SHAUN BAINES: FROM SCOTLAND WITH NOIR

It started with a “Hi, whatcha write” on Twitter, and weeks later author Shaun Baines and I were exchanging book spotlight info and a Q & A or two. It’s got to be serendipity, right?

Shaun’s bio reads like a kindred. Who hasn’t had a run-in with a bloke with a “Bad Joe” tattoo? (And if you haven’t, there’s this guy I met in Oshawa with a scorpion on his neck…)

Crime mixed with darkness and a lot of fantastic means BIG CHARACTERS with BIG PROBLEMS and Shaun’s all over this with WOODCUTTER, his debut novel available now as an ebook and then paperback on June 7.

Congrats, Shaun. Damp Scottish cottages yield results.

Read on…

–A.B.

 

1.

Your novel is set in Newcastle Upon Tyne, an English burg a mere stone’s throw from Southdean. To what extent do the two cultures meet?

As coincidence would have it, I live near Southdean, following a move from Newcastle to Scotland. Daniel’s story begins somewhere like Southdean. He is hiding from his criminal family in Hounswood, a village in the Scottish borders where he hopes to make a new home. As you can imagine, places like these are off the map in some respects. They’re quiet and friendly and the cultures of Hounswood and Newcastle don’t meet so much as clash. Newcastle is a busy, sprawling city in real life and the city I depict is also dark and dangerous. There is a certain anonymity to both places, but Newcastle shines so brightly, it’s hard to hide for long.

 

2.

Protagonist Daniel Dayton is in a tough spot—at odds with his family and possibly his own skin. What attracted you to writing a character with such enormous identity dilemmas?

I think we all have identity issues at some points in our life and one of the themes of the book is to look at how identity is shaped. Whether you love or hate your family, they are instrumental in how you are shaped. It’s the Nature versus Nurture debate. You inherit from them genetically and they mould you as you grow. Daniel rejects both these ideas and sets out on his own to discover who he is. His biggest problem is that he is too late. The Daytons have crept into his soul and won’t let go.  He is as much a part of them as they are of him. How can anyone run away from that?

 

3.

I love a good crime/noir/thriller. How would you categorize Woodcutter?

I set out to write a crime novel. It’s what I read and what I enjoy, but it’s a huge canvas with many sub-genres. There are police procedurals, psychological thrillers, serial killers making it personal – the list is endless.

Woodcutter is best labelled as Newcastle Noir. It’s hard-boiled fiction with morally dubious characters and violent action. There is dark humour and a casual style to the writing. Of course, the final judgement rests with the reader. They can decide what it is. Just as long as they think it’s good!

Ed. – Amen! 😀

 

4.

Tell us how you got here? Was the publishing process onerous or a piece of cake? (I say this with tongue firmly in cheek :D)

The whole process has been a dream; painless from start to finish. I say that knowing how lucky I’ve been and some other writers may not have had that experience. The truth is I wrote a book, the best book I could and then submitted it to various agents. I was fortunate to have been chosen by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. Super Dave sent it to publishers and we decided on Thistle Publishing. A contract was signed and the front cover came through, blowing me away. If it doesn’t win any awards, I’ll be amazed. And then Woodcutter was published. It doesn’t make a dramatic story and sounds like I’ve had an easy ride. Maybe I did, but a lot of it was down to the people I surrounded myself with. My agent, my beta-readers and most importantly, my wife, who suffers my writer anxieties on my behalf.

Ed. — The support of family and friends is integral.

 

5.

Thanks to Netflix, a lot of us here in North America are well acquainted with English Scandi Noir—Broadchurch meets Wallander meets Shetland. To what extent does geography figure in your novel? Does it play a part in drawing Daniel home and keeping him there?

I wanted the Newcastle I know to be recognisable to others. I use street names and landmarks readers can identify. Any businesses or specific locations are of my own devising and I had fun naming them. I’m particularly pleased with the naming of a café called Mag’s Pies and Peas. People from the north-east of England will get that one. (The Magpies is the nickname of the Newcastle United football team. I don’t follow football, but I know enough to come up with a pun.)

Actually, it’s the geography of the north-east of England that drew me in. It didn’t occur to me to write something about my town until I moved away from it. I was alone in a different country and it made me feel closer to home.

 

6.

We have now shared our books and views on our respective blogs. What are your promo plans for Woodcutter?

I’ve been both surprised and warmed by how welcoming the writing community is. Support is everywhere. I have several book bloggers working on reviews, other authors tweeting and retweeting about Woodcutter. I have had articles in magazines and in the local newspaper. It’s ongoing. The book will be released as a paperback on 7th June so expect another flurry of marketing around that time. I’ll probably stop short of walking the streets wearing a sandwich board. But then again, maybe not.

 Ed. — Sandwich boards are “in” this year!

 

Thanks for stopping by Shaun and sharing your insights! — A.B.

Woodcutter is available on Amazon. If you read and enjoy it, he welcomes reviews.

You can also reach Shaun at shaunbaines.com or on Twitter as @littlehavenfarm.

 

What it’s about…

CoverOn the run from his criminal family, Daniel Dayton returns home to Newcastle Upon Tyne when his abandoned daughter is attacked.

But his family have problems of their own.  Targeted by a brutal mercenary, their empire is destined to be destroyed should Daniel refuse to help.

Betrayed by his parents.  Despised by his brother.  In love with his sister-in-law.  Home has become a dangerous place to be.

Daniel wants his daughter safe.  And he wants his revenge, but in the shadowy streets of Newcastle, things are never what they seem.

 

Chapter One

Charles Bronson woke with a start. He was five foot five, thick set with wavy blonde hair. Like his namesake, he sported a handlebar moustache, but it wasn’t so he looked more like the movie star or that lunatic in prison. It was to detract from the nervous tick in his cheek coming alive from the moment he rose to the moment he fell asleep.

He rubbed his eyes and gulped. “Are you still up there?”

The room was a bedsit in an abandoned block of flats known as the Devil’s Playground, home to junkies and rat faced dealers. The tatty furniture was pushed against the walls, clearing a space for a tin bath filled with slurry. He’d obtained it from a farmer in Crawcrook who was paid enough not to ask questions. Above it was a naked man called Enoch, suspended by his ankles to a beam in the ceiling. His arms were either side of the bath, braced against the floor. Enoch’s skin was slick with sweat as he struggled to stop his head dipping into the slurry.

Bronson checked his watch. “That’s almost two hours. Sorry I nodded off, but if you’re not going to talk, then there’s nothing for me to do, is there?”

“I don’t know anything,” Enoch said, squeezing the words through gritted teeth.

“I wish I could believe that. You know, I’ve drowned two people in that tub so far and they all keep telling me the same thing. They don’t know anything.”

Bronson approached, smoothing out his moustache. His nostrils had become accustomed to the smell of the slurry, but he was annoyed about his clothes. This kind of stink couldn’t be washed out and he’d binned two suits already. He lived on a budget and the organisation he worked for weren’t the type of people to dish out clothing allowance.

“Enoch, I’m going home for a shower. Don’t worry. I’ll come back, but I live a fair distance away and I love long showers. Do you think you can hang around for me?”

He smiled at his own joke, though he’d used it before.

“Please, Bronson. Let me down. I don’t know anything,” Enoch said.

Who had scared these people so badly they would rather drown in cow shit than spill the beans? This was going to go wrong again, Bronson thought. His boss wanted answers, but no-one was talking. He’d be left with another dead body to dispose of and an awkward conversation to be had with his superiors.

“You pay the Daytons one hundred pounds a week, right?” Bronson asked.

Enoch nodded.

“What’s it called? Your restaurant?”

“The Peking Lantern.”

“Oh, I’ve been there. It’s nice. Anyway, you pay money so your lovely restaurant doesn’t get burned down with you in it, right?”

Enoch nodded again.

“Why would you stop paying?” Bronson asked.

“I don’t know.”

Bronson grabbed Enoch by his hair and stared into his frightened eyes. “You do know, but you’re being very rude by keeping it a secret.” He yanked downwards, forcing Enoch’s head under the slurry. Enoch fought against him, but he was too weak to offer much resistance. Counting down the seconds on his watch, Bronson finally released him.

Enoch coughed and spluttered, choking on the slurry in his mouth. When he was able to breathe, his breaths came as whimpers.

“I. Don’t. Know. Anything.”

“Jesus Christ,” Bronson said, wiping his dirtied hand down the side of his trousers. “That’s bad for you and bad for me, isn’t it?”

This was supposed to be his breakthrough. He figured Enoch would crack the minute he saw the bath full of shit, but he’d turned out to be a hard bastard. He would have admired that except his own head was on the line too. Someone was choking the money supply to the Daytons. If he didn’t figure out who, Bronson’s name was as much shit as the slurry Enoch was about to drown in.

A knock came at the door. The authorities gave the Devil’s Playground a wide berth, refusing to pour resources into an unwinnable fight. They allowed the tower block to police itself. Knowing he was safe, Bronson opened the door and smiled.

Peter Pan Hands shook his coat from his shoulders as he entered. He was in his forties with tumbling locks of ginger hair. His green eyes sparkled with mischief no matter what he was doing at the time. The Irish lilt of his voice charmed women and gangsters alike.

“If it ain’t the Magnificent One,” Peter said. “I gather I’ve got a collection.”

Bronson closed the door. Peter wrinkled his nose, but seemed unfazed by the scene in front of him. “Why do you always take their clothes off?”

“It’s something Daniel taught me,” Bronson said. “People feel more vulnerable when they’re starkers.”

Peter considered the idea until he was distracted by something. “I thought you said this guy was Jewish. Aren’t all Jews circumcised?”

“Enoch runs a Chinese restaurant. How orthodox do you think he is?”

“Orthodox or not, it’s obviously pretty cold in here, if you know what I mean?”

Bronson laughed, slapping Peter on the back, but Peter’s face grew serious. “Listen mate, I only dump these bodies out at sea as a favour to you. I’m not dropping a live one in for anyone.”

“I understand. I didn’t think he’d last this long.”

“I’m freelance and I need the money, but…”

“It’s okay, honestly. I’ll take care of it.” Bronson pulled out a knife and waved it in front of Enoch’s face. “This is my friend Peter. He’s an arms dealer, but he also has a boat. He’s going to drop your dead body in the North Sea if you don’t give me the answers I’m after.”

Despite his exhaustion, Enoch swung away from the blade and started to cry. “Okay. Cut me down and I’ll tell you.”

Bronson looked to the knife in surprise. Why hadn’t he thought of this earlier? He’d carried that tub of shit up three flights of stairs for nothing.

He placed the knife under Enoch’s penis. “Get talking or maybe you’ll get circumcised after all. I ain’t no doctor and this place ain’t sterile. You don’t want little Enoch to go green and drop off, do you?”

With his face purple and his eyes wide, Enoch spoke to the knife. “Someone sent a photo to my phone. It was of my wife. She was tied to a chair. She had a blindfold on. Her face was bloody, but she was alive. Then they sent a text.”

“What did it say?” Bronson asked.

“No more money to the Daytons. Next time she dies. Tell no-one.”

“That was it?”

Enoch nodded. “They released her. She didn’t see anything, I swear.”

“And you never saw anyone either, I suppose?”

“No, but when she came home, she had five hundred pounds with her.”

“Jesus,” said Peter to no-one in particular.

Bronson looked at him. “They’re paying people to not pay us? That’s crazy.”

“Or really smart,” Peter said. “Who’s going to give you money when it pays more to keep it in their pockets?”

“And if they do pay, their loved ones die. Who are these guys?” Bronson rubbed his chin, hoping the answer might come in a blinding flash of brilliance.

Enoch snuffled back a sob. “That’s all I know. Please cut me down.”

The twitch in Bronson’s cheek took on a staccato rhythm. It sometimes happened when he was worried. Enoch had told him all he knew, but it wasn’t much. Aside from a text, Enoch had no contact with this new, mysterious gang. Bronson could check his phone, find the caller ID, but it was probably a throwaway and already smashed into several pieces. No-one this careful would be that stupid.

After hours of interrogation and buckets of cow shit, Bronson still knew nothing.

“Okay, Enoch, time to go home,” he said, working his knife through the rope.

Bronson shivered as the temperature dropped and a voice spoke behind them. “What did you find out?”

Bronson and Peter turned to see Scott Dayton walk into the room. He was as tall as Daniel, but with none of his warmth. Scott’s eyes were icy blue and his skin was white. He dressed in dark suits, tailored to limbs as thin as icicles. Sometimes he looked like a funeral director, sometimes like the corpse about to be buried.

He adjusted the knot on his silken tie. “I asked you a question.”

Clearing his throat, Bronson recounted the little he knew and tried not to stutter. When he finished, Scott studied him for an uncomfortable amount of time before turning his attention to Peter.

“It looked like Bronson was letting Enoch go.”

Peter shrugged. “He can do what he likes.”

“No, he can’t. Neither can you.”

Peter pulled on his coat, evidently feeling a chill. In all the years Bronson had known him, he never backed down from a fight. He admired that in Peter, but hoped today might mark a change and if it didn’t, Bronson was powerless to intervene.

“I don’t work for the Daytons,” Peter said, buttoning his coat, “and I’m not scared of you, either.”

Scott gestured to Bronson. “Give me your knife.”

“He didn’t mean anything by it, Scott. There was no disrespect.” Bronson looked at Scott’s extended hand and turned to Peter. “Tell him you didn’t mean anything.”

Peter’s mouth clamped shut. His eyes narrowed as Bronson presented the knife to Scott, who held it aloft like a trophy.

“It’s time you learned who has the power here.” Scott span on his heel, driving the blade into Enoch’s chest. There was no escaping the strike and Enoch didn’t scream. His strength had long been spent. He gulped in surprise and his arms gave way, his head sloshing beneath the shit. The body convulsed, spilling slurry over the floor and spattering Bronson’s shoes.

“It’s like that freaky cheek of yours,” Scott said with a grin. “All that jerking around for no reason.”

“You didn’t need to do that, Dayton,” Peter said, his big hands rising from his side.

“You came for a dead body, right?”

Bronson slipped between the two men. His back was to Peter, but his eyes were locked onto Scott.

“He didn’t pay his debts, Peter,” Bronson said. “He was protecting the gang trying to take us down. He deserved it.”

“You Daytons are butchers.” Peter placed a hand on Bronson’s shoulder. “You’re on your own with this one, pal. Give me a call if you need anything else.”

They watched the Irishman leave. Bronson sensed the coldness emanating from Scott in waves. “He won’t say anything,” he said.

Scott punched Bronson in the stomach. He doubled over and Scott forced him to his knees. He held Bronson’s face over the bath of slurry. The oily stain of Enoch’s blood rested on the surface.

“You better start getting me some answers or you’ll be the one hanging up there next time. Who’s out there? Who’s trying to take us down?”

“I don’t know,” Bronson said, immediately recalling Enoch’s fateful words.

Scott pushed his face into the slurry. It was cold and drew itself up his nose. It’s just water, he told himself as disgust clawed at the back of his mind. Just water. Not cow shit.

He was released, but didn’t dare breath. He blew the slurry from his nose, wiping his face clean before gasping for air. He’d rather suffocate than have that stuff inside him. When his head stopped spinning and the gagging passed, he looked around the room to find Scott was gone. He was on his own.

“Bollocks,” he said.

 

About the author

 

IMG_4612 (2)Shaun didn’t always live in a damp cottage in Scotland.  He once unwittingly lived in a flat beneath a white supremacist. He wasn’t always a writer, either. He worked in a factory, a government institution, as a manager in a purchasing department and later as a gardener.

He has had a gun levelled at him and been threatened by a man with ‘Bad Joe’ tattooed on his neck. He doesn’t knowingly associate with criminals.

Shaun comes from the north east of England where his novels are set. He is represented by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. His short stories combine dark fantasy with contemporary crime. They can be found online, in magazines and in anthologies, including Eclectic Mix Vol 5 and Metamorphose Vol 3.

Woodcutter is his debut novel published by Thistle Publishing. It is based on the criminal underworld of his native home, available as an ebook on Amazon. The paperback will be published 7th June 2018.

These days, he keeps chickens and bees, grows his own fruit and vegetables and wonders where it all went so right.

 

 

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HOPE THOMPSON ON HER DEBUT NOVEL & THE NOIR THAT DRIVES HER

Don’t you just love those moments when you hear written work read aloud by the authors themselves and everything just clicks? It happened to me not long ago at Noir at the Bar–Toronto, where a funky group of criminally-minded writers and readers gathered over snacks and drinkies to hear the latest from artists north and south of the border.

Imagine my joy at finding a Toronto-based novelist, filmmaker and playwright–that’s P-L-A-Y-W-R-I-G-H-T–at a nearby table prepping a selection from her debut novel. Poised, polished, personable, Hope Thompson calmed my fear of performing for the first time in front of this august group and then went on to WOW! me with HER words…

…and her resume.

This woman’s done a lot.

And she’s super cool too.

HELLO, Hope!

 

 

1.

I have the greatest respect for live performance. As a playwright, do you physically walk-through your scenes as you compose, or do you leave that to the actors to work out?

 

Yes, there is nothing like a live performance, which is one of the reasons I love working 5_Stiff1.jpgin theatre so much. To answer your question, I don’t so much “walk through” the scenes as “talk through” them—and that makes it a bit awkward to write in public because I need to say the lines out loud and in the voice of the character—and with all their gestures. My strategy is that if I can act out the scene and it feels right to me then it hopefully will work for the actors, too.

 

2.

You have written a number of plays, eight of which have been produced for the stage. To what extent were you a part of the collaborative effort? Care to share an anecdote?

 

1_lovecrimes-21.jpgIn a lot of my theatrical experience, I’ve been producing as well as writing, and because of that, I’ve been a part of everything—from casting, to hiring crew, running props around—even onstage in the darkness helping with the set pieces between scenes. But yes, I like to be as much a part of the production as possible. Some playwrights do not attend rehearsals but I like to be there to watch the play come alive, to follow the director’s work with the actors and to talk out issues that arise, changes to the text, etc., that come up during rehearsal. In my last production in Toronto, I got sick and couldn’t attend any more than the first few rehearsals. I had the feeling the cast and director were actually happier without me there; they could make their own line changes. But if I’m allowed to be, I like to be a part of the entire process. Hearing your own words come alive on stage is such a rare and thrilling experience that I don’t like to miss anything. I even attend every performance.

 

3.

For Torontonians, it is virtually impossible not to know about Buddies in Bad Times. For our international readers, can you describe the theatre, its history, and successes?

 

Fear and desire poster.png

Sure! Buddies in Bad Times Theatre is North America’s—and quite possibly the world’s—oldest and largest queer theatre. Sky Gilbert was one of the founders back in 1978 and in the role of Artistic Director, he was the driving force behind the theatre for its first 18 years. In terms of successes, so many of Canada’s greatest theatrical talents have gotten their start there—from Ann Marie MacDonald, Gavin Crawford, Diane Flacks to Daniel MacIvor, Kawa Ada and Brad Fraser, just to name a few. Buddies is also home to the Rhubarb Festival of New Work, which was where my first play, GREEN, was produced. And by the way, “rhubarb”, refers to the word actors say, silently, when they are on stage but in the background—and pretending to have a conversation.

 

4.

And you write for the screen too. Was this an organic segue from live performance?

 

It was actually the other way around. I started writing short film scripts and directing and producing them. When I was living in Pittsburgh for a few years, I wrote a short film script and sent it to a friend in Toronto to get her thoughts on it. She decided it would make a better play than film as all the action took place in one room. This was GREEN – a parlour room comedy with a criminal twist. She was also working at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and suggested I enter the script into the Rhubarb festival. A few months later, the play was produced. That was back in 2004. I loved the experience and my writing career took a turn towards theatre from that point forward.

 

5.

You’ve lived and worked in a few of places. What stokes your creative drive? Is it physical space?

 

In terms of physical space, I write mostly in libraries and at the Toronto Writers Centre. It can be hard to carve out time to work but I have a pretty good schedule right now. Once I am in the chair and writing I can get lost in it. And that’s when the creative drive is really firing. Another thing to stoke it is deadlines. They really help!

 

6.

Playwrite? Or playwright? I must know.

 

I believe it’s playwright, and that’s the spelling I prefer. It feels essential and hardworking, like millwright.

Ed. – Makes sense to me! 😀

 

7.

Tell me about The Blonde, your queer noir WIP?

 

6 reliant.pngThe Blonde is a queer crime story set in 1984 Toronto and it introduces lesbian private detective, Sidney Lake. This is her first murder case and the victim is a beautiful blonde who Sid just happens to be in love with. In this novel I am trying to invoke both a Chandleresque and pulpy noir quality to the story.

 

8.

Do blondes get killed more than brunettes? Why / Why not?

 

Well, they have more fun. Maybe there’s a price? There’s something very retro about calling someone a “blonde” and I wanted Lake, my heroine, to be able to do that, hence the pulpy feel.

Ed. – I think I’ll leave the peroxide bottle in the cupboard. lol.

 

9.

Your noir inspirations go way back to the ‘40s and ‘50s. Can you describe these for our readers and explain how you make them fresh for the time we live in.

 

I would define noir as urban despair. The main character is often on a lonely journey 2_stills-24_PhotoCredit_D-Haweand struggling against forces that seem fated against him or her. Noir stories are usually set at night and include long shadows that metaphorically function like the fingers of fate reaching for the hero, or bars of shadow cast by a venetian blind that suggest the bars of a prison, trapping the hero. Another key ingredient is a femme fatale character—a woman that the male hero is drawn to but who will ultimately cause his demise. Some classic noir films are Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep and even Blade Runner. Cornell Woolrich is one of my favourite writers. I’m a little obsessed with him and am writing a feature theatrical script based on a night in his life. He is considered the father of noir.

 

10.

Have I forgotten anything?

 

The Blonde will be published… soon! Please check back to www.hopethompson.net for details. I’ll have details about the Woolrich play’s development there as well. Thanks!

Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, Hope. Good luck with the book and the new play. Visit again, soon!

— AB

 

About the Author

 

Hope is a Canadian playwright, filmmaker and crime writer. She is obsessed with mystery, film noir, camp and comedy and has written and directed several award-winning short films (It Happened In The Stacks, Switch) and one-act plays (She Walks The Line, Stiff, Trapped!)  in these genres. Her film, Switch, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and her recent play, Trapped! is being published this year in a Playwrights Canada Press anthology. Hope is currently at work on her first novel, The Blonde and a new theatre project. www.hopethompson.net

 

Links

 

WEB: http://www.hopethompson.net/

TWITTER: @HopeThompson70

BUDDIES http://buddiesinbadtimes.com/

THE CLOSED WORLD OF THE FUNERAL DIRECTOR

The closed world of a funeral director is rarely glimpsed owing to the strictures of confidentiality scrupulously maintained by industry professionals. In SCOOTER NATION, the second novel in A.B. Funkhauser’s Unapologetic Lives Series, confidentiality, or more keenly the silence naturalized by a desire to protect the privacy of others, leads to inflated misunderstandings underpinned by a culture of myth and lore. What follows are a chain of events both comic and chilling.

 

E   X   C   E   R   P   T

Krause looked like she was going to cry: “Don’t you knobs get it? We’ve been sold to the Flexor Group. I just know it.”

Carla stiffened. “What did you see? Who did you see?”

The death business was a small, closed community with few strangers. Everybody knew everyone else and their business too.

“I only saw their feet,” Enid replied. “Black shoes. Square toes.” Her face whitened. “Loafers!”

Scooter Creighton dropped his lighter. “Are you sure? No mistake?”

Eyes 1“No mistake. I was wearing my bifocals. There can only be one person behind this.”

The ancient intercom on the garage wall crackled to life. Jocasta Binns had found them: “Put the damned cigarettes out. Meeting starts NOW.

Scooter Creighton nodded meaningfully at his companions. The rude bitch was clearly on a roll. Like most funeral homes that hadn’t caught up to the twenty-first century, Weibigand’s had a front door equipped with a tinny doorbell that sounded whenever the door swung open. More modern establishments employed greeters or hostesses that manned large semi-circular hotel-lobby like desks for a more personal touch. But Weibigand’s, experiencing a steady decline in business year over year, lacked funds to pay for such a person. So the bell, on duty since the 1930s, was the only way to know that someone had come in. It had not sounded.

“Jocasta turned the bell off!” Enid shouted. “Why the hell would she turn the bell off?”

There were only two possible explanations: Either some non-staffer had been assigned to inside doorstand watch at the door and had shut the bell off, or the doors were being locked and the bell wasn’t needed.

“My god,” Carla gasped, thinking of the square-toed, black leather shoes that, beyond any doubt, now stalked the hall above. Though there were many, only a single pair held any relevance.

Every profession had its own share of false gods and banal superstitions. Those, carried forth on a wave of feverish gossip backed by assertions that everything said was ‘true’, gave rise to fantastic mythologies that made a chosen few more significant than they actually were. Graeham Grissom of B.H. Hoage, for example, was the undisputed embalming god of their age while “Count Floyd” Aiken could ‘will’ new business into being with a stroke of a pen. That old age, arthritis, early-onset dementia and the public’s annoying preference for cremation over medieval embalming procedures decreased the field of competitors, and so guaranteed Graeham’s mantle in the first instance, had nothing to do with the stories spread: he made esoteric concoctions in the old Hoage basement that rendered his people ‘pliable’ ‘natural-like’ ‘soft to the touch’ and even ‘warmer’ without the slightest sign of decay, even after a fifty-four day hold. The same held for Count Floyd. No one could turn a prearranged funeral into an ‘at need’ simply by sending a get better card, yet Floyd’s people did die suddenly whenever he did, whether sick or not. That the deceased had crossed the century mark in every case had little to do with a great tale.

But there were other stories out there: stories not so benign and infinitely more sinister. eyesSome, it was said, enriched themselves through the weak willed. These were the mendacious pocket-liners who evaded the law and curried favor with popular opinion regardless of talk.

These were the ones to watch…

And fear.

The little group assembled in the Weibigand garage knew that fear and felt it now because it was right on top of their heads. Scooter Creighton, jaws clenched, ground the words out first, like a metal vise in need of oil: “It’s Clayton. He is in the building.”

 

SCOOTER NATION

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Geo Buy Link: http://myBook.to/ScooterNation

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