Tag Archives: murder

New Zealand Mosque Attack – the murder of children

I was horrified by the New Zealand Mosque attack yesterday. It touched my head and made me angry.

Today, the first thing I saw on Twitter was a picture of a man. He was shown from the back and in his arms hung the body of a child. A four year old.

That image touched my heart and will haunt me for the rest of my days.

I remember being a young Mum and suddenly being terrified of the world into which my baby was born. My baby is over 30 now. The child in that picture…

I’m only one person, but I have to do what I can to hammer home this simple truth:

people who spew white supremacist/nationalist poison are not exercising their right to free speech, they are pointing psychopaths at a target and inviting them to shoot.

Every single person who excuses, condones or ‘softens’ the reality of white supremacist hatred is just as guilty of murder as the pond scum that finally pulls the trigger.

We cannot continue to accept this upsurge of hatred as part of democracy. We cannot continue to validate it.

The standard you walk by is the standard you accept’

Governor of NSW, David Hurley

We cannot be complicit in the murder of children.

Meeks

 


The best historical who-dunnit…EVER!

Okay, I know the title of this post is a little over the top, but January must be the month for brilliant books. Seriously, I’ve just finished ‘A Star in the Sky’ and I’m in awe of the author’s talent. Under the ‘Look Inside’ you’ll find the review I just left for ‘A Star in the Sky’ on Amazon. 5/5 of course.

Not only does the author, Zichao Deng, [d.z.c. for short] make the world of the ancient Mayans come alive in all its barbaric splendour, he’s also created a murder mystery which could only have occurred in that time!

This is no ordinary murder disguised with a thin vineer of history. Every clue, every backward step, every twist and turn of the plot is woven out of the facts of that world:

  • The man who died was poisoned,
  • The poison was the same poison as used on darts, but he was not shot,
  • In fact, there did not appear to be any way for him to have been poisoned at all,
  • The politics of the situation could have seen the death explained away as ‘magic’, but
  • The female doctor who is charged with investigating the death refuses to allow either politics or superstition to get in the way of the facts, or logic.

And, like the very best who-dunnits, the clues are there all along, but the great reveal doesn’t happen until the very end. In fact, there are two reveals and the second is even more astonishing than the first.

‘A Star in the Sky’ kept me reading when I should have been doing other things, and that was despite not dumbing down the names and Mayan words sprinkled gently throughout the story.

I love alien sounding names, so I had no trouble with the female doctor being called ‘Lady Tz’unun’. I likewise had no trouble with the name of the Queen – Sak K’uk – at least, not inside my own head. As a reader, all I wanted to do was identify the character, so who cares whether my pronunciation was accurate or not? And those names were part of the reason I knew I was not in Kansas any more.

Another thing I loved about ‘A Star in the Sky’ was the richness of the characters. Lady Tz’unun may be the Sherlock Holmes of the story, but her servant Three Rabbits, plus the Queen’s councillor, the Ti’sakhuun are all part of an ensemble cast that just work, individually and as group. The story is finished but I still want to know more about them, and I definitely want to know more about their slice of history.

I sincerely hope that Zichao Deng has more murder mysteries for Lady Tz’unun and her team to solve. Simply brilliant.

My review won’t go live on Amazon for a few more hours, so I’ll just leave you with a concept drawing done by the author himself:

a-star-in-the-sky-concept-drawing

You’re welcome ūüėÄ

Meeks

 


Death of Choice – Ilil Arbel

Well over a year ago, my friend Ilil Arbel brought out a delightful detective story set in the flapper era. That story was called Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch, and you can read my 5 star review here.

I wish I could tell you that Ilil has brought out a second volume in the adventures of Madame Koska, but I can’t. However I can tell you that she has contributed a story to the anthology called ‘Death of Choice’.

Ilil Arbel anthology

If you click on the picture it should take you to the Amazon page where you can do the ‘look inside’ thing.:) To be honest, I didn’t look inside because I know how good Ilil’s writing is, but don’t take my word for it. Look inside and enjoy!

cheers

Meeks


Joe Cafe by J.D.Mader – a review

Some time ago I wrote a rather light-hearted piece about villains and what made them sexy however being sexy is not the only thing at which villains  can excel. They can make us fearful. They can fill us with loathing. And sometimes, sometimes they can make us care.

When I read J.D. Mader’s novel ‘Joe Cafe’ I did not know what to expect, of the story or the characters within it. ¬†I knew that Mader wrote well from reading his posts on Indies Unlimited however there is an almighty chasm between a short piece and a novel. What works for one often does not work for the other. I need not have worried. Mader makes the transition from short form to long with an ease that kept me reading when I should have been doing other, more productive things; we almost missed out on dinner entirely on the night ‘Joe Cafe’ was nearing its conclusion!

In many ways ‘Joe Cafe’ is a simple story. We learn almost from the beginning that the villain of the piece is a character called Chet. Chet arrives in town and goes to Joe Cafe – and yes the misspelling is deliberate – for a meal. Something upsets him and he murders four people in very horrible ways. Of the four deaths only one is clean and what might be called merciful.

The four deaths tell the police that the murderer is both very good at what he does and emotionally involved but they have no idea who this murderer might be or why he has chosen to kill apparently random targets in a small diner. A short while later the local policeman, Michael, discovers that the ¬†murderer knows him and has apparently used these deaths as a form of revenge. The ‘why’ remains a mystery, at least to Michael, however we, the outsiders looking in, are granted insights into Chet’s past that answer the question. For Michael the process of unravelling just continues in confusion.

And then there is a second crime, unrelated to the first except in so far as Chet is the perpetrator. This crime is the abduction of a professional dancer from a strip club. ¬†Given Chet’s apparent lack of remorse for any of the deaths he has caused the fact that he keeps Sara, the dancer, alive would be strange but for the fact that we already know that he has issues with beautiful women and possibly sex in general.

It was about this point that I started realising that the real protagonist in this psychological thriller was Chet himself. So who is Chet? My first thought was that he was a psychopath and the trail of dead bodies in his past would seem to confirm that guess yet there is something not quite right about that easy definition. The Ted Bundy’s of the world are characterised by superficial charm, intelligence and an almost complete lack of empathy. For anyone. Chet does not quite fit this description. Yes, he kills without thought. Yes, he seems to need to kill. And yet, and yet… there is something so broken about him. Is he a pure psychopath or is he something more human, a psychopath ‘made’ by circumstance?

As I continued reading I came to see that Chet is more ‘rogue’ than pure psychopath. ¬†The distinction between the two is fine, I’ll admit, however a rogue is someone who does terrible things because he or she has been pushed too far. In Chet’s case the pushing began in childhood with an abusive father, a lack of¬† stability, bullying and a lack of acceptance. It culminated in Vietnam where Chet is taught how to be a true killing machine. Of course Chet does not fight this process. As he says himself, he has always found hatred and ‘being bad’ to be things that came naturally to him. And so he ends up hating everyone, except for Sara the dancer. She tugs at some small remnant of the man he might have been. He finds that he can’t rape her or kill her and so the two of them play a game of ¬†cat and mouse until the relationship between them develops into something else, at least for Chet. He is aware of the insanity of feeling this way but he is incapable of stopping himself and so the story continues towards a hopeless ending. ¬†Someone is going to have to die. They both know it yet the foolish hope that there may be a way out continues to tease until the moment of confrontation finally arrives and one of them dies.

I do not normally describe a plot in such detail when I review a book but in this instance getting to the climax is the whole purpose of the novel. There is intense beauty in the portrayal of these strange, broken people and the telling becomes more important than the final resolution. Having said that I have to quickly qualify my statement by saying that the resolution completely shocked me because, like Chet, I kept hoping that somehow a miracle would happen.

If you are looking for a comfortable murder mystery then ‘Joe Cafe’ is not for you. However if you want to look inside the head of a rogue and travel the seedier paths of life for a short while then ‘Joe Cafe’ will leave you breathless. I honestly don’t know whether this novel contained any typos or not because I was so rivetted by the story I simply did not notice such imperfections. I suspect there were no imperfections because the quality of the prose and the attention to¬†craft were both so good.

If I were to make any criticism of the novel at all it would be a wistful wish that it had not ended so abruptly. The character of Michael the policeman was told with great sensitivity yet at the end I felt as if he had been left hanging, just a little. In real life things happen, people are destroyed and there is no tying up of loose threads to give meaning to the destruction. Nonetheless I am naive enough to have wished for just a little more meaning to Michael’s pain. Ultimately though Joe Cafe is not a story about Michael or any of the other rather wonderful characters. It is a story about hope and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in what makes people tick.


Endings and epiphanies

I write The Book every day so I guess a bit of tunnel-vision is to be expected but even so, suddenly realising that the first draft of book 2 was almost done took me by surprise. That was yesterday and by day’s end it was done. I am now officially miserable, which may explain why I had my earth shattering epiphany today.

Before I explain about the epiphany I should say a few words about The End. For me, the process of ¬†writing a novel is made up of many layers : there’s all the research [fun], then there are all the false starts [not so fun but necessary] and then there is the utter joy of beginning to see the story unfold.

I don’t outline per se. The false starts I mentioned are the closest I get to outlining. They are like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle set out on the dining room table without a reference picture to tell you what it is that you’re trying to achieve. And then, one day I start to see patterns emerging from those pieces. When enough of those patterns fall into place the journey of discovery begins. This is when I start to tell myself the story. No, this is when I start to live¬†the story. The people and places in the story become so real to me that, while it lasts, I really don’t want to be anywhere else… especially not in the kitchen cooking dinner, or driving down to the bank. As an aside I had to physically go to the bank a few days ago. It’s only 5 minutes from home and I could drive there with my eyes closed yet I was so caught up in my own head space that I went right past the bank… twice. Talk about being on autopilot.

So you see for me the storytelling phase is a great deal like being in love – it consumes me. And then it ends. The characters are still there, the world is still there but I’m no longer a part of either. They now have a life of their own and I go back to being just me. They will still need me for the heavy lifting and cleaning, I may even have to sterilize my scalpel and do some judicious surgery but all of that is just ‘work’. Playtime is over. Hence the misery.

Adding to my woes is the knowledge that once the grunt work is finished I will have to start doing something that truly terrifies me – I will have to publish.

Now I know that for many writers publishing is the end game, it is the holy grail, it is the whole point¬†of writing. ¬†And I do share the desire to be read, really I do. But. The closest I’ve ever come to personally getting something published was a few years ago when I finished a step-by-step ‘How to use internet banking’ guide for customers of bank XX. The bank did not commission this guide. It was something I decided to do after helping many of my clients learn how to use their net banking facility. These clients were baby boomers who were just starting to realise that they were missing out on the whole personal computing revolution. And I have to say that back then most banks had atrocious user interfaces. Anyway…. I sent copies of my guide out to every publisher I could find in Australia. Three showed some interest. One actually looked into the viability of such a guide and all turned me down [partly because the banks showed no interest]. So I know how hard it is to get publishers to bite. And going through all that heartache again scares me. In some ways I think I would rather have a root canal done without anaesthetic.

And then at the start of this year [2012] I discovered that self-publishing was no longer just vanity publishing. Could this be my way out? I began to research and learned that self-publishing is no easier than traditional publishing because it requires the author to become a publicist, marketing guru and saleswoman all in one. Nonetheless, as I stumbled on more and more truly great indie authors who could not get published the traditional way, the idea began to take root.

Today my friends that idea blossomed. I was in the bathroom, a place where I do some of my best thinking, when I started thinking about what I would put on the back of my book Рthe blurb if you will.  These are the key words that popped into my head : aliens, psychopaths, hermaphrodites, murder, castration and rape as mating.

Gott in himmel! What publisher in his or her right mind would publish something like¬†that? Just last week I was reading about an author who was knocked back for having a dwarf and the mere mention of porn in his novel. I’ve gone gender bender with a vengeance and I expect to be greeted with open arms? In a science fiction market that is already as dead as the dodo…

I tried to tell myself that I had only been true to the biology and that these were aliens after all – weren’t aliens meant¬†to be different? I knew though. I had fallen off my donkey and seen the burning bush and there was no going back. If Vokhtah was ever to see the light of day then there was only one path I could take – Indie or bust.

Oddly enough this epiphany, as painful as it was, has made me feel better. At least now I know where I’m going. How long it takes me to get there is another story entirely but I’m in no rush. I still have a lot of work to do and who knows, maybe by the time I’m ready to step off that cliff the world of publishing will have changed for the better.

And maybe, just maybe the world of readers will be ready to look through the eyes of an alien. I live in hope.

cheers

Meeks [aka acflory]

 

 


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