New cover for The Curious Little Book of Extraordinary Big Tales.

littlenew

This is the new cover for The Curious Little Book of Extraordinary Big Tales. Whilst I loved the first one I feel this one is more impactful. It takes its inspiration from a story in the book entitled the “The Devil in the land of Anywhere, and Everywhere,” which describes how, everywhere and everyday, Satan walks amongst us. Or, as it says in the book:

“Satan has walked with humans in many and all worlds since we took our first faltering steps. In terms you would understand in your world, he has whispered into the ears of Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, Torquemada and Adolf Hitler. He wielded a machete in Rwanda, dropped napalm in Vietnam and hung “witches” in New England: he has marched with every marauding army that has ever left its blood-stained footprints across countries and continents, he has picked up babies by their legs and dashed their brains out, he has herded women and children into barns, thrown in a phosphorus grenade behind them and bolted shut the doors.”

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The Curious Little Book of Extraordinary Big Tales: The Nature of Love

Life… is a random, cacophonous noise full of screaming and shouting and things that glitter and shine but turn out to be not what they seem.
In all that distracting, attention-seeking noise there is only one indisputable constant: Love. For only Love has true and enduring value.

Success and wealth are fabulous, but they are relative and all too often transitory. And at the end of your story on this earth, when the Blind Old Weaver Of Fate is spinning together the final threads of your life, no matter how much success you’ve gained or how much “stuff” you’ve bought, they will not hold your hand and mop your brow as your Soul prepares to journey across a Broad, Bright, Blue Sky and your life slips inevitably into The Fog of Forgotten Stories. Only Love will hold you firm. Only Love will gather you up to itself and comfort you, whisper sweet words that calm your Soul and speed it on its final journey to That Which Lies Beyond.
Throughout your life and until The Very End, only love will weave that Shining Web Of Gossamer beneath you, to catch you should you fall.

So don’t be distracted by the noise and the bling, by the things that shine so brightly and alluringly, by that which promises much but delivers little. Don’t be tempted by regret, hatred and bitterness; they are harsh masters. Don’t judge yourself, don’t judge others, always walk that mile in another man’s shoes. Be kind, be caring; always share and treasure a caress. Seek to leave behind no bad feeling but rather try to add to the Greater Sum of Happiness because everyone, not least yourself, deserves respect, dignity and a chance at life. Above all, remember that to live this life, and leave this world, having loved and having been loved is all that really matters. The rest ain’t worth a damn.

CURIOUSThis short extract is from my book “The Curious Little Book of Extraordinary Big Stories,” now available to purchase from Amazon:

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Did you know that a Fairy lives for exactly 897 years and 13 days, that they kidnap human children because they can’t have their own and when they cry, their tears turn into diamonds? Did you know that real Trolls have horns, can run as fast as cheetahs and have a deep and abiding hatred of Bankers? Did you know that as you read this the Blind Old Weaver Of Fate is Clumsily Spinning Together the course of your life? Did you know that you began your existence as a random handful of atoms, coalescing together after journeying across the vastness of the Universe and when God saw you he was so moved by your beauty that he tore a piece off himself and placed it inside you?

Did you know that where ever you walk, the Devil and his Special Children walk with you and that one day your Soul will Break The Chains Of Earthly Existence to make one last, Incandescent Journey across a Broad, Bright Blue Sky and the Tale That Was Your Life will slowly fade away, to be lost forever in the dense Fog Of Forgotten Stories?

Did you know that if you speak the words “Once upon a time,” anything can happen?

The Curious Little Book of Extraordinary Big Tales: The Girl Who Chased Snowflakes.

littlenew“A stunning collection of 12 interlinked modern morality tales set in the mythical, magical land of Anywhere written as Gothic fairy tales for adults and covering such themes as abuse, murder, greed, wicked parents, love, hope, political and financial corruption, bigotry, bullying, fate, God and the Devil. Intriguing, insightful, wise and at times breathtakingly beautiful.”

Okay, so my second book is out now and the above is the best reader comment on my work I’ve ever had! “The Curious Little Book of Extraordinary Big Tales” is a collection of 12 “fairy tales” (plus two bonus tracks, so to speak). Whilst I do say “fairy tales,” please don’t think this is a book for kids. As the quote above implies, it’s more like something the Grimm Brothers might have written had they taken snorted a bad batch of crystal meth. The tales are dark and Gothic in tone, and often have a sting in the tale.

I like to think that each of the Tales have their own little moral message and judging by the fact that the villains in the book always seem to be Bankers, I guess some oblique political comment has slipped in there too.

Please find below a synopsis and a sample tale from the book. You can buy it now from Amazon for the small price of just $2.99/£1.99;

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Did you know that a Fairy lives for exactly 897 years and 13 days, that they kidnap human children because they can’t have their own and when they cry, their tears turn into diamonds? Did you know that real Trolls have horns, can run as fast as cheetahs and have a deep and abiding hatred of Bankers? Did you know that as you read this the Blind Old Weaver Of Fate is Clumsily Spinning Together the course of your life? Did you know that you began your existence as a random handful of atoms, coalescing together after journeying across the vastness of the Universe and when God saw you he was so moved by your beauty that he tore a piece off himself and placed it inside you?

Did you know that where ever you walk the Devil and his Special Children walk with you and that one day your Soul will Break The Chains Of Earthly Existence to make one last, Incandescent Journey across a Broad, Bright Blue Sky and the Tale That Was Your Life will slowly fade away, to be lost forever in the dense Fog Of Forgotten Stories?

Did you know that if you speak the words “Once upon a time,” anything can happen?

The Lonely Young Girl who Chased Snowflakes.

Once upon a time… many, many years ago in a world long since forgotten, there was a country called Anywhere. And in the land of Anywhere there was a fine and prosperous city called Anyplace. In the hills surrounding Anyplace were the fabulous homes of those rich and wealthy people who would later become known as The Greedy One Percent, and who would be responsible not only for their own destruction but that of the land of Anywhere. But…I get many decades ahead of myself. Back to my simple Tale.

That particular year, Anywhere was having one of its Rare And Occasional cold winters and the city of Anyplace was abuzz one particular day with Rumours Of Snow To Come, something that had not occurred for many, many years.
Now, an old and wise Faerie, reaching the end of her 897 years and 13 days of life, had been listening to passing human conversations (as Faeries are wont to do) and had heard these Rumours Of Snow. Despite her many years of life, the Faerie had, as a result of Anywhere’s Mild And Temperate Climate, witnessed snow only a very few times. She did remember, however, that it was a Very Beautiful Thing Indeed and as she would soon be leaving this life, this would probably be her last chance to experience The Beauty Of Snow.

With this thought in mind, she resolved to fly to the hills outside Anyplace, aware that it would be cooler and probably snowier there than in the city. (Faeries have a surprising and entirely instinctive knowledge of meteorology).

So, the Faerie beat her Small But Powerful wings and flew. In no time at all, at least by the Faerie Clock, she was comfortably seated in a tall tree in the huge, walled garden (grounds more than garden, really) of one of the Fine Homes of the wealthy and powerful, high in the hills. And so she sat, in happy anticipation of The Beauty To Come. By and by, the wind got up, a rich hint of icy dampness could be scented in the air and the First Fat Snowflakes pirouetted gracefully downwards from the flat, grey sky, coming to rest on the cold ground: cool, white crystals of delicate intricacy blossoming like Flowers Of White Silk.

 

And the Faerie sat in her tree and watched the snow flutter down. And she thought of previous snowy days, of her younger self, of Faerie friends now Dematerialised And Gone, and of a Happy, Long Life, Well-Lived.

 

But her Wallowing In Pleasant Nostalgia was soon interrupted. A Small Back Door in the Big House at the end of the huge garden burst open and through the door came a small human girl (eight or nine years of age to the Faerie’s mind), dashing out into the garden, into the Swirling Snowflakes. The little girl seemed inexpressibly happy, her eyes shone and her face glowed with happiness and she began to chase the falling snowflakes around the garden and, whenever physics and opportunity would allow, she would jump into the air and snatch an individual flake into her mouth, a look of pure joy on her face as its refreshing coolness melted on her tongue.

The Faerie was entranced by the little girl: her innocence, her joy, her enthusiasm, her bright-eyed wonder. Her being so young, it must have been the first time the little girl had seen snow. No wonder she was so excited. And yet. And yet the more the Faerie watched the little girl, the more she saw something in the way she moved: there was a certain desperation there, and all the joy in her glowing expression could not mask something the Faerie saw as an Underlying Sadness. Curious, (for Faeries are Inveterately Curious Creatures) the Faerie decided to look into the child’s Soul and see exactly what was going with this strange little girl.

Fixing the jumping, Superficially Joyful Little Girl in her gaze, the Faerie peered through Flesh And Bone to locate the child’s Soul. As always with a child, her Soul appeared beautiful from the outside, like a fine jewellery box made of the most expensive wood, inlaid with precious stones and mother of pearl. But opening this fine box, the Faerie did not find the Stunning Jewels Of Jaw-Dropping Beauty normally found in The Soul Of A Child but instead lumps of excrement and rotting meat. There was something very wrong with this poor girl. And in an instant the Faerie saw it all: a poor, lonely, neglected little rich girl. A mother who was more interested in The Trappings Of Wealth than her daughter and constantly undermining of her own child, that stemming from sheer, malevolent jealousy of youth and the daughter’s place in her father’s “affections.” A girl to whom nobody really talked and who, in turn, could not talk to others, who had never made friends at school. And the father. The monster. The evil, rich, sociopathic, Successful Banker; ruthless and efficient. A man who took what he wanted because he knew his wealth and power made him untouchable: a man with Political Ambitions. A disgusting, perverse man, creeping into his daughter’s bedroom at night and sliding a corrupting, corrupted hand up her nightdress. The daughter begging him to stop. Crying. Pleading. Daddy, please. Stop. Stop. But Daddy never stopped. Daddy always took what he wanted. Untouchable.

The little girl’s story struck the Faerie like a slap to the face. The girl’s frantic chasing and swallowing of snowflakes was not the Exuberant Happiness of a child seeing snow for the first time, rather it was a girl who saw chasing snowflakes as chasing a freedom she could not envisage and swallowing snowflakes a way of taking a small, Icy Slice Of Beauty inside herself to brighten the Barren, Ugly Space that was her life. The Faerie rocked back and forth on the branch of the big tree she had settled herself into and she cried a silent tear, which crystallised into a solid diamond as it rolled down her cheek (for all Faeries cry diamonds) and she remembered a similar little girl in a similar situation almost nine centuries ago and she Resolved To Rescue this poor sad, abused child.

With a Decisive Beating Of Wings the Faerie flew into the air, leaving behind, for now at least, the Little Girl Who Chased Snowflakes. The Faerie knew two fearsome Trolls who owed her a favour. It was for their Troll hole she was bound.

 

Had she stayed, she would have witnessed the little girl’s mother running out into the garden and calling her Bitch, Idiot Daughter back into the house. She would have seen the light go out in the girl’s face and eyes to be replaced by a Hopeless, Blank-Eyed Sallowness; would have noticed how the little girl shrunk in on herself, exuded a hopelessness that was palpable and took on the demeanour of a dog that is Beaten Daily by its master. The Faerie did not witness any of these things, but would not have been surprised by them if she had.

 

The very next morning, all was Chaos outside the Opulent Home where the little girl and her parents lived, with Police And Neighbours milling around, all with Grave Looks Of Concern upon their faces. Or should I say had lived? For the little girl was nowhere to be found and her parents were dead, Torn Limb From Limb, Beheaded And Disembowelled. A Grisly Scene indeed and one that was, in Official Speak, “entirely consistent with a Troll Home Invasion.” The little girl had, no doubt, been taken alive by the Trolls, probably to be eaten or to be sold to Pirates, indeed there had been a Troll sighting in the area just prior to The Tragedy: it was highly unlikely that the girl would ever be seen again.

The little girl had, truly, been taken, not by the Trolls (who had simply discharged their debt to the Faerie by killing her abusive parents, a duty they found most agreeable for Trolls are, despite what humans say, fundamentally Creatures Of Love And Kindness and will always act in defence of these virtues) but by the Faerie. She would take the child to A Place That Is Secret And Sacred to all Fairies where, she would perform A Ceremony Of Magic incomprehensible to humans, which would relieve the child of the burden of her short human life, so prone to the vicissitudes of the Blind Old Weaver Of Fate and so sparse in its understanding of the Duality Of All Things, and see her reborn as a Faerie, a being of Magic And Grace who would have 897 years and 13 days of living in which to gain a full and proper understanding of the Way The Universe Works and The Love Of God.

Just as another Faerie had done for another scared and lonely little girl nearly nine centuries past.

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Secret Shame: A Guest blog by John Needham

I am happy to present today a a guest blog from one of my favourite authors, John Needham, including an exclusive extract from his new novel “Secret Shame,” a paraquel of his the brilliant “The One Of Us,” info regarding which I’ve reblogged from Johns website after the “Secret Shame” extract.

John writes, beautiful, elegiac books that I call “people books,” books that I would define as being strongly character driven with a wonderful understanding of human nature and a strong sense of time and place. An author well worth investigating if you have not done so already.

 

Featured Image -- 107828This is my latest novel. It tells the story of Julie, the hapless teenage birth mother of the twins in The One of Us. Neither a sequel nor a prequel, it’s a sort of ‘paraquel’, in that it runs broadly in parallel with the first book. After a torrid time of desperation, guilt and a clumsy attempt at atonement, Julie gradually begins to rebuild her life. There is further misfortune but then she meets and marries Derek, an ambitious policeman who means to go far. At last she is happy and has all that she, unassuming little Julie nee Brennan from Sligo, Ireland, could possibly dream of. Things are good. . .

But not for long. Her past, which she had hoped to keep firmly buried, unexpectedly catches up. There are skeletons to be discovered in her family cupboard too. Poor Julie seems fated to suffer yet more heartbreak and disappointment. But will she rise above it?

I am serialising Secret Shame on this blog, chapter by chapter, like Dickens, beginning now. If there is a reasonable amount of interest shown and readers would rather read it as a complete book, later I will publish. Meanwhile, apart from sampling the first fifteen chapters or so on this blog, you might also like to read the parallel story, The One of Us.

 

Secret Shame

Prologue

It was over and done with. She lay staring at the grubby ceiling. It must have been many years since it last saw a coat of emulsion, she mused, having no idea why she should care about the state of the cracked, sagging plaster above her head, for Heaven’s sake. Perhaps thinking such a workaday thought was some sort of defence. A sort of hedge against the enormity of what had just happened. Nature’s anaesthetic against emotional hurt, or something. Or perhaps she was in shock. Well who wouldn’t be?

She turned on her side on the grubby, creased bottom sheet, trying to get comfortable. All her tears had been shed. Well for now, anyway. Perhaps there’d be more later when guilt caught up, pointing its accusing finger.

Shame on you. For shame.

Mandy and Madge would be back soon. She desperately hoped they would, at least. They weren’t family or anything, but were the next best thing. They were the only kind faces who’d looked at her and theirs were the only sympathetic voices she’d heard in months. She’d so craved her mammy’s support, or Maeve’s at least, but none had been forthcoming from those quarters either. They’d deserted her too.

And here she was now, alone; desperately alone. Alone with her torturing thoughts. Drained, emotionally hollowed out. Mandy had said not to worry; she’d sort things out. She’d be careful. There’d be no risk. Well she desperately hoped so. Just thinking, imagining what would happen if Mandy betrayed her trust, brought fresh tears.

But all the same, it was still a dreadful sin. Holy Mother of Jesus, what would old Father Murphy have made of it? It didn’t bear thinking about.

Perhaps this way was for the best though. But still; the guilt. The shame!

 

Chapter 1: 1992

Julie had felt something coming all day. She’d just sensed it. It must have been women’s intuition or something. It had been a brilliant Saturday, without a doubt, at Knowsley Safari Park with Derek, her Stacey and Derek’s Jack, doing the sort of ‘family’ thing that normal families do. Just like in Lou Reed’s Perfect Day.

The kids had loved the animals, especially the sentinel-standing meerkats and wide-eyed monkeys in Stacey’s case and the glossy whiskery sea lions and towering gormless-looking giraffes in Jack’s. And then the rides, although she’d mainly left those, at least the scary ones, to Derek and Jack. And when, inevitably, Stacey had got tired and a bit whiney (well, she was not yet five), Derek had hoisted her onto his shoulders where she’d sat, thrilled, a tiny Queen of the castle, little hands clasped tight around his forehead, for all the world as if she were his own child. Yes, without a doubt it had been a Perfect Day.

 

Yes, she just knew. Had begun to dare to hope, anyway. It was like a wistful dream, a wish coyly hovering just outside conscious recognition, that she daren’t quite articulate in case she was just imagining things, was grasping for the unattainable. A dream of the thing that could never be hers.

Not her. Not Julie Brennan. God, no.

There was something in Derek’s face though; the way he kept grinning at her, meaningfully (was it?), every time their eyes met. He’d been doing it all day. Or if he wasn’t doing that, looking at her very solemn; his expression quite unreadable.

The meal was over and the kids persuaded, with some difficulty, to bed. Being so little they could share a bed, top-and-tailing it in Jack’s child-size one, which was improvising a bit, but it only happened a couple of nights a week, fitting visits and sleepovers around Derek’s night duty days. They were curled up on the sofa together now, finishing the wine, watching Casualty on the telly. Julie loved these moments. Wished they happened every night.

She couldn’t concentrate on the box though. Perhaps she’d have to take the bull by the horns. Wring it out of him.

‘Penny for them?’

‘What?’

‘You’ve been acting a bit funny all day. Why do you keep grinning at me?’

‘Have I?’

She poked him in the ribs. ‘Yes! You know you have!’

He grinned at her now. ‘Okay, woman. Nothing gets past you, does it?’ He paused. It was a long one. ‘Well, I was thinking. About this relationship.’

‘What about it?’

‘Well don’t you think it’s time to take it on a stage?’

Julie’s heart did a nose dive, like a fawn’s, suddenly surprised by a predator, and then almost doubled its beat-rate.

‘What, like . . . ?’ She petered out, unable to bring herself to form the words. Assuming that he was going to propose what she hoped he was going to propose, anyway.

‘Like properly shack up together,’ he elaborated. ‘This only seeing each other two or three times a week; well I want a bit more than that.’ The happiness drained from his face, giving way to anxiety. ‘Don’t you?’

‘Well yes. If you’re sure about it . . .’ It was Julie’s turn to feel anxious now.

‘Of course I am! I wouldn’t suggest it otherwise!’

She grinned, ruefully. ‘But you know I haven’t got a very good track record. Didn’t exactly make a good fist of living with Bret, did I?’

Derek snorted. ‘Well he was a pillock, wasn’t he? Didn’t know when he was well off.’ He paused again. ‘Stupid bastard.’

Julie smiled. Yes, good, decent Derek. You certainly wouldn’t have done what he did. Run out on me like that, when Stacey was only eight weeks old, leaving me to cope alone.

But aloud she said, ‘Maybe so. But perhaps some of it was me too. I used to make him that cross sometimes. Perhaps I’m just too hard to live with, sure.’

The remark was rhetorical though. She wanted Derek to disagree. And on cue, he did, vehemently. His arm around her shoulders tightened, fiercely. ‘Oh, come on Jules! Don’t give me that!’

She sensed his jaw clenching as he continued, ‘None of us is perfect! God; I’m certainly not! Relationships have to be worked at. You don’t just bugger off at the first sign of bother or aggravation or whatever, do you?’

Julie sighed. ‘No, I suppose you don’t. Not in a perfect world, anyway.’

‘No; of course you bloody don’t,’ Derek retorted. ‘The man just had no sense of responsibility at all. Alright, if he really didn’t want to go on living with you that’s fair enough. But what about supporting Stacey? She’s his kid too. Makes my blood boil, it does!’

Julie’s arm was across Derek’s chest. She squeezed his ribcage. ‘Okay Love. Don’t get het up about it. Anyway, I’m glad he did, now. He can’t hold a candle to you, that’s for sure.’

‘Yes, well. It’s just not on, is it?’ Derek was still cross.

‘No, it isn’t. Wasn’t. Anyway, before I so rudely interrupted, what were you saying, Love?

Derek grinned, relaxing now. ‘Oh yes. Right. Well don’t you think we should? It’d be nice to have a nice warm welcoming woman to come home to every night again; have my dinner ready and waiting, the bed changed regularly; all that sort of stuff. Not to mention the other on a regular basis of course!’

Julie squealed in mock outrage. ‘Chauvinist pig! Haven’t you heard of women’s lib down the station then? You bloody coppers! Honestly!’

They chortled together. Then she said, gravely, ‘But yes, seriously, I wouldn’t mind some of that too. It does sound pretty good.’

Derek looked down at her freckled face with its halo of red hair, nested in the crook of his shoulder, as she raised her eyes to his. ‘Great! Well the kids get on well together, don’t they? And I think Stacey likes me. And you like Jack, don’t you?’

Julie smiled. ‘Yes, she’s really taken to you. And she’s always going on about you, almost like . . .’ She paused, afraid to push her luck. Assume too much. Wish for too much. Steady now girl. One thing at a time.

She continued, shifting onto safer ground. ‘And yes, I do like Jack. He’s a super little boy. I hope he likes me a bit. I know it must be a bit difficult for him, living with Sandra, and you no longer around and with another woman in your life now. He’s only six after all. He can’t really understand, can he? Must be divided loyalties, or whatever they call it.’

Derek sighed. ‘Yes, I know. It can’t be easy. Although I suppose it could be a lot worse. At least Sandra and I split up when Jack was little and adaptable. I think he takes it pretty much in his stride really.’

‘Yes, there’s that, of course. And it’s different for Stacey; she’s never known a two-parent situation. This is all a novelty for her.’

Derek moved his hand to dig her in the ribs. ‘Yes, think yourself lucky; you might have had a stroppy teenager who loved her dad and hated you breaking up and hated me!’

Julie laughed. ‘Yeah, we both are really, as far as that’s concerned, aren’t we?’

‘Anyway,’ He said, ‘so we’ll do it, shall we? You’ll move in here? It’s a lot better than your place.’

She could only agree with that. ‘It certainly is! Of course I’d lose the housing benefit – you really wouldn’t mind supporting me like that, Love?’

Derek squeezed a reassurance. ‘Course not. And after all, being practical about it, this flat is convenient for Jack’s school, and Stacey could go to the same one next year, of course.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Assuming of course we’re still together then; you aren’t sick of the sights of me.’ The tease fell flippantly from his lips, but it jolted Julie to stare at him, her eyes round with alarm.

‘Derek! Don’t say that! Of course I won’t be! Don’t even think such a thing!’ Her lower lip began to flutter.

He chuckled. ‘Joke, Jules! Joke!’ But then the smile evaporated. ‘Seriously though, it would be a try-out, in a way, wouldn’t it? After all, I married the wrong woman before, due to rushing things because I thought she was pregnant and I’d got to. You know what they say, “fools rush in.” I don’t want to make that mistake again. And you’ve never been in a living-together situation that’s lasted more than a few months, have you? A steady relationship would be a new experience.’

Julie relaxed, reassured. She shouldn’t let her insecurity get to her so much, she knew. But old habits, learned cruelly, died hard.

‘Right then,’ said Derek. ‘That’s that sorted then.’ He liked to be in control of things, Julie thought. It went with both the gender and the job.

They lapsed into comfortable silence. She tried to re-immerse herself in Casualty, but had lost the plot ages ago. There had been too much to say, and certainly too much to think private thoughts about. On the screen Charlie Fairhead was looking pained and quizzical as usual, like he did every Saturday night. Derek must have been reading her thoughts. ‘Are you watching this?’

‘No, not really. Can’t concentrate.’

‘Nor me.’

She looked up at him, smiling, waiting for the suggestion she hoped was coming.

‘Well in that case, shall we do something to celebrate?’

‘Such as?’

He grinned inanely. ‘Well, something best done in the bedroom, you gorgeous woman. Don’t you reckon?

Julie heaved herself into a sitting position; cupped his face with its killer brown eyes beneath the thick shock of black hair, planted a kiss. ‘Yes, I definitely do reckon.’

 

She lay awake afterwards, on her back as Derek, his naked back turned, fell into sleep beside her and quickly began snoring. Holy Mother; the man could sleep on a clothes line, so he could. But she was much too wound up for sleep. Her brain was like a noisy marketplace with so many thoughts popping up out of nowhere, clamouring to be heard. Am I dreaming this? Did he really say it? Say he wanted us to live with him; me and Stacey?  Is it really going to happen this time? Is a man, a good reliable man, really wanting me? Wanting me for myself, not just my body on a temporary basis; here today and gone tomorrow, looking for the next bit of skirt that flashes a bit of cleavage or thigh?

And this time might it lead to the completely unimaginable four months ago; lead to (try the word for size) marriage? Sure that’s really too much to hope for though. But dare I hope? Four months! Is that all it’s been?

She let her memory rewind.

 

She hadn’t been able to decide. The lime green top or the pink? She’d liked them both. And she’d certainly have bought them both, if she could. That would solve the problem very neatly. After all, most women would do that, faced with such an irresolvable dilemma. But then she wasn’t ‘most women.’ Her benefit wouldn’t stretch to such extravagance; no way. It was difficult enough making ends meet as it was. How nice it must be to not be bothered by such inconvenient considerations as whether she could afford something that wasn’t actually vital, like food for Stacey and herself, or the rent, or coinage for the greedy gas and electric meters. Or the alarmingly mounting debt with the mail order catalogue that couldn’t be ignored.

Back in the present Julie smiled wryly as the thought came: Holy Mary, six years and four months ago clothes were the last thing on my mind. So was the worry of paying for the ones I’d got, not that they amounted to a vast wardrobe, exactly. And so were most aspects of normal living, for that matter. What a dreadful time it was.

But that was the past: regretted but safely buried. She refocused her memories on the nearer-past. That bitter-sweet first day, four months ago.

She’d determined to be more sensible. Not pile up any more debt; live strictly within her means. Have only what she really could afford to pay for. But it had been her birthday, for Heaven’s sake. She could afford a little treat. Just a little prezzie to herself, surely? There’d been no others forthcoming. Well there was no one to give them, or feel inclined to give them, after all. And so there’d been the little retail therapy trip to Debenhams that fateful Friday afternoon last April.

It had been so stupid of her, so negligent. What was the phrase? ‘Taking your eye off the ball,’ or something. Or, more accurately, taking your eye off Stacey. She was such a little tyke though; such a live-wire, always wanting to be anywhere other than docilely by her side, like normal kids. Normal little girls, anyway. She really needed to still be on a lead, like a toddler, but she was going on five, so she was. That would be ridiculous.

Yes, she’d been prevaricating over those tops for ages, as if it were a matter of world-shattering importance, distracted from mundane considerations like keeping a watch on her daughter. And then, when she’d finally glanced down, there she was; gone. She’d glanced quickly around, quite expecting to see her investigating another nearby clothes rail or something. But there was no sign. She’d felt a stab of alarm.

‘Stacey? Where are you?’

She’d moved to the next-nearest rail a few feet away. Little monkey; she’d be behind there.

But she wasn’t.

She was getting cross. ‘Stacey! Come on now! Stop messing about! Don’t wander off!’

She’d quickly put the tops back on the rail, in the wrong places, and begun checking around the blind sides of other rails. Little madam! Why couldn’t she stay close? She’d get her legs slapped when she found her! But still she was nowhere to be seen. Anxiety was mounting now. That and anger. Bloody kids! She’d shouted again, louder, ‘Stacey! STACEY! COME HERE THIS MINUTE!

People had begun looking at her, looking embarrassed as only the British could in such situations. She’d hurried around more rails, all the ones in the department, frantic, heart pounding, dread heavy on her now like a cruel black crow. God! Oh God! What if she’s been taken? She’d completely lost it then, and begun screaming, just standing rooted to the spot in panic, not knowing what to do.

‘What’s up, Loov?’ A male voice at her shoulder had suddenly asked. She’d looked around for the source of it, wildly. A man, quite tall, wearing jeans and a black leather bomber jacket to match his thick black hair, was looking at her, friendly concern in his brown eyes.

‘My little girl! She’s gone! She’s gone! Oh God! Oh God! Oh shit!’

He’d looked down at her and dropped his carrier bag and put his hands on her shoulders, steadying. ‘Okay, now calm down. How long’s she been gone?’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ she’d whimpered. She’d felt like burying her face in his chest. ‘Not long.’

‘How long? Minute? Five minutes?’

‘Not long,’ she’d repeated, stupidly, precision impossible. Just a few minutes I think.’

‘Alright; she can’t have gone far then. How did you come to lose her?’

‘I don’t know! Waddya asking me that for? I’ve got to find her . . . !’

She’d paused, grasping for calmness. The man was only trying to help. ‘I was looking at the clothes. She’s a little madam. She wanders off. I can’t be watching her every second!’

The man had looked slightly unconvinced; sounded a little patronising.

‘Umm. How old is she?’

‘Four; nearly five.’

‘And the name?’

‘Stacey. You must have heard me shouting her!’

He’d ignored the barb, remained utterly calm and collected. ‘Description?’

‘I dunno! Brown hair. In bunches. Green eyes . . . look, this is wasting time!’

‘No it isn’t. If you give me a good description we’ll find her that much quicker.’

‘What is all this?’ she’d asked, exasperated. ‘I want the police, not you!’

‘It’s okay, I am the police’, he’d rejoined levelly, grinning slightly, taking the wind out of her sails. ‘Off duty. Now, what is she wearing?’

‘Oh. Sorry. Blue skirt, pink top – little jacket thing. Rabbit on it. White leggings.’

‘Right,’ he’d said, ‘That’s enough. Come with me.’ And he’d stridden towards the assistants’ counter, calling, ‘The way to your office, please!’

As the other customers stood open-mouthed, an assistant had rushed forward. ‘Top floor. I’ll take you there, the quick way. Follow me.’

She’d led the way through a Staff Only door, along a passage, up a staircase and along another passage to a glass-panelled door through which could be seen people sitting gazing at computers.  She’d entered, holding the door for herself and the mysterious helper to follow. He’d fished from his pocket what looked like a warrant card, holding it up for the startled staff members to see, before addressing no one in particular, ‘I need to speak to the manager or supervisor urgently please.’

A middle-aged woman looked up from bending over the shoulder of a younger one at a screen. ‘Yes, can I help?’ She’d looked ridiculously like Mrs Slocomb from Are You Being Served on the telly. She’d gone very pale.

The policeman hadn’t minced words. ‘We have a child gone missing in the store.’ He’d indicated her. ‘Belonging to this lady. Do you have security personnel I can speak to?’

‘Oh, dear me,’ the manager-or-supervisor woman had exclaimed, ‘Yes, of course!’ She’d reached for the nearest telephone and tapped in a number. It must have been picked up almost immediately, because she quickly, urgently said, ‘Karl? Hi. It’s Audrey. Can you come to the office immediately? We have a missing child!’

After what had seemed (although probably wasn’t) an age, a swarthy, shaven-headed, short-sleeve shirted, extravagantly tattooed man had burst self-importantly into the office.

The policeman had been onto him in a flash, telling him what had happened, describing Stacey and suggesting he post guards on all exits immediately, watching for anyone acting suspiciously with a little girl wearing a blue skirt and pink jacket with a rabbit depicted on it. The security manager, or whatever his rank was, had looked briefly miffed at being told how to do his job, but then got onto the phone too, to organise his staff. Whilst he was doing that, the policeman had spoken to the woman in charge, instructing her in putting out a public announcement to the store, advising customers that if they saw an unattended child fitting Stacey’s description and answering to her name, they should take her to the nearest salesperson, who should immediately contact the office.

The supervisor-manager had looked slightly put out too – she probably knew exactly what the drill for missing children was – but had complied, using what were probably well-rehearsed words of her own. Then there had been nothing to do but wait. Someone had found a chair for her, and a glass of water. The head woman had introduced herself, unnecessarily, as Audrey and sat with her, kindly exuding reassurance that it would be fine; that this sort of thing happened quite regularly, and that missing children always got reunited with their parents. That nothing horrible would happen. It never did.

The policeman, perhaps aware that he’d been treading on toes slightly, had been quick to agree. And then, after what was probably only a few minutes, although it had felt like much longer at the time, the telephone had rung, and everyone in the office (all work had ceased) had jumped a mile and Audrey had grabbed it quickly and said a breathless, anxious ‘Hello?’ followed after an agonising pause by, ‘Oh, great! I’ll be down to fetch her,’ and had turned to her, all relieved smiles, and said that Stacey had been found, a floor down from  Ladies Fashions, so somehow she’d gone down the escalator alone, the little madam.

Audrey had insisted on rushing down to retrieve her, and she’d burst into tears of relief, all thoughts of chastisement forgotten, as another woman had embraced her kindly and said, ‘There, told you it would be alright, Loov, didn’t we?’, as the policeman, perched on the edge of a desk, had shuffled his feet, embarrassed.

And then there’d been Audrey’s triumphant return, leading the bashful Stacey, and there’d been a fierce, lengthy hug, clasping that little body to her so tight, and more tears, reprising the sheer relief, as the office staff looked on with some of their eyes glistening too.

And then she’d thanked Audrey (who’d suddenly remembered to stand down the security staff from the doors and get Karl to organise it) and her staff, and the policeman had asked, tentatively, if he could treat her to a cup of tea in the cafeteria, because she looked as though she could do with one, and anyway, he would need to get some details from her because he had to do an incident report (although he’d admitted later that that was cobblers really; he just wanted to get her name and address).

So they’d made their way to the cafeteria, she holding Stacey’s hand very tightly indeed, as her little girl had chattered away, completely unfazed, blissfully unaware of the worry she’d just caused. She’d gone off in search of the toy department, she’d gravely informed her. The policeman had bought her a cup of tea (she’d declined any sort of snack to go with it) and something orange and fizzy for Stacey. He’d made a big show of asking all her personal details, although he had nothing to write them in or on, but had assured her that he had a good memory. You had to have in his job. He’d write up his report when he was next on duty.

Feeling calmer and able to relax now, she’d shyly asked his name and he’d given it, slightly too readily, she’d thought afterwards. It hadn’t seemed terribly professional, somehow. Derek, it was; Derek Hawkins. She’d found herself glancing surreptitiously at his left hand and noting with absurd satisfaction that it was ring-less.

What she’d assumed would be just a few minutes to go through necessary official procedure and regain her equilibrium had become a good hour or more, as she’d listened to his easy patter and felt really rather small and silly and inconsequential, with nothing intelligent or interesting to contribute to the conversation. But he’d seemed genuinely interested in her, maintaining eye contact for nearly all of the time, eyes flicking only occasionally and briefly to twelve inches further down to her embarrassingly generous cleavage.

Finally, beginning to feel slightly guilty and a bit awkward for taking up so much of his time, and thinking it would be down to her to end the very pleasant conversation (well, mostly monologue, on his part) because he seemed completely disinclined to, she’d said that she really ought to be going, as it was Stacey’s teatime. He’d quickly apologised for keeping her so long. She’d found that curiously touching. In her experience, men were not generally so thoughtful. So they’d – certainly reluctantly as far as she was concerned – wound up the unexpected tête-à-tête. She’d thanked him again, profusely, for his help and he’d said, modestly, that it was all part of the service. She hadn’t quite understood what he’d meant by that, but it had seemed a nice thing to say.

They’d left the store and hovered slightly uncertainly outside, as it seemed they were setting off in opposite directions. She hadn’t quite known whether to make to shake his hand or not and finally decided against it as he didn’t seem about to anyway. She’d thanked him yet again and he’d just grinned and said ‘You’re welcome,’ and then squatted down to Stacey’s level and said to her, ‘Bye, Stacey. Now no more running off and getting your mum all worried; okay?’ before ruffling her hair briefly, rising, and with a final ‘See you then,’ to her, turned and walked away.

 

Julie lay and remembered that bitter-sweet first encounter now. How strange, she thought, how things happen. It’s not very often, but sometimes good things do come along, just when you least expected them. The Angels seemed to have been looking out for me that day, so they did.

Words about The One of Us

Originally posted on John Needham:

The One Of Us cover latest_001

There’s the old saw, usually directed at children, that goes: ‘The greatest gift of all is encouragement’. Like most maxims, it contains a large kernel of truth. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a little praise? And it applies to adults too, of course. At least it’s certainly true for creative people, like writers. It’s all very well working in your garret, stubbornly plugging away year after year, ignored and unrecognised, but you need a strong streak of masochism (and possibly a rich, encouraging and supportive aunt who thinks your work is wonderful) for that.

Authors, especially of the fiction-writing variety, are solitary creatures used to working alone, concocting their imaginary worlds. But that doesn’t mean they exist in a vacuum aloof from the real, outside world. Unless they are really self-contained and have the benefit of enormous self-belief, they care about the reading public’s opinion.

It’s painful when that public…

View original 5,276 more words

Guest blog: Ian Probert author of “Johnny Nothing.”

Today’s blog is given over to a favourite author of mine, writer of, amongst others, the fabulous “Johnny Nothing.”

Below you’ll find words and images from “Johnny Nothing” and there’s even a competition!

Ian has also very kindly contributed an exclusive short story for my blog. Its very different in style from “Johnny Nothing” (most definitely adults only!) but fits in perfectly with the tone of much of what I write here.

Johnny Nothing…

jnothing“Great new kids book alert! My two are in hysterics reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert (and I am too).” Jane Bruton, Editor of Grazia

“Oh, Wow! Dark, sordid, grotesque and hilarious are only a few words I can conjure up to describe this hilarious book.” Lizzie Baldwin, mylittlebookblog

Critics are comparing Ian Probert to Roald Dahl. And Johnny Nothing we have a modern successor to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

Johnny Nothing is best-selling author Ian Probert’s first ever children’s book – although adults are enjoying it too. The story of the poorest boy in the world and the nastiest mother in the universe, the book is earning rave reviews. Children and grown-ups are all laughing at this incredibly funny kids book.

Take a look for yourself:

http://geni.us/3oR8

To celebrate the paperback launch of Johnny Nothing we are offering a free Kindle copy of the book to the first 100 people who Tweet the following message:

@truth42 I’m reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert. http://geni.us/3oR8 #YA #Kindle #kidsbooks

The first ten readers who answer the following question will also receive a signed print of one of the book’s illustrations.

Q: What is the tattoo on Ben’s arm?

Send your answers to truth42@icloud.com

Links

Amazon http://geni.us/3oR8

iBooks https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/johnny-nothing/id908777441?mt=11

Book promo http://youtu.be/xaWO4tR4oj0?list=UUzLRcpNMLRKKtJhes1s1C7w

WordPress http://ianprobertbooks.wordpress.com

Website http://ianprobert.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/716683635030173/

Twitter @truth42

Johnny Nothing, an excerpt…

Johnny

Johnny

Bill had a shaven head and was wearing a blue tracksuit. He was almost seven feet tall and built like an outdoor toilet made of brick. Bill didn’t realise this but he was a distant descendent of Neanderthal Man. He had only one eyebrow – one long bushy eyebrow that reached right across his forehead. He looked like what you might get if you force fed a member of Oasis with a half-tonne black plastic sackful of steroids.
And if you were brave enough to be present when he took off his tracksuit you would discover that his back was so covered in hair that he was able part it with a comb. If Bill had had more of an interest in fashion, he might even have considered giving it a curly perm and perhaps a few extensions
On his right arm, Bill had a tattoo which simply read ‘Bill’. This was in

Uncle Marley

Uncle Marley

case he woke up one morning and forgot who he was. This was actually less unlikely than you might imagine because standing next to him was his twin brother. His name was Ben and he was identical to Bill in every way except that the tattoo on his arm read ‘Bin’ (the tattooist was either South African or not a very good speller). He was wearing a red tracksuit.
Bill gave Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie the tiniest of smiles and managed to grunt ‘hello’. Ben gave the couple exactly the same tiniest of smiles and also managed to grunt ‘hello’.
The two men were standing protectively close to Johnny. They were so large that in the confines of Johnny’s bedroom they looked like

The Organist

The Organist

giants, which they were. They were so enormous that each of them had their own postcode. They were so gigantic that they had their passport photos taken by satellite. They were so humungous that you could spend all day thinking up rubbishy jokes about how big they were and never adequately describe just how indescribably, earth-shatteringly ENORMOUS they were. By no stretch of the imagination could you call them small (unless, of course, you were a lot bigger than them).
The pair of Goliaths were having to stoop slightly so as to avoid head-butting the ceiling, which actually even looked a little scared itself. They were a terrifying sight. Even scarier than a school trip to a Weight-Watcher’s nudist camp.
There was a long, pregnant silence in the room like this:

Felicity

Felicity

This eventually gave birth to an even longer post-natal silence, which, in the interest of preserving the rain forests or the battery on your Kindle, I shan’t demonstrate.
The four grown-ups eyed each other nervously. Bill and Ben looked at the Mackenzies like they were looking at insects that could be squashed into pulpy insect juice any time they so desired.
The Mackenzies looked at Bill and Ben like they were looking at two giant skinhead Neanderthal bully boys who had just appeared from nowhere in their recently and unexpectedly decorated council flat.
Johnny looked a little scared.
Finally Billy Mackenzie managed to get his mouth working a little and spluttered: ‘Who are you?’ And then: ‘What do you want?’

Johnny again.

Johnny again…

There was another long silence – let’s call it a pause – while Bill and Ben looked at each other as if trying to decide who was going to answer. Finally Bill spoke: ‘You the boy’s parents?’ he demanded in a voice that sounded like an angry rhino with horn-ache. Although if he was clever enough he would have realised that this was a rhetorical question.
There was yet another long silence (you’ll be relieved to hear that this is the last silence you’re going to get in this chapter) before Billy Mackenzie mumbled ‘Yes’.
‘We’re Johnny’s bodyguards,’ continued Bill. ‘We’re here to make sure that everything’s hunky dory.’

BillBen

Bill & Ben

‘Hunky dory?’ Mrs. Mackenzie suddenly found her voice. ‘What do you mean ‘hunky dory”?’
Now Ben spoke: ‘What my brother means to say,’ he explained. ‘Is that we’ve been – how shall I say – contracted – to make sure that this young feller’s affairs are in order.’
‘Get out of my house!’ interrupted Mrs. Mackenzie, suddenly feeling a little braver, although she had no idea why.
Bill and Ben looked at each again for a moment. They did this almost as much as your mum looks in the mirror. Or you dad looks at websites that he shouldn’t be looking at. ‘First of all,’ said Bill, ‘This isn’t a house – it’s a flat.’

The Tramp

The Tramp

‘And second of all,’ said his brother. ‘We ain’t going nowhere. And neither are you.’
‘Johnny who are these men?’ Mrs. MacKenzie asked her son, ignoring the two giants.
‘I’m sorry mum but…’ Johnny started to speak but Bill cut in like a pair of scissors that chops sentences into bits.
‘…What the young feller means to say is that the fun’s over.’
‘The fun’s over?’ repeated Felicity MacKenzie numbly.
‘That’s right,’ continued Ben. ‘You’ve had a right old time. You’ve been spending his money like it’s your own. You’ve been ripping the poor young feller off. And we’re here to put a stop to it. From now on things are gonna be different.’

The Reporter

The Reporter

‘I’ve had enough of this,’ said Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my house…’
‘Flat,’ corrected Ben.
‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my flat. Billy, call the police!’
As usual Billy MacKenzie did as he was told. He reached into his pocket for his mobile phone. Before he had the chance to even turn it on the gigantic frame of Bill was towering over him.
‘That an iPhone?’ asked Ben.
‘Erm… Yes,’ said Billy, who could only watch as the huge man took it from him and with one hand crushed it into a chunk of buckled metal and shattered touch screen.

God

God

‘I think it’s broken,’ said Ben. ‘You ought to take it back to the Apple store. Tell ‘em that you’re not getting a decent signal.’
‘Right!’ cried Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘We’re leaving! You’ll be very sorry you did that. I’ll fetch the police myself!’
Now the giant frame of Bill was standing in front of her. He was holding something in his hand that looked a little like a child’s toy space gun.
‘Know what this is?’ he asked. Although once again he wasn’t clever enough to recognise that this was a rhetorical question.
Mrs. Mackenzie regarded the object for a moment. Then she shook her head. Whatever it was she guessed that it was not intended to

KISS

A kiss

provide pleasure, happiness or fulfilment. Anything that has a trigger and a barrel and goes ‘bang!’ seldom does.
‘Come on Billy!’ she said. ‘We’re leaving!’
Bill stood in front of her blocking the doorway. ‘Not so fast,’ he said, not so slowly. ‘It’s called a Taser. See this little trigger at the front? If I press this it’ll give you a small electric shock. It won’t hurt you…Well not too much anyway.’
Bill raised the object and gently touched Mrs. MacKenzie on the arm. There was a loudish bang and a flash of blue neon light and Mrs. MacKenzie collapsed groaning to the floor. She was conscious but wasn’t able to move her arms and legs
‘Oh my gawd!’ said Billy Mackenzie bravely charging out of the room in terror. He got as far as the stairs before there was a second flash. He, too, crumpled to the floor. Bill dragged him back into the bedroom by the scruff of his neck.
Johnny Nothing got to his feet and stood over his two parents. He looked anxious. ‘Are they… Are they… OK?’ he gasped.
‘Don’t you worry yourself,’ smiled Ben. ‘Give em a few minutes and they’ll be right as rain.’
‘But they’ll think twice before they try to run off again,’ said his brother.

A bit more about Ian Probert…
Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager.
The Futures Game…an exclusive short story from Ian Probert…
bullingdon

Eton. Where the Ruling Class learn the art of being successful Rapists and Sociopaths.

The young man with the pointed noise picked up the ashtray and admired its austere simplicity. ‘See this?’ he said in a too expense voice to the fat boy with the albino hair, ‘It’s a murder weapon.’

‘Don’t be an arse,’ said his friend who was also an enemy. ‘It’s a fucking ashtray. Any dozy fucker can see that.’
‘To you it may be an ashtray,’ said Pointed Nose. ‘But to me it’s a weapon that could destroy the world.’
‘It’s a fucking ashtray,’ said White Hair.
In the overpowering din of the Bullingdon Club faces merged in the smoke. Screams and yells of pain and pleasure floated on the air. Teenage acne combined with brandy and cigars and the salty smell of banknotes. In the corner of the vast dining room lay the corpse of a barman who had been too slow. People tried their best to ignore the still warm body as they made their way to the coke room, where, sobbing on a sofa covered in blood was a nineteen-year-old humanities student. She was trying to earn extra money for the summer and had been routinely gang raped by 15 or 16 drunken club members. They had laughed as she cried for her mother.
‘Watch me,’ said Pointed Nose, beckoning over a worried looking waiter. ‘Hurry up man!’
White Hair looked in vague curiosity as the man lowered his head towards Pointed Nose. The was an explosion of blood – like a firework going off – as the ashtray was smashed on to the waiter’s forehead. The sound of the skull cracking forced a giggle from White Hair. ‘You fucking bastard… You fucking cunt,’ he said, neither pleased nor displeased.
As the waiter slumped groaning to the floor there we further screams in the room. Some of the screams came from the hordes of drunken onlookers but most came from the naked black girl. Her screams intermingled with her moans and the understanding that these were her last minutes on Earth. She was crudely trussed up with rope and hanging upside down from the ceiling. Some threw darts at her sweating body, others jabbed at her with complimentary scalpels that they had found in their goodie bags.
Pointed Nose put his arm around White Hair. ‘We must talk alone,’ he said, leading his frenemy into one of the many small private rooms in the upstairs of the club that were used for drug taking and fucking and killing.
In the silence of the room Pointed Nose lit up a pre-rolled joint and inhaled deeply. ‘Father’s been talking to me,’ he said. ‘He’s been making plans and for better or worse you’re part of them.’
White Hair’s features slowly reassembled themselves. In the half light you could not be sure if the expression was a laugh or a frown. ‘Really…’ he said. ‘What’s the old fucker been saying?’
‘Well daddy’s bought me a place in government. I’m to start in a fairly low key position, get my feet under the table, so to speak. But that will change quickly. In under three years I will be in a top position.’
‘Fucking government,’ said White Hair. ‘It’s so fucking old hat. The real money is to made in banking. Everyone knows that…’
Pointed Nose moved his face towards the other man conspiratorially. ‘A word to the wise,’ he winked. ‘I have it on very good authority that the bottom is about to fall out of the banking market. All the smart money is moving into government. There’s a killing to be made. You have to back the right horse.’
‘Really? So where do I fit in?’
‘Well father’s always had a bit of a soft spot for you – fuck knows why. He want to keep me in a top position for five or six years. Meanwhile, we’ll get something to keep you ticking over.’
‘Such as?’
‘I don’t know… Minister Of Sport or something.’
‘Sorry… Not interested.’
‘Oh all right. How about mayor?’
White Hair moved his eyes to the ceiling and thought for a moment. ‘I’m sure you’re aware that I’ve already received a lot of perfectly reasonable offers?’
’Such as?’
‘Well there’s Richard… And Rupert for starters.’
‘Oh come on. Be serious.’
‘Hmm. I suppose you’re right.
‘You know I am.’
‘So what’s the plan?’
‘Well as I say, I’ll be there for a few years. Kick things off. Then, when the time’s right we’ll move you up, I’ll slip into the background. Bugger off to France or something. And we’ll all make a lot of money.’
A frown began to spread over White Hair’s bulging face. ‘But you hate people,’ he said. ‘You fucking hate them. And you’ll be expected to kiss babies and be fucking nice to all those working class plebs.’
‘I can be nice to anybody if you pay me.’
‘I’m not sure that I can, though.’
‘You can when you see the size of the pay cheque that’s waiting for you. Listen, we’re in a position to squeeze this country dry. Everybody knows that the common man is fed up with Tony and Gordon. There’s never been a better time for moving in and making your money.’
‘Tony and Gordon. What a pair of fucking buffoons…’
‘That’s right. So is it agreed? I move in. Start the ball rolling, and then you take over and I, of course, take my small percentage.’
‘A very small percentage.’
‘Naturally.’
‘Well it’s the best offer I’ve had so far.’
‘It’s agreed then.’
Hands that resembled talons were shaken as Pointed Nose and White Hair climbed to their feet and smiled at each other with twinkling eyes.
‘I’m in the mood to celebrate,’ said White Hair, suddenly animated. ‘Let’s freebase. And then there’s one of those chicks with dicks downstairs that I’m going to fuck up the arse…’
‘You’re outrageous!’ laughed Pointed Nose at his fat companion.
‘…And then you and I are going to smash this fucking town to pieces.’

Celebrity: Opium for the masses, a Refuge for Sociopaths and Abusers.

I spent 20 years of my life prostituting myself at the altar of celebrity: I was the “go to” man for celebrities who, as a consequence of their own bad behaviour, had fucked up their careers. They came to me because I was rich, powerful and influential, a holder of secrets, a man who knew where all the bodies were buried (and that sometimes literally), a man who would break the rules and the law to restore sheen to tarnished celebrity. I worked for A-list celebs, AA-list celebs and Z-list wannabes and hasbeens: I wasn’t fussy, I’d work for any fucker, graspingly desperate to keep their place in the spotlight, as long as they had the money to pay my exorbitant fees.

Eventually I grew tired of celebrity and celebrities. Celebrity is vapid, shallow, a world of fakes and freaks, deviants, liars and cheats.

As a kind of penance for some of the dreadful things (trust me, there’s some sick shit in the book, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg…) I did during my celebrity agent period and to try and explain to people how grossly, causally immoral, spiritually corrosive and awful celebrity is as a concept, I wrote a book: “I Really, Really Want It.”

Last week that book was reviewed by one of Britain’s biggest celebrity magazines. The review was awful, it said the book was a “horribly offensive attack on the cherished institution of celebrity, do not buy this book.” Of course, this particular magazine is an intrinsic part of the whole machinery that props up the weird and not wonderful world of celebrity, so I shouldn’t really have expected anything else.

Nevertheless I thought, as much for old times sake as anything else, that I’d call up the editor of the magazine and put the fear of God into the chiseling little shit.

So, I call the mag and, using my real name, I get put through to the editor like that. Bish bosh. No fucking around, straight away. That’s the power of my name. These people still know who I am, what I know and what I’m capable of.

Mister Editor is nervous and defensive, he knows I’m calling about the review of my book, tries to justify it, comes out with crap about journalistic integrity and independence. Now that makes me fucking laugh. Journalistic “integrity,” “independence.” Fucking bollocks. As a rule, most journalists are the idiot children of the upper classes who wouldn’t get a job anywhere else so they carve out a career in the world of “journalism” which consists of unthinkingly repeating press releases word for word and calling it news. Scum.

Anyway, Mr Editor’s bleating is doing my fucking head in so I tell the cunt to shut the fuck up. I remind him who I am and remind him of a few things he’s done in the past, starting from when he used to get done up the bum in the dorms of his expensive public school, to the present day. I suggest he might like to speak to his fellow celeb mag editors, that it would be best they steer clear of mentioning my book.

By the end of the conversation Mr Editor agrees with me completely. He couldn’t be nicer, of course he’ll talk to fellow editors, he thought the book was wonderful, by the way, such a pleasure to hear from me. He simultaneously has his tongue up my arse and is hating my guts. Fucking dickhead.

Like I said, celebrity is full of fakes and freaks.

I want you to understand that. That’s why I wrote the bloody book!

Celebrity serves two functions in this world. Its superficial glamour distracts the eye, blinds you to what’s really going on. In a world where the political system has been corrupted to the needs of the very wealthy and serves only them, an increasingly unequal world, it serves as a form of opium for the masses. It’s bright glitzy, loud…who cares that the world economy is on the brink of collapse when you “I’ve Got Ebola, Get Me Out of Here” is on the tele. Even better, look how stupid most celebs are. I mean, if they can become rich and famous, you can too, right…fuck it, I’ll just quote from my own book here…

“Somewhere along the line the bankers and the corporate classes and, well, people like me, reversed up the arses of the politicians and started pulling all the strings. We rolled back unionisation, we destroyed the working class by exporting their jobs and insourcing cheap labour and we undermined what social mobility there was by utterly devaluing the education system. We kept you lot quiet by stuffing your mouths with benefits or easy credit and by feeding you the dream of celebrity. You can be famous, you can be wealthy, you can escape your shitty, dull, drab life, and you don’t even have to work for it, you just have to want it enough. To really, really want it. And just to reinforce that point, every now and then we select some barely talented but viciously ambitious non-entity like Shelley Bright and use every trick in the marketer’s handbook to speed them up the ladder of fame. And all the time you’re distracted by the glitz of celebrity we’re siphoning more and more power and wealth upwards to ourselves slamming shut the windows of opportunity in your life one after the other. Don’t you see…people like you should be dragging people like me out into the streets and kicking us to death, people like you should be invading the City of London and dragging the bankers and traders out of their plush offices and stringing them up from lamp-posts. Believe me. Don’t believe me. But if you don’t believe me, you are so, so fucked.”

I can’t make it clearer than that.

And of course, there’s celebrity’s second function: a refuge for the deviant, the fraudulent, the dishonest, the sociopathic and the downright abusive and dangerous. It’s here that the world of celebrity merges with the world of politics in that both attract the same kind of people for the same reasons. Celebrities and politicians pursue their respective careers with the aim of gaining power, respectability and influence. Both fields are ideal for sociopaths, providing both cover and opportunity for criminal behaviour. How do you think Jimmy Saville got away with abusing children for so long? people (who should have known better) were awed into silence by his wealth and fame. And the inquiry into abuse (and even possible murder) of children at the Elm Lodge Guest House and Dolphin Square flat by politicians, establishment figures and celebs? You really, really think that’s going to happen. Jog on, feller. Maybe when all the guilty parties are dead and gone something might happen…until then, no chance.

reallyJAMESJPSo, you see, celebrity is not a a “cherished institution.” It’s a stinking dungheap of shit, a dark-eyed golem staring back at you with dead, soulless eyes ,reflecting back your own dreams of fame and wealth but promising nothing and taking everything.