Tuesday, 6 June 2017 / Leave a Comment

My forthcoming novel The Girl in the Empty Room was originally entitled The Damage Done, in reference to the famous Neil Young song The Needle and the Damage Done

It was name-checked in a chapter later cut from the book (hence the change of title). In the edited scene (pasted below), one of the main characters from the novel, a conflicted, deeply unhappy young woman, listens to a cover version of the song:

Lighting the joint, she got up and walked over to the stereo. Her favourite Laura Marling album was still in the CD player. She hit the play button, and what must've been random at the same time, as The Needle and the Damage Done started first, not the opening track. Still standing, Jacqueline took a long draw on the joint, holding the smoke in for as long as she could. I heard you knocking on the cellar door, hey baby can I have some more. She closed her eyes, her mind wandering back to the time she played the record for a bloke she'd picked up in town, Ray, the journalist or writer or whatever. Cringing inside, she remembered how stupid she felt when he told her the song was a Neil Young cover. No, no, this is Laura Marling, she argued, and felt like such a dick when she checked the album sleeve and discovered that he was right. It was as if she didn't know anything about life or music, about anything that was important to her. And after he left next morning, and she looked back over the last seven or eight years, she knew she hadn't done anything of any worth, never had a proper job – half a summer in a local pub before she fell pregnant with the twins. And what was probably worse, she couldn't see anything new, different or exciting happening in her life for at least the next ten years, when the twins would be getting ready to leave school. And ten years seemed like a lifetime. By then she'd be approaching forty, middle age, and she knew she'd have so many regrets, that she'd look back on her life, and realize she hadn't achieved anything, that her best years had been wasted, spent staring at these four ugly walls. And this really, really scared her.

As a writer, I’ve always been interested in the impact big emotional turmoil can have on people, how one tragic event can go on to define a person’s life, be it the death of a loved one, parents’ divorcing (as in Jacqueline’s case in the novel), an accident or illness, bankruptcy or drink and drug abuse. No matter how hard they try to escape they will always be trapped by the past. With the Jacqueline character in The Girl in the Empty Room, I wanted to try and depict an individual struggling to shake the same shackles – hard done by, unlucky in love, a single mum with an over reliance on drink and drugs –stuck in that one moment when her parents’ divorced and everything changed, something she could never forgive them for. I wanted to portray her as someone having the same argument over and over again, no matter what situation she found herself in, or whose company, even though the original discussion took place over a decade ago.

When I was outlining the novel, sketching out notes on the main characters, I was reminded of something from my own past. When I was growing up, we had a family dog, a Yorkshire Terrier called Huggy Bear (a nod to Starsky and Hutch). Even when he was just a puppy the Bear was a real showman, a crowd pleaser with oodles of personality and charm. Whenever we took him out for walks on the beach or cliff tops near where we lived, he’d scamper over to passing holidaymakers or day-trippers, roll onto his back, encouraging them to scratch his belly. But he was a brave little fucker, too. Many a time, he’d face off and scare the shit out of hulking Alsatians, Boxers or Dobermans. A real ankle-biter, he would never back down. When my father decided to keep chickens, the Bear had some legendary scraps with a brutal cockerel, fur and feathers sent flying high into the air. I loved that dog. He never knew when he was beaten.

There was one odd quirk about him, though – away from his various canine Walter Mitty-isms. I can’t quite remember when or how it came about, but whenever the postman delivered the morning mail, the Bear would savage the letters deposited before they’d even hit the mat. We couldn’t understand it. We couldn’t work out why he’d all of sudden developed such hatred for the post. It became a real pain in the arse. I personally lost letters from pen pals, and a pretty sweet Indiana Jones poster won in a Smith’s crisps competition. It wasn’t until years later (literally) that we finally got to the bottom of things. One morning, I happened to walk through from the kitchen to see the postman tapping on the front room window, bouncing from foot to foot, pulling funny faces, sticking up his fingers, mocking the Bear through the glass, teasing him into a frenzy. Hence, when the letters dropped onto the mat, he tore them to pieces.

No matter how hard we tried to rehabilitate him, that behavioural pattern remained. The teasing he endured at the hands of that bastard postman had shaped him forever more, scarring him for life. No matter which house we moved to, he never snapped out of it. And while his was the mind of a beast, I often see parallels in the behavioral patterns of people. I see the way a failed relationship, an infidelity or domestic violence can scar them, making them mistrustful of others. I see how bullying and teasing can force a person so far back into their shell they’ve no hope of emerging ever again. I see the no less devastating consequences of overbearing parents, or siblings given preferential treatment, things which shape and misshape, distort and transform, things carried into adult life that were engendered in us before we even had basic human cognizance. The damage done indeed. And it makes me wonder why any of us bother leaving the womb.

The Girl in the Empty Room is now available to pre-order. Simply click on the link below:

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Wednesday, 24 May 2017 / Leave a Comment

My new novel THE GIRL IN THE EMPTY ROOM (Crooked Cat Publishing) has been given an official release date: 1st September 2017.
Here's a little taster of what the book is about:
A troubled single mother goes missing. A highly unusual sexually transmitted infection spreads around a small town. Two bodies wash up on a beach.
Are these seemingly unrelated events connected to a government plot to eliminate undesirable members of society, an ancient myth about an Indian chief, a series of unsolved copycat murders, and a self-proclaimed shaman and tattooist, a man who believes his body art is infused with magical powers?
Hundreds of people eventually succumb to the infection. The town is quarantined. The shaman's tattoos do indeed come to life, inciting gruesome acts of violence. In a supernatural twist the missing woman becomes an unlikely hero, a wrathful conduit, avenging a great evil perpetrated against a peaceful tribe of people hundreds of years ago.
Watch this space for more information, teasers etc in the coming weeks.
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Friday, 7 April 2017 / Leave a Comment

Check out the stunning artwork for my forthcoming novel THE GIRL IN THE EMPTY ROOM (Crooked Cat Books, September 2017). To give an idea of what's in store, here's the blurb from the back cover:

A troubled single mother goes missing. An unusual sexually transmitted infection spreads around a small town. Two bodies wash up on a beach.
Seemingly unrelated events connected to a government plot to eliminate undesirable members of society, an ancient myth about an Indian chief, and a self-proclaimed shaman and tattooist who believes his body art is infused with magical powers.
Hundreds of people become infected. The town is quarantined. The shaman's tattoos do indeed come to life, inciting gruesome acts of violence. The missing woman becomes an unlikely hero avenging a great evil perpetrated against a peaceful tribe hundreds of years ago.

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Thursday, 9 March 2017 / Leave a Comment

After months of toiling away in front of my computer, after innumerable drafts, rewrites and revisions, I've finally got my latest novel in to what I hope is something close to presentable/readable shape. To find out what people think of the story, I've decided to post the opening chapters here on my blog.

Although loath to give too much of the plot away at this stage, I feel it necessary to set the scene:  

After a twenty year absence, Adrianna returns to her home town to avenge her mother's horrible drug-related death.

Pasted below are the opening two chapters of Three Days with Adrianna. I hope you like them. Any comments/constructive/deconstructive criticism gladly accepted!!!

The Part About Adrianna
As soon as she walked into the shop he knew she was Angie's daughter. The likeness was scary. He could've been back at his old flat twenty-odd years ago, staring at her mum through a late-night cloud of second-hand smoke.
  'Are you Gary Talbot?' she asked, straight out.
   Every instinct he had told him to say "no, sorry, he's away for a week". But something held him back; something he could never really explain–over the years he'd always been such a convincing liar.
   'Yeah,' he said as casually as possible, placing the LPs he was about to price up down on the counter. Jesus, he thought to himself, she really is the spitting image of Ange, with the shiny coal-black hair, dark eyes, that rich Mediterranean colouring, she was even the same sort of height, not particularly tall but not particularly short, and had the same shapely, curvy figure. 'How can I help you, love?'
   At first, she didn't say anything. She just stood there, in this stylish navy-blue trouser-suit, looking all shy and unsure of herself.
   'Well, it's not the easiest thing to…' she trailed off and lowered her eyes. 'What I mean to say is I–I wanted to talk to you about–about…' and she broke down in floods of tears, just like that.
   Gary didn't know what to do, whether to let her get it out of her system, or whether to try and comfort her in some way.
   'Hey, don't cry.' He walked around the counter and tentatively put a hand on her shoulder. 'Look. Why don't I turn the closed sign 'round, eh? Pop the kettle on, and you can tell me all 'bout it, get whatever it is offa your chest.'
'Yeah, you don't half look like your mum,' he said, warily, unsure of how to approach the situation, how to act–friendly, serious or defensive–he had no idea how much this girl knew, and what kinds of questions she wanted to ask. 'And you say your name's Adrianna, right?'
   She nodded and took a sip of tea from a faded Manchester United mug that had been through the dishwasher one time too many.
   'That's right. Named after my great-grandmother, so I've been told.'
   After he'd brought the tea through, she'd confirmed what he already suspected: that she was Angie's daughter. Now she'd pulled herself together, she came across as a really well-spoken girl, educated, polite, classy, a little intimidating, in the way attractive women can, without really trying. And in no way could he tell if she was hostile towards him or not.
   'Thing is, Gary, I never knew my real mum. I was brought up by foster parents. It was only a year or two back that I got in contact with my real grandmother. Since then, we've got to know each other quite well. I visit her every other week. And she's told me a lot about my mum, important stuff, because it's hard not knowing where you come from, not having any proper family, like reference points. All my adult life I've felt like there was something missing, you know?'
   And she went on tell Gary about her education and plans for the future, a first class honours degree, something to do with the sciences, laboratory research, and how she'd landed herself a dream job in Melbourne, Australia, how she was going to emigrate, how this was literally her last few days in England. As she did so, Gary nodded his head, said Yeah a few times, and smiled encouragingly, not really knowing why he was listening to all of this, or where it was heading.
   'So, as you can imagine, I might not be coming back to England any time soon. And I guess I want to know more about my mum before she died, what kind of person she was, what interests she had, what she did at weekends, just ordinary, everyday stuff. Here.' She reached into her slim, stylish leather handbag and pulled out an old cassette. 'I bet you recognize this, right?'
   Gary took the cassette and turned it over in his hands.
   'Yeah,' he said, staring at his own scruffy handwriting on the track-list scribbled on the inlay cover. 'Bloody wars! You're going back a few years here. Look: Prodigy - Your Love, Zero B - Lock Up, Joey Beltram - Energy Flash, 2 Bad Mice - Bombscare, Krome and Time - This Sound is For the Underground. Ha!'
   'And you remember doing this tape for my mum?'
   Of course he remembered. Back then, Ange could only have been fourteen or fifteen-years-old. It was around the time they first started knocking about together, when she'd walk along the beach from town, where Gary and his best mate Goosey used to hang out, light a camp-fire, drink and smoke themselves silly, and blast out music on a battered old beat box. Ange knew they were bad boys, small town rebels, was attracted to older lads with a dubious reputation, always in trouble with the police. At first, they didn't really like the idea of her leeching onto them. It could only lead to trouble, they told themselves, bring unwanted attention–an under-age girl cramping their style like that. But gradually, they got used to having her around, to seeing her trudging along the beach in her school uniform, got used to having a laugh and a joke (usually at her expense), getting this young bird so pissed and stoned she'd puke or pass out, taking advantage of her. "This music's ace," she said to Gary one summer evening. "Can you do me a mix tape, one I can listen to at home?" At the time, he was big into dance music, him and Goosey used to go to illegal raves up and down the country, and like most lads bang into his tunes, Gary prided himself on putting together the best mix tapes around.
   'You even wrote a little message on the back,' said Adrianna, pointing to the cassette in Gary's hand. 'If you turn the inlay cover over, you can see.'
   He did as she said, taking the cassette out and finding: To my very own little raver, Ange, E is the way forward. Drop as often as you can. Feel the love. Gaz. Gary almost winced at the blatant drug reference, sensing that this was perhaps the moment Adrianna would flip, go into one about the dangers of drugs, how this proved that he was somehow responsible for what happened to her mum.
   'Yeah, yeah,' he said slowly, putting the cassette back in the case and closing it. 'They were, erm…different times back then, love, different music, different attitudes to stuff.'
   But she didn't bring it up, shout at him or appear in any way angry or upset.
   'Last year, I bought an old stereo at a car boot sale, one with a tape deck in it, just so I could listen to the tape.'
   'Really?' He handed the cassette case back to her. 'What'd you think?'
   Adrianna shrugged and rolled her eyes. A light, friendly, amused maybe even warm gesture, which made him feel a whole lot more comfortable.
   'Not really my kind of thing–a bit manic, a bit out there.'
   'Yeah, I s'pose. Then again, it's probably generational. If you liked the stuff people my age were listening to back then, music would never move on, would it? It'd be stuck in a rut.'
   She nodded, shifted her weight, and slipped the cassette back into her handbag.
   'Look, Gary, the reason I came to see you is that I want to ask a favour. Like I said earlier, I want to know more about my real mum. I want to try and get a clearer picture of her in my head.' She hesitated and bit into her bottom lip. 'I know she was no angel. And I know she did a lot of mad stuff before she had me, but it wouldn't feel right–leaving the country, leaving everything behind, my roots and all that–without learning more about her life, where I came from.' She shot him an anxious, hopeful look. 'So what I'm going to suggest is this: I'm staying at a small hotel in town for the next few days, and wondered if you'd give me a tour of the area, you know, places my mum used to visit, her old haunts, if you like.'
   Gary tried to think of all kinds of excuses–work commitments, a family do up North, a fictitious doctor's appointment–but none of them sounded particularly convincing in his head. Besides, Adrianna had a certain charm, a way about her that made it hard for him to refuse. For that reason, he found himself agreeing, saying that, although he hadn't got much time to spare at the minute, with the shop and everything, he could take a few hours off here and there, could find a spare evening maybe, to do just that, to show Adrianna around town, to talk to her about her mum
   'Really?' she beamed, flashing the whitest, straightest teeth he'd ever seen. 'That's so kind of you, Gary. It would mean the world to me.'
   'No problem.'
   'So we can meet here, at the shop, tomorrow, late morning, yeah? And you'll show me around?'
'Goosey,' Gary said into his mobile phone while angling his neck, staring out of the shop window, watching Adrianna disappear up the high street, 'the strangest thing just happened, mate. I just had a very odd visitor, a very odd conversation.'
   'With who?' 
   'Only Angie's bloody daughter–all grown-up.'
   There were a few moments of silence.
   'What?' said Goosey, all panicky and breathless, as if the information had only just sunk in.
   'I know. It weirded me right out, brought back a lot of bad memories.'
   'What'd she want? Why'd she come looking for you after all this time?'
   'Wanted to know all 'bout her mum, didn't she? Look. You finished work yet? You fancy a pint? I think we should talk 'bout things, 'bout Ange, the past, 'cause I sense this daughter of hers ain't just gonna go away.'

Three whole weeks, not a bloody word, not a simple phone call telling us where she were, didn't know nothing 'bout no static caravan up the coast, worried sick we were, had no other option than to call the police, even if it meant getting the social services involved, even if it meant that the baby might be taken offa her. I mean, she'd wandered off so many times, said she were just popping out to the shops, or to visit a friend for a cuppa tea and a fag, and we wouldn't see hide nor hair of her for days, just dumped the baby on us, see, left us right in the lurch. And when she finally came home she'd have great big bags under her eyes, her beautiful hair were all matted and greasy, stinking to high heaven, smoke, booze, you name it. Then all she'd wanna do was sleep, go up to her room and not surface till the next day. Only this time it were different, I said to my Albert, bad as Ange had been in the past, she'd never dream of being away this long. It weren't right. It didn't make no sense. And we tried phoning round her friends, even the rough druggy bastards from town, the two lads she always used to knock 'bout with, but they swore that they hadn't seen or heard from her for a good coupla weeks. In the end, like I said, we had to get onto the local police, had this horrible smarmy young constable call round to the house, still in his bloody twenties, still had bum-fluff on his face, knew Ange of old, see, knew she'd been in trouble in the past, had a bit of a reputation round town, for drugs and what have you, and for that reason, her safety and well-being weren't important, like whatever might've happened to her, however horrible, were her own fault, didn't say as much, but we could tell, by all these snidey comments like: did you give your daughter any money, Mr and Mrs Carboni, did she say who she was going to be seeing? If so, are they also involved in the local drug scene? And we had to keep on at 'em, the police, I mean, to make 'em take us seriously, had to call 'em everyday, hassle 'em, tell 'em to get their fingers outta their arses, that our girl had a baby daughter who were missing her something chronic, and that it were a small town, that she couldn't have gone very far, but all we kept getting back were: unfortunately, we've had very few significant leads to follow up on, but rest assured, we're doing everything in our power to find your daughter. If it ain't have been for Ange's friend, Katie I think her name were, remembering her saying something 'bout visiting that caravan, we wouldn't have found her for months. Apparently it belonged to one of those tossers from town, the ones we spoke to before, shared it with a cousin or something, had it gifted 'em in their granddad's will, used it as a bit of a party place by all accounts, 'specially in the summer months. That's when I knew them lads had been lying when we asked 'em if they had any idea where Ange could be–how else would she have got the keys, eh? Never forget that awful phone call, when the police rang to tell us that they'd found Ange's body, that she'd been dead for a considerable amount of time, considerable, I asked 'em, how long's considerable? It were only later I found out that she'd been lying there, all on her own, dead, God rest her soul, for the best part of two and a half weeks, over a bloody fortnight! When he did his autopsy or whatever you call it, the coroner reckoned that she'd had liver or kidney failure, that her vital organs ruptured, nigh on exploded, due to chemical excess, just like that, that more likely than not she had a massive seizure, like a stroke, started bleeding from every orifice in her body. My Albert, her father, had to go down to the morgue to identify her, said she were in one helluva state, all bloated and puffy, that her skin had turned this horrible bluey-green colour, that half her hair had fallen out at the roots. And he knew that were the case 'cause he tried to touch her, don't know why, it were just a natural kinda reaction, to reach out and touch her face, the top of her head, like saying goodbye, knowing that's the last time he'd ever see his little girl, and a great big clump of her hair came away in his hand. Don't bear thinking 'bout, do it? Next day, the police had those evil wankers, those druggies in for questioning, but they closed ranks, said they didn't know how Ange had got into the caravan, that she must've climbed in through a window or forced a door, that they had no idea what drugs she'd been taking or who she'd got 'em from, despite the fact she had little or no money on her. And 'cause the police couldn't prove nothing, that they didn't have any witnesses or material evidence as they called it, linking them two lads to any of the drugs found at the scene, they couldn’t do nothing 'bout it, couldn't prosecute, they had to let 'em go scot-free. That's when we started to hear whispers, you know, rumours 'round town, 'bout how them two lads had given Ange some dodgy pills to try, like a bloody guinea pig, how they planned to have a big weekend up at the caravan, that they'd given her the keys a few days in advance, said they'd meet up with her on the Friday or Saturday, only when they got round to it they found her lying there, dead, and didn't have the decency to call the police, call us–her mum and dad–so we could come and take her away, give her a respectful funeral, a proper send-off, 'cause they were scared that they'd find out 'bout those pills. They just let our little girl, our only daughter rot away in that caravan, like she were nothing more than a piece of meat, like road kill splattered at the side of a motorway, that she were dirt, that her life didn't mean nothing. And that's something I can never forgive 'em for, that's something those bastards should have pay for for the rest of their lives.
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Friday, 3 March 2017 / Leave a Comment

Announcing a major new book, coming to Crooked Cat, in 2017.

THE GIRL IN THE EMPTY ROOM is Neil Randall's second Crooked Cat novel.

Keep your eyes peeled for more details. You're in for a treat.
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/ Leave a Comment

Fellow author Alisa Abraham's latest novel ATTENTION TO DEATH is released through Crooked Cat Books on the 10th of March 2017. 

"In Attention to Death, Ailsa Abraham pulls off something I wouldn't have thought possible - a steamy romance with a twist of murder and a splash of social conscience. A remarkable book that will have you turning pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next." 

                                                             ~ India Drummond, author of the Caledonia Fae series

Below Alisa tells us exactly what her latest book is all about:

This is a departure from my previous series in magical realism. Here I take off on murder mystery. Why? Erm... limited attention span? Love of variety?

Finding a murderer among a group of killers is not going to be easy for two Royal Army Military Police investigators, Captain Angus Simpson and Staff-Sergeant Rafael ‘Raff’ Landen, whose Christmas leave is cancelled for an investigation into a suspicious death on a base in Germany. The case is further complicated by unhelpful senior officers who make pre-judgements on colour, creed, race and sexuality. Yet the insight of the investigators helps them uncover a sinister plot, although they too have something to hide: their own fledgling relationship. Will Angus and Raff be able to solve the murder without giving away their secret? The best and worst of human nature is represented in this story, which is why it is suggested for over 18s only.”

I delved into my past life as an officer in the Royal Air Force and my lifelong friendships with gay men to research this book. Coming right after LGBT History Month in February, it highlights the problems that men who have to be “in the closet” and the sort of bigotry that causes people to refuse to read a book just because there are gay characters in it, although this doesn't stop them leaving reviews. Me? I've never been too sure. I'm gender-neutral which is why the first thing I wonder on meeting new people isn't “What do they do in their bedrooms?”
Read it for yourself and decide. Is it an honest portrayal of two men doing their job who just happen to have started an affair?

Sound interesting? - why not pre-order a copy at:

Ailsa Abraham is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman's Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon. She also writes mystery romance.

She has lived in France since 1990 and is now naturalized French. She enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell's Angel in town . Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit
friends and family. She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care (pirate gear is her favourite!)

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Sunday, 26 February 2017 / Leave a Comment

As a special bonus, I'm offering a new unpublished story for readers to download for free. The Jacqueline Prophecies (taken from one of my latest works in progress: The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada) is quite a surreal story featuring a talking dog, a Lee Harvey Oswald tattoo, a pig circus and a bit of minor heartache - staples of the modern literary diet!

All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter and click on the link to download the free ebook:

Here's a little taster of the story, the opening scene:

Jacob Fallada didn't know what shocked him more: that a hulking St Bernard was sitting on a stool at the bar, smoking a cigar, or that nobody else in the traditional hostelry was paying the immense canine any attention–not the morose-looking old-timers sitting at a nearby table, or the much younger, smartly-dressed couple deep in conversation in a booth by the window.
   Almost involuntarily, Jacob found himself walking towards the bar. When he reached the counter, he stole a quick glance at the dog. Its thick white coat had black and brownish flecks; its bull-like neck; its whole body seemed to ripple with a heaving, muscular vitality, that was as impressive as it was intimidating.
   The barman, a shifty, wall-eyed Transcaucasian, shuffled over.
   'What can I get you?' he asked Jacob.
   There was a brief silence, where Jacob tried to divert the barman's attention, discretely nodding in the direction of the dog, his eyes (if the barman had been observant enough to notice), clearly said: Look, there's a huge dog at the end of the bar, smoking a cigar, don’t you think that's a little strange? But there was nothing, not a glimmer of recognition, indicating that the barman did indeed find the St Bernard's presence in any way unusual.
   'I said: what can I get you?'
   'Oh, sorry, miles away,' Jacob lied. 'I'll have, erm…one of those, please.' He pointed to one of the real ales; one of the cheapest drinks available.
   'Coming right up.'
   As the barman pulled off the pint, Jacob darted another glance at the St Bernard happily smoking away, seemingly oblivious to everything, like any thoughtful, melancholy drinker found in any bar across the globe.
   'There you go.' The barman put Jacob's dark, frothy pint on the counter. 'That'll be seven-forty, please.'
   'Right, okay.' As he took a handful of coins out of his pocket, Jacob felt duty-bound to make some reference to the dog.  'I, erm…didn't know smoking was allowed in public places anymore.'
   Something he immediately regretted. For the dog shifted its immense body around on the stool, and glared at him.
   'No, no,' said the barman, 'that only applies to humans–the smoking ban, I mean. Far as the management is concerned, any of our canine regulars are more than welcome to enjoy a smoke at the bar.'

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Monday, 20 February 2017 / Leave a Comment
Listen to exclusive spoken word extracts from Neil Randall's dark psychological thriller Isolation (Crooked Cat Books).

1. The author reads the opening scene:

2. The novel's protagonist is given a notebook to read which suggests that he may have been experimented upon when he was younger.

3. The protagonist and a private detective discuss the grave ramifications of radical hypnotherapy treatment.

$. And finally, a longer spoken word sample from the novel. To avoid any plot spoilers, let's just say the protagonist finds himself in a strange situation, where he has to listen to an old lady tell the story of her time in Africa

The novel is available from amazon in paperback and on kindle. Click on the link below to order your copy today:
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Tuesday, 24 January 2017 / Leave a Comment
Neil Randall's dark psychological thriller Isolation is released today. In pre-release reviews the book has been likened to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestShutter Island and The Silver Lining's Playbook.

The book is available in paperback for just £6.99 and on kindle for just £1.99.

Click on the link below to order your copy today:
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Tuesday, 17 January 2017 / Leave a Comment
by Neil Randall
The novel, probably more than any other art form, has always had a unique relationship with technological and scientific progress. In many respects, writers have been chroniclers of not just the times in which they live but of a future world they envisage, and how that world and everything in it will impinge upon or enhance our freedoms, alter our everyday lives, dazzle or terrify our minds. In turn, readers have been fascinated by these propositions, predictions, strange new worlds, concepts, unrealities, whereby the very essence of humanity is repositioned, redefined, and, ultimately challenged.
   In Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, for example, he predicts that man will take his earthly problems into outer space, that there are inescapable questions about the human condition, our mortality, relationships with each other, that even accession into the stars cannot reconcile.
   From the pages of Philip K. Dick many technological/scientific advances (things which seemed fantastical at the time of writing)–the internet, people taking part in dehumanizing game shows for a better life, D.N.A. cloning, robots performing household tasks, designer drugs replacing love–are described, outlined, and utilized.
   To use an example from another medium: In The Entire History of You, part of the acclaimed Black Mirror television series, the characters use in-built recording devices, like personal video cameras, to record every single thing that happens, allowing them to play back certain scenes from their lives–a far from improbable proposition, in many ways the logical progression for a generation of I-phone users who capture events as they happen, uploading them to social media sites within seconds–a phenomenon which has completely revolutionized the way the news itself is reported today.
   This kind of new technology is used to great effect by Steig Larsson in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. After protagonist Lisbeth Salander suffers a violent sexual assault, she covertly films the next encounter (with a camera concealed in a rucksack), records what turns out to be an incredibly sadistic rape, and uses it to blackmail the perpetrator in the future, thus turning the tables and securing her personal freedom.
   I could go on and on.
   But in recent years many renowned novelists (Haruki Murakami in 19Q4 is a good example, so too the works of Paul Auster: The Book of Illusions, Oracle Night, Leviathan) have made a conscious shift from this once fertile artistic ground, setting novels in eras (all of the above novels are set in the 1980's) not quite so dominated by new technology. Is this merely better story-telling terrain, nostalgia, coincidence, lazy plotting, shying away from the very real problems society faces, as their literary forebears have done for generations? Or is there something far more worrying, far more sinister afoot? Has modern society become so oppressive, the atmosphere so stifling, that it has started to infect the artistic world, the creative mind? Are, even the greatest writers running scared, fearful and persecuted like Kafka's Josef K?  
   To illustrate the point, an aspiring writer decides to have a stab at a commercial thriller. When planning the opening scene, the writer runs into a few basic issues which interrupt the natural flow and development of the story. The scene: a man returns to a table in a bar, his girlfriend has disappeared–a standard plotline, done many times before. And thus starts the frantic search, of the bar, the streets outside, the panicky questioning of staff etc. But things have moved on at such an exponential rate since say, John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps, that the protagonist's actions (that of a fictional character) have to be uniformed, otherwise the situation would be rendered unbelievable. Firstly, he would try her mobile phone. Solution: he's shunted straight through to voice mail, or, more intriguingly, the line is dead, as if the phone has been disconnected. Secondly, when the police get involved: CCTV cameras, and not just in the pub, but on the streets, the surrounding train stations, airports, which would undoubtedly have picked up her movements. Further down the line, there can be checks on bank cards, passports, computer log-ins. It's got to the point where it is impossible not to leave some sort of trace, where it's harder and harder for a potential criminal to perpetrate any crime.
  Good, say millions of law-abiding citizens, for they can now sleep safer at night. But what we as people currently face, both in the real and creative worlds, now we have reached the point of living in the kind of dystopia once seen as no more than a dark cloud on the horizon, where we are under constant surveillance (much of it self-imposed, citizens tagging themselves on social media sites etc.), where everybody is contactable at any given moment, where our thoughts are policed, is that the technology thought to enhance the life experience has in fact shackled us in ways we once, ironically, only read about in books. And this, as touched on above, has impacted upon normal everyday people, who live (and sadly embrace) these conditions, because it has sucked the very humanness out of them, rendering them functional, bland, one-dimensional, ciphers, glued to their mobile devices, therefore, unsuitable, unappealing vehicles or subject-matter for literary work
   Like many things in life, the cycle, once self-perpetuating, has in fact reversed itself–life (black) mirroring art. Now the nightmare vision of the future is, to a pretty concrete degree, upon us, what had once been a limitless source of mad, wild, speculative fiction, has become constricting, so much so that it has almost strangled the life out of a character or plotline before a writer has even committed anything to paper.

Neil Randall's latest thriller ISOLATION  is out now in paperback and on kindle:

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