominently in this story; just as the religious Crusades of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries resulted in some horrific conflicts so too has mankind’s contact with other species resulting in most being virtually exterminated. The one race to still pose a threat to mankind’s dominance is the Arnock, a spider-like race with mind invasive abilities that make it a formidable enemy, a fact that Timberwolf has painful and personal experience of.

Although this is primarily what I would call hard or traditional sci-fi, some of the themes and terminology give the story a steampunk feel to it; the use of terms such as galley, cargo holds, and gangplanks when referring to some aspects of one of the spaceships puts the reader in mind of rebellious space pirates or crusaders. The many different worlds and species also put me in mind of Peter F Hamilton’s highly imaginative and entertaining space opera type stories. This was an exciting and enjoyable story that kept me enthralled from beginning to end. I would have preferred a more comprehensive ending but overall this a first rate Sci-fi story, well-written and with all the requisite elements to please most fans of the genre.

The Diehards 1914-16 – Book Review

JTcopyJT Blythe is another author I discovered in the IASD Fb group. He’s not a prolific writer, reviewer or blogger but simply an ex serviceman who wanted to tell a story that was close to his heart, about one of the most horrific periods of our time when millions of men were sacrificed in a war of unimaginable horror and suffering. In his book The Diehards 1914-16 he has done just that. I look forward to reading more from this author should he decide to turn his writing talents elsewhere…

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Amazon Blurb:

In 1914 the ‘Diehards’ the 4th Battalion The Middlesex Regiment went to fight on the Western Front in a war that was supposed to be the war to end all wars.
The horror of the trenches with lice, rats, mud, cold, gas and flame throwers. Men lying dead and dying in no-man’s land some whose bodies would not be recovered until after the war ended.
This account gives an insight into the bravery, courage and dedication shown by those men. Although the characters are fictitious the events are real as are the facts and figures. Author JT Blythe puts together a story woven round the actual battles the Battalion took part in over the period 1914-1915 giving an insight not only to the horrors of the Western Front but also to the realities of the Home Front and the efforts made by many patriotic women who kept the country working in the absence of their menfolk.

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The Diehards 1914-16 

By JT Blythe

(Available from Amazon  as an eBook & in paperback)

5Starscropped

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JTblythe1First off let me begin by saying that this is a book written from the heart with real feeling and compassion; an account of the first world war, blending fact and fiction to not only show the horror and reality of the time but to tell the human and personal side of it for those young men fighting at the front amid the artillery fire and mustard gas, and just what life was like living in the trenches along the edges of that no-man’s land between life and death. Through the fictional stories of a small group of friends and comrades serving at the front we get as close to eye-witness accounts of many of the battles as is possible given that barely a handful of people survive who would even be able to remember the tail end of the war let alone have served through it. Interspaced among the acounts of the constant artillery bombardments, troop movements, and the triumps and losses of those fighting we hear of the their personal lives too, their loved ones back home, and their hopes for the future should they survive the war.

Much of the story is narrated from the third person perspective of four young men serving with the 4th Middlesex Regiment, better known as the Diehards on account of their battle cry of ‘Die Hard’ when going into battle. Billy, Matt, John, and Tommy all believed as did many others at the time that the war would be a brief affair and that they would all be home for Christmas. Had that been the case it’s possible the four of them might have remained lifelong friends but it was not to be, not all the of them would return and even those that did would carry their injuries and battle scars with them. Through their letters home and conversations we learn that Billy was married to Nancy and they had a one year old son, Billy Jnr. After the war he had promised his wife he would leave the regiment and work with is father in the dockyards. Matt was 4 years younger than Billy, and had a girlfriend, Sarah. She was hopeful of marrying Matt after the war, and the two of them settling down on a farm, but Billy had other ideas. Tommy was the youngest of the four, and indeed the youngest in their platoon for which reason most of the older men sort of took him under their wing. He was an only child and his parents were fearful for him fighting at the front. And lastly there was John – Sergeant John Michael Dunn. He was single, and though only 24, the oldest and most experienced of them. He had lied about his age, telling the army he was 19 when in fact he was only 17 when he first enlisted. Though fictional, these touching and sometimes heart-breaking accounts and background stories would have been all too representative of the real lives of so many thousands of young men like them, of so many lives and dreams cut short.

As well as the fighting at the front, those back home had their own battles to fight too. With so many men away fighting in France and Belgium and elsewhere, many women had to work the land, do the dangerous job of making shells in the munitions factories, and all the other jobs previously done by the men folk. Not only did they have to do the men’s jobs, they had to face the prejudice and resentment and often deal with the ‘unwanted attentions’ of those men left behind. JT Blythe clearly shows without their contribution to the war effort back home the fighting at the front would have all been in vain.

There were a few formatting issues, and the book would have benefitted with another round or two of editing and proof reading. There was also some repetition and over emphasis of the descriptive accounts of the Jack Johnson artillery shells, though having served in the artillery myself and already being quite familiar with these elements of the book it’s quite possible I’ve perhaps picked up on that more than most would. But these minor editorial concerns aside, they are more than eclipsed by the passion and feeling that has gone into the writing of this book; overall the writing was of a high standard and the author has given a good account of the Western Front and those serving there without it reading like a text-book history lesson or succession of historical facts and figures. Some of the narrative has echoes of Wilfred Owen, particularly the descriptions of the battles, the deprivation and living conditions of the trenches  through the personal stories of four young men,  serving their country and indeed the women too back home, JT Blythe has given us a human face to the conflict, bringing to life in some small part both the reality of the time, and amid the horror, some of the courage and compassion too.

Beyond the Law & Beyond The Law: Retribution – Double Book Review & Author Profile

TomBBeyond The Law: Retribution is the latest book by author and fellow blogger, Tom Benson, whose own TomB1 TomB2blog features high in my list of ‘follows.’ Beyond the Law: Retribution is the sequel to Tom’s most successful book to date, Beyond the Law.

 

Longtime folllowers of my blog might well remember my posting of a review of Beyond The Law back in early 2014; since this latest book is a sequel to that and for the benefit of those who may be unaware of it I am repeating that review to compliment my review of its sequel. 

As well as reading these excellent novels, please take a look at his blog where you will find some equally excellent short and flash fiction stories to enjoy too along with an absolute treasure trove of writing tips and highly informative and essential self-publishing advice:

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www.tombensoncreative.wordpress.com

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Beyond the Law: Retribution – Amazon Blurb:

In 2004, Martin Cameron is sprung from custody on the streets of Glasgow. The ruthless gangster vanishes, but not before leaving instructions for trusted henchmen. A period of mayhem ensues which includes the murder of two outlaw bikers.
Phil McKenzie aka Hawk, calls a meeting of his small vigilante team, but will they make allies of the Mental Riders Motor Cycle Club?
Will the police recall July 1996 and once again leave battle to commence?
There are turbulent times ahead for many hearts and minds – and Scotland’s underworld.

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Beyond The Law: Retribution (sequel)

By Tom Benson

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

5Starscropped

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A vicious trail of violence, retribution, and dead bodies… loved it!, 24 Nov. 2015

TomB2This is a retribution themed novel once again dealing with those criminals whose cunning and resources enable them to operate beyond the constraints of the judiciary and elude the regular forces of law and order. Such is the violence and ruthlessness of such men it takes an equally resourceful and ruthless approach in dealing with such criminals, cue the reappearance of ex SAS operative Phil McKenzie aka the Hawk, and his unique band of cohorts collectively now known as BTL (Beyond the Law) enterprises. Hawk and his associates are every bit as ruthless as the criminals they face, with the added advantages of the very best military training in weapons, field-craft, and covert operations. Operating as they do outside normal police investigation and procedure they can’t be openly supported by the regular police, but they can still draw on the covert support of the British intelligence services and their unofficial police contacts, as well as here, some more ‘unconventional’ allies.

Our introduction to Phil McKenzie and the formation of BTL enterprises was dealt with in the prequel to this book. Although there is sufficient explanation and references to the past to allow it to read perfectly well as a stand-alone book I would still recommend reading the prequel first to enjoy it to its full; as well as being re-acquainted with ex SAS operative Hawk, the attractive ex intelligence operative Annabel, the equally stunning motor bike riding Rachael, former pick-pocket Jake, and one or two others, several new colourful characters are added to the mix: Max, the leader of biker gang the Mental Riders, and Intelligence operative and linguistics expert, Ian, to name but two. There are also some pretty brutal and sadistic new villains as well in the shape psychopathic twin brothers.

The story kicks off with the audacious escape from prison custody of Martin Cameron, who within minutes of his escape embarks on his vicious return to crime and violence; determined to re-establish and expand his control of all of Scotland’s major criminal activities, there follows a  bloody trail of violence and dead bodies along the way; he also plans his painful and sadistic revenge on the man responsible for his imprisonment, Phil McKenzie. What he isn’t aware of though is just how eager someone else is for equally sadistic vengeance against himor indeed just how better organised and equipped Phil McKenzie and his organisation are now. In the interim, Martin Cameron’s plans to organise a massive drug shipment into Scotland once again bring him to the attention of one of the Hawk’s former cohorts despite being on the other side of the world at the time.

This is what Tom Benson does best, drawing on his own military experience and memories of growing up on the hard streets of Glasgow, coupled with a true story teller’s imagination. Once again, the author’s attention to plot detail and consistency rivals that of say a Frederick Forsythe novel, and is handled with the same careful planning as the covert operations of the story. The precise levels of detail related to weaponry, covert surveillance, and urban and rural field-craft are excellent, enough to place the reader right there with the characters but not so much to distract from the main story or bog the reader down. The characters are well-developed by way of the gritty and realistic dialogue and the things they do. I also enjoyed seeing how some of the characters had evolved since first encountering them in the prequel, and I must say, the writing here is even sharper and more streamlined than before. I was also impressed at how Phil McKenzie took more of a ‘behind the scenes’ role here, allowing some of the other characters to really come into their own rather than relying just on him to carry the story.  As always, Tom Benson rounds up the conclusion and loose ends most effectively, and leaves the reader with a tantalising hint of another sequel. The way the story is structured and has evolved from the prequel could lend this two book series (so far) to a whole series of books along the lines of Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ series…

 

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Beyond The Law (prequel) – Amazon Blurb:

In January 1996, Phil McKenzie leads his Special Air Service team, on a secret mission into Kentobi, Africa. An assassin codenamed Chameleon, kills the Kentobi president, but Phil is framed for the murder. He negotiates liberty at a high price; an end to his military career.

Following a brief secondment to the Metropolitan Police and discharge from the Army, Phil returns to his hometown as Hawk, a vigilante. The term, ‘deniable ops’, finds new meaning as Phil tackles Glasgow’s underworld with his small, unique team. Using stealth, intelligence, and bloody violence, Phil hunts down the city’s Godfather.

 

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Beyond The Law (prequel)

By Tom Benson

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

5Starscropped

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An awesome book that will keep you hooked right to the end!, 22 Feb. 2014

TomB1A ‘can’t put down’ book that definitely hits the ground running. In an explosive opening chapter reminiscent of Andy McNab, we’re introduced to the central character, Phil McKenzie, and some of the background to his special skills and training. What follows is an equally explosive story of unofficial state-sanctioned vigilantism as he and his cohorts set about tackling the tough and violent criminal under-belly of a crime ridden Glasgow. But this is no simple story of good guys hunting down the bad; set against the murky backdrop of the military and British intelligence, Phil McKenzie and a select team of operatives are up against a criminal alliance that spans not only that of organised crime but also high ranking politicians and police officers. The book takes a number of different and dangerous turns, culminating in one hell of a conclusion.

Some of the characters have definite echoes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. The dialogue throughout is both fluid and natural, as is the writing and realistic portrayal of a world and characters that thankfully, most never get to see outside the pages of a book. The author’s attention to detail and plot-line are approached with the same deadly precision as that of a covert military operation.

This is a book that effortlessly combines the genres of military adventure with that of crime and justice, and one that would sit well in the company of Lee Child, Andy McNab, and Tom Clancy. Should Tom Benson ever decide to write a sequel, it will certainly leapfrog to the front of my ‘to read’ list. Highly recommended…

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Author profile:

In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army.

Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992.

He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.

Tom has been writing since 2007. He has published six novels, two anthologies of short stories, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry. He is presently working on two novels, and further anthologies of short stories. Tom is also a self-taught artist.

Tom is a prolific writer of short stories, flash fiction, novels, and a number of poetry collections. In addition to being a great writer and author, he also takes the time to offer advice and support to fellow writers and bloggers. He also contributes to numerous online writing groups, and is one of the founder members and Admins of the Indie Author Support and Discussion Fb (IASD) group and website of the same name:

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 www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.wordpress.com

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The Tom Benson collection: click on thumbnails for Amazon links

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TB1a TB2a TB3a TB4a TB5a

Tom Benson’s Poetry collection:

Coming Around - 170714 TomB4 Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

Erotica & short stories:

Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904 Amsterdam Calling - the cover 260714

Thriller/Romances:

Beyond The Law - the cover 2904 A Taste of Honey TB6a

Crime/Retribution themed thrillers:

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In addition to his own writing, Tom Benson has had short stories published in a number of colloborative anthologies, three of which are listed below:

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Not What You Thought? and other surprises – The first of the IASD anthologies. Three guest stories by Tom Benson featured in P.A. Ruddock’s humerous collection of short stories and flash fiction in aid on the ‘Forget-Me-Not’ charity at www.exmodltd.org in aid of homeless ex servicemen and those affected by PTSD. 

 

 

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You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology – The brainchild of author, book reviewer and blooger, Ian D Moore – an IASD anthology bringing together a multitude of international Indie Authors in aid of the Pamela Winton tribute fund, which is in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. cancer care and support charity Macmillan Nurses.

 

 

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Holes: An Indie Author Anthology – The third and latest IASD short story anthology, inspired by the author, reviewer and talented book cover designer Eric Lhati, again bringing together an international collection of Indie authors to showcase and promote just a fraction of the amazing talents on offer from the world of Indie publishing.

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Further links to Tom Benson’s novels and other writing can be found at:

http://www.tombensoncreative.wordpress.com

http://www.tombensonauthor.com

http://www.tom-benson.co.uk

https://twitter.com/TomBensonWriter

Tom Benson’s Amazon Author page:

                                                  TomB1 TomB2

 

Bad Blood – Book Review

A dark and murderous tale to chill the blood…

4Starscropped

maxblogpicBad Blood by Max Power is the third book from this author I’ll have read and reviewed, the previous two being Darkly Wood and Larry Flynn. Having originally come to my attention via the Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group and IASD website I’m involved with, along with growing attention on twitter and various other social media and the ever increasing number of positive reviews he is accumulating with is books, Max Power has quickly established himself as one of my favourite Indie Authors.

Max Power has written several books including Darkly Wood, Bad Blood, and Little Big Boy. Originally from Dublin he currently resides in Maynooth in Kildare Ireland with his family, and following the huge success of Darkly Wood, is currently working on its sequel. More recently, he has also had a short story featured in Ian D Moore (And Friends)’ Youre Not alone: An Indie Author Anthology, an IASD anthology bringing together a multitude of international Indie Authors in aid of the cancer care and support charity Macmillan Nurses.

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Click on above thumbnails for links to said book & website

As well as being an author, Max Power is a prolific book reviewer, blogger, and regular contributor to a number of Indie Author Support Fb groups, the IASD website, Goodreads, and other assorted social media, and is fast establishing himself as a major name in Indie publishing.

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Further information on Max Power and links to his writing can be found at:

http://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com/

Max Power’s Amazon Author page:

www.facebook.com/maxpowerbooks

www.twitter.com/maxpowerbooks1

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Note:  As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…

Amazon Description:

When lawyer Carol Berkley visits a man on death row, who has not spoken one word from the time of his arrest and right through his trial, she is shocked by his first spoken words. James Delaney is a man sentenced for one murder, but it turns out that he may be the most prolific serial killer the world has ever known. When James despatches Carol to find a priest, a priest with a secret, she becomes tangled in a web of murder, blackmail and revenge, as her life spirals out of control. Father Martin Doyle thought he had left a terrible secret behind him in Ireland, but when Carol turns up at his church in a poor Miami neighbourhood, he is forced to travel back home to confront the demons of his past and discover even more sinister new ones. With a hurricane looming large off the Florida coast, James knows that there is a far more dangerous storm brewing. The arrival of new prison officer Elias Wainwright means that James will never make it to his official execution date, without the help of Carol Berkley and the priest with a very particular secret. Time is running out for James and he has a secret of his own that may change everything. But some secrets should be kept in the family.

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Bad Blood 

By Max Power

(Available from Amazon in eBook & Paperback)

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This book really hooks the reader from the opening page, raising questions right from the start that keeps the reader turning the page in the hope of answers. For the most part this is a thriller of the first order, but one that skates around the fringes of horror and the paranormal. None of the characters are quite what they seem, least of all James Delaney, the mysterious figure who at the start finds himself on Death Row for unintentionally killing a police woman, and for most definitely trying to kill another man; and yet, for a man facing years of incarceration and a death sentence at the end of it he seems remarkably unconcerned by his situation, and as the story progresses we learn he may be responsible for many more deaths, a serial killer of unimaginable proportion. But he is in good company here; with just a few exceptions, virtually every character has at one time had blood on their hands. I won’t say in what way but there are several clues early on and throughout that there’s something ‘different,’ something ‘more,’ about James Delaney and his enemy Elias Wainwright that sets them apart from ordinary men. And the other characters too, an ambitious young female lawyer, a priest with a less than angelic past, and Jamal, a street wise young man from the ‘less than affluent’ side of town, all command the reader’s attention. Max Power expertly lays the foundations of a blood and corpse filled thriller, providing the reader with a jigsaw of literary elements that slowly come together from which an intriguing story of an age old battle and blood feud emerges.

Although written in the third person, Max Power delves in to the minds of the most prominent characters in such a way as to make the reader think and almost believe that the story is being told from the perspective of each one at any given time. Another of the great strengths of this author’s writing is also to create a real sense of atmosphere, usually somewhat dark and brooding, and characters that defy all the usual stereotypes, ones that hover and glide between being the hero and the villain, being liked and loathed in equal measure. Some of the narrative is a little graphic at times but always in keeping with the context and tone of the story. One area I would have liked to see explored more was the history between James Delaney and Elias Wainwright and their respective families, and perhaps a little more explanation about the alluded to mythology about them.

I almost feel guilty for not awarding this book five stars, and perhaps if this had been the first of the author’s books I had read then I might well have done so, but having previously read Darky Wood and Larry Flynn by the same author, this one didn’t quite work as well (for me) as the previous two but it still remains a thoroughly well-written, enjoyable and blood curdling read nonetheless. Soon after finishing this review I shall be moving onto Max Power’s latest book, Little Big Boy… If Edgar Allan Poe was writing in the modern era then Bad Blood and Darkly Wood would be the sort of books I would be expecting from him…

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Max Power books: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links

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Touching The Wire – Book Review

A poignant and well-crafted emotional thriller,

…and another well deserved five stars… 

5Starscropped

rebecca4Touching The Wire by Rebecca Bryn is the first book I’ve read by this author, and a first class one at that. Rebecca Bryn is another member of and an active contributor to our Indie Author Fb support group and IASD website, as well as contributing to several other online writing groups. In addition to her current three  novels, she has also recently contributed one of her short stories to Ian D. Moor’s You’re Not Alone anthology of short stories by Indie authors from around the world, the proceeds of which are all being donated to Macmillan, a charity that provides help and support to those affected by cancer. She is a UK based writer currently living in St. Davids in South West Wales, along with her husband, a rescue dog, and in her own words, twenty very talented sheep….

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Click on thumbnails for website and Amazon links to the above:

 

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Further links to Rebecca Bryn’s writing can be found at:

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Rebecca Bryn’s Amazon Author page:

www.rebeccabrynandsarahstuart-novels.co.uk

www.independentauthornetwork.com/rebecca-bryn

www.facebook.com/rebecca.bryn.novels

www.twitter.com/rebeccabryn1

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Note:  As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…

Amazon Blurb…

“He had no way to tell her he had given her life: no right to tell her to abandon hope.”
A story of every man and woman interred in Nazi death camps throughout the Second World War, this novel is based on real events.

Part One – In the Shadow of the Wolf

In a death camp in 1940’s Poland, a young doctor and one of his nurses struggle to save lives and relieve the suffering of hundreds of women. As their relationship blossoms, amid the death and deprivation, they join the camp resistance and, despite the danger of betrayal, he steals damning evidence of war-crimes. Afraid of repercussions, and for the sake of his post-war family, he hides the evidence but hard truths and terrible choices haunt him, as does an unkept promise to his lost love.

Part Two – Though the Heavens should Fall

In present-day England, his granddaughter seeks to answer the questions posed by her grandfather’s enigmatic carving. Her own relationship in tatters, she meets a modern historian who, intrigued by the carving, agrees to help her discover its purpose. As her grandfather’s past seeps into the present, she betrays the man she loves and is forced to confront her own guilt in order to be able to forgive the unforgivable and keep her grandfather’s promise.

“A young woman bent to retrieve her possessions. An SS officer strode past. ‘Leave. Luggage afterwards.’
She stood wide-eyed like a startled deer, one arm cradling a baby. Beside her an elderly woman clutched a battered suitcase. The girl’s eyes darted from soldier to painted signboard and back. ‘What are we doing here, grandmother? Why have they brought us here?’

The wind teased at her cheerful red shawl, revealing and lifting long black hair. She straightened and attempted a smile. ‘It’ll be all right, Grandmother. God has protected us on our journey.’
Voices rasped, whips cracked, dogs barked… An SS officer pushed towards a woman of about fifty. ‘How old?’ She didn’t respond so the officer shouted.

He edged closer. As a doctor he held a privileged postion, but he’d also discovered he had a gift for languages. He translated the German to stilted Hungarian, adding quietly. ‘Say you’re under forty-five. Say you are well. Stand here with the younger women.’ He moved from woman to woman, intercepting those he could.‘Say you are well. Say your daughter is sixteen. Say you can work or have a skill. Say you aren’t pregnant.’

Miriam’s eyes glistened. ‘May He rescue us from every foe.’ She touched her grandmother’s cheek, a gentle lingering movement, and placed a tender kiss on her baby’s forehead. She moved to stand where he pointed.
Miriam’s eyes met his. He had no way to tell her had given her life: no right to tell her to abandon hope. ‘Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.’ “

Words readers have used to describe this story – ‘astonishing – compelling – relentlessly engaging – important – complex and brilliant.’ Readers’ feedback, via reviews, is hugely appreciated.

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Touching The Wire 

By Rebecca Bryn

(Available from Amazon in both eBook & paperback formats)

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rebecca3There are many adjectives I could use in my review of this book: powerful, moving, emotional, heart-breaking, and heart-warming in places to name but a few. It would be easy to say this book is about the holocaust, but in truth that aspect of the book is more of a vehicle and backdrop to the real story – of courage, the struggle to survive against impossible odds, and later in the story, a search for the truth and long buried secrets of the past. The strength and emotion of the writing gives the book a ‘true story’ feel to it, like you’re a witness to a heart rending tragedy unfolding before you and yet behind the fiction there exists the uncomfortable knowledge that such tragedies were all too real at the time.  This work of historical fiction is both a thriller and a detective story, as well as one of impossible and enduring love and sacrifice. Imagine yourself as someone whose profession and calling is to do whatever they can to save people’s lives and alleviate their suffering, and then having to witness and be a party to unimaginable cruelty and sadism, to live amongst it every day knowing the slightest overt criticism or resistance to it could mean your instant death; in short, a concentration camp doctor is emotionally torn apart by the horror of his surrounding and work. He does what he can to minimise his patients’ suffering, often having to commit the most appalling acts for a greater good. And then he falls in love with just such a patient. Having to see her suffering makes his position even more intolerable and at the same time, urgent. He promises that the true horror of the concentration camps will one day be known, and from that promise a generations spanning story of cleverly crafted detective work, family secrets, and the horrors of the past emerge.

There are some obvious comparisons with Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark here, i.e. someone working with and for the Nazi regime, doing what he can at great personal risk to help those suffering at its hands but who isn’t without his own flaws and guilt, having at times to make impossible choices that will determine who lives and who dies.  The stark imagery and cold reality, and indeed brutality at times, emphasise the horror of the period and place in which much of the story takes place. The author doesn’t try to sensationalise or exaggerate the descriptive elements relating to the concentration camp and the atrocities being committed on a daily basis but simply recounts them as essential elements to the story without venturng into melodrama.  The sheer scale of suffering and the numbers involved can often be hard to take in or comprehend, much like the astronomical numbers and distances when considering time and space, but the personal tragedy and individual stories of the characters here does more to bring home the appalling truth of those times than many a factual account ever could.

The blend of German mythology and analogy interwoven into the narrative and those parts of the story told in flashback give the story an added dimention that works well, perfectly in sync with the younger characters and their part in the overall story. I would say also this last element, while not exactly traditional fairy tale stuff itself, does provide the reader a respite from the harrowing reality of past events, and time to pause and consider what they’re reading. The scene transistions betweeen the past and present are skilfully handled and the subtle and occasional use of German dialogue adds to the authenticity of the writing, but without confusing non-German speaking readers given the obvious meaning and context when it is used.

Although a work of fiction this is a well-researched and vivid account of an horrific and shameful period of what many would still consider to be relatively recent or modern history. This isn’t a book that can be read lightly or as pure entertainment despite the intriguing and expertly crafted storyline. I must admit the historical elements, the mythology, and the central character’s past had more impact for me than the present day aspects of the book, but every element of this story was superbly told and related well to all the others. I could easily visualise this book as a major film on a par with the likes of Schindler’s List…

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 Rebecca Bryn’s Books: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links

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Skin Cage – Book Review

nico3My easiest five star review of the year.  5Starscropped

Another amazing author from the Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group, Nico Laeser is one of our most talented and prolific contributors. As well as being an excellent writer, Nico Laeser is also an extremely talented artist and graphic designer, who along with Eric Lahti, was responsible for the redesign of the IASD Fb & Website Banner.

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Click on Banner for website link

Skin Cage is one of two books by the author, and he is near to completing a third at the time of this review. In addition to his two novels, he has also had short stories featured in two of the IASD anthologies, Ian D. Moore’s You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology – an international collection of authors supporting the cancer charity Macmillan nurses, and Eric Lahti’s Holes: An Indie Author Anthology – promoting the work of Indie authors…

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Holes: An indie Author Anthology  – You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology

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Further links to Nico Laeser and his writing can be found at:

Nico Laeser’s Amazon Author page:

Nico’s Facebook Author page

 Twitter – Nico @nicolaeser

Nico Laeser on Tumblr

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Note:  As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…

Amazon blurb for Skin Cage:

Daniel Stockholm was fifteen years old when a parasite hijacked his brain, rendering him paralyzed and reliant on machines that run day and night to keep him alive.
For nine years, Danny has been confined within a biological prison with only two small windows, through which to view the world around him; a silent witness to the selfless compassion of some and the selfish contrivance of others.
When the malicious actions of care worker, Marcus Salt, threaten to push Danny farther from the ones he loves, and deeper into the dark recesses of his skin cage, he is left with only one option. He must find a way out.

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Skin Cage

By Nico Lasaer

(Available from Amazon in both eBook and print formats)

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nico1A clever, skilfully told, and highly original story, bringing together subtle elements of science fiction, horror, and the paranormal, but in no way overly veering into any single genre. Initially the story explores what it’s like to be trapped in your own body, aware but unable to move or communicate in any way, a veritable living nightmare as it were. The story is narrated from a first person perspective, some of which is told via flashback, which considering the story is told very much from the mind and thoughts of Daniel the principal character, is to be expected and works exceptionally well for a full length novel. Daniel’s life is at times well worth living while at others it is made almost unbearable by those whose job it is to care for him … which of these particular states depends just on who is doing the caring at the time.

I won’t go into too much detail about the story itself as it would be all too easy to give too much away but what I can say is that it is both heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measure, and full of surprises and unexprected turns. Some of the issues raised in Skin Cage are both emotive and thought provoking, which along with its page turning quality, compel the reader to take in every line and word as they imagine themselves in Daniel’s shoes; it’s impossible not to empathise with his lack of privacy, dependancy on others, the inevitably limited outlet for his emotions, and then hope for some miracle that might change Daniel’s life. In a way that miracle happens but not in any way the reader might have forseen. In retrospect it does take a leap of the imagination to accept the changes in Daniel’s world and surroundings as the story progresses but at the time of reading, the story flows quite seemlessly from one scene to the next. The story that follows is one that will stay in the mind for a very long time of those fortunate enough to discover this book.

Not only did the story itself hugely impress me but also the articulation and eloquence of the writing. Quite often a very good story or idea is let down by the latter but in this case the sheer quality of the writing propels the story into something quite phenomenal; the reader isn’t just a party to Daniel’s thoughts and emotions courtesy of the first person perspective,  but is immersed entirely in his world – his senstations, what he’s hearing, feeling, seeing and even tasting. Science fiction, the paranormal, and horror are not usually themes I would equate with what might be called literary fiction but in this instance the comparison would be well deserved.

I’ve read across many different genres over the past year so it’s hard to make comparions but this is probably my favourite book of the year, and probably the best written too. This is the first of Nico Laeser’s novels I’ve read but it certainly won’t be the last…

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Nico Laeser’s books: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links
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Gunners ‘N’ Grenades – Book Review

sean1I first came accross this book via Amazon’s recommendations as well seeing it pop up in a few facebook posts/recommendations. Although not a member of my Indie Author Support Fb group, having read and enjoyed this book I’m delighted to present my review of it here. Sean Connelly is the author of a number of military themed books, most of which are of the memoir & autobiographical genre. Gunners ‘N’ Grenades is Sean Connelly’s first fiction book, though it still draws on his military past. Having spent fifteen years and being a Bombadier in the British Army, he is well qualified to write in this arena. Sean first started writing after someone suggested that he should write an account of his early days in the army, and since then he has gone from strength to strength in his efforts. 

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Further links to Sean Connelly’s writing can be found at:

www.armynovels.com

Sean Connelly’s Amazon Author page:

Sean Connelly’s Armymovels Fb group

www.twitter.com/armynovels

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Note:  As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…

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Amazon Blurb for: Gunners ‘N’ Grenades –

“… It is the dream of most soldiers to be the best. To join an elite fighting force and be able to perform in any theatre of war is the goal of most British squaddies. With it come respect, honour, comradeship and greater courage.

PERSTO TROOP is made up of some of the best and most experienced soldiers in the British Army… and four delinquents. The latter are about to be dishonourably discharged but someone, somewhere sees their potential and they are offered the lifeline of joining this new elite force. They must now endure the rigours of harsh training that will either make or break them.

Told in the style of a fictional autobiography, Gunners & Grenades, has humour as well as action and follows the ‘nitty-gritty’ of the everyday life of a young soldier in the 1980’s as he grows from misfit to a true leader, covering his exploits from bars to battle and sex to secret operations which culminate in explosive action with the kidnapping of a Sultan’s Daughter at The Edinburgh Tattoo and the race against time to rescue her.

For ‘Sledge’, our delinquent soldier and his mates, this is both a final chance and a dream come true… “

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Gunners ‘N’ Grenades: Sledge’s First Mission 

By Sean Connelly 

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(Available from Amazon in both print and eBook formats, and signed print copies available from the author’s website… www.armynovels.com )

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sean2Thoroughly enjoyed this British military adventure story. Like many such stories it begins with some background events leading up to the situation in which the central character, in this case a young soldier called Sledge, finds himself, and from which the unfolding action emerges. Unfortunately for our hero of the story, Sledge, and the men under his command, display just a little ‘too’ much potential and enthusiasm at the beginning of their careers for what it takes to be a good soldier and very nearly find themselves in danger of being booted out of the army. Thankfully someone higher up sees how Sledge and his oppos might be put to better use rather than being thrown back onto civvie street, and gives them the opportunity to prove themselves in a more demanding role. What follows is a side-splittingly funny (and indeed sometimes harrowing) depiction of the brighter side of army life, military banter, and colourful language that would make even the sturdiest blush at. The reader follows Sledge and his comrades’ progress through their training in a newly formed elite troop that sort of exists as a halfway house between a regular regiment and the elite special-forces, possibly to take on missions that the SAS would want to be able to deny all liability or involvement in. Although highly trained and capable of killing without hesitation by the end of their training, Sledge and his comrades are still just like ninety five percent of the rest of the British Army, i.e. hard drinking, womanising, and a colourful a vocabulary as one can imagine – in other words, typical squaddies (and damned good soldiers to boot) – rather than some unbelievable Rambo type supermen.

The real nitty gritty of the story i.e. fighting a real enemy, doesn’t really take place till say the last third of the book, focusing instead on the men’s training, friendships, and banter, but all combining to form the prefect built up to the conclusion. The contrast between the humour and sometimes madness of army life, and the grim realities that inevitably arise from time to time is well portrayed as the story progresses.

I would say that the best military based adventure books are written by those with some personal experience of military life, but that isn’t to say such experience guarantees an enjoyable reading experience. Quite often the writer’s personal experience is injected into their writing too literally, often resulting in a book that comes across as part fiction, part memoir, and with way too much emphasis on military accuracy at the expense entertaining the reader. Thankfully Sean Connelly hasn’t fallen in that trap; yes his own experience shines through in the writing, and the military detail is spot on (for the most part) but he’s also injected a certain degree of poetic licence into his writing to make for a more entertaining story, creating larger than life characters but who aren’t so far removed from reality that they force the reader to suspend disbelief; for military purists there might well be some areas where it could be argued that the poetic licence has been taken a tad too far, i.e. the notion of a bunch of green teenage royal artillery recruits getting the better of highly trained and experienced infantry men is a little hard to believe for anyone whose actually served, as well as their being propelled at such an early stage of their careers into such a troop, but for the average non-military or civvie reader I imagine it wouldn’t be an issue.

Normally this would be an easy five stars for the humour and thumping good story telling value whilst still remaining credible but there were a few typos and grammatical issues i.e. the odd missing word here and there, which tells me the final draft would have benefitted from another round or two of editing and proof reading. Nonetheless it still gets a five star rating, just not quite a resounding one. If you’re looking for the sort of high octane adrenalin fuelled action of an Andy McNab novel or the cold brutal reality of a Ken Wharton book then this probably isn’t it, but if you enjoy British Army themed escapist story telling that captures at least some of the feel and flavour of military life as it was for most of us then you really can’t do much better than this.

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Further books by Sean Connelly: Click on Thumbnails for Amazon links…

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