Archives for posts with tag: novel extract

SONY DSC– The  Aphid #1, 2013 –

Karl melted away. “Evening, Mr. Klinkel. Been on a little adventure have we?” Karl rubbed at his throat. “You could have phoned us first,” said Clarke, “like Mrs. Hardy.” She emerged from the shadows, dressed for grieving. “Hello Karl,” said Cordelia. “Did you engage with the young woman?” said Clarke. “The maid?” “Yes.” “No.” “Hear anything?” “A tape loop. Just bass and drums.” “Nothing else?” “No.” “I wonder what she’s playing at?” said Clarke. “How do you know what’s going on?” said Karl. The detective turned away and talked to his sergeant. Ute was talking to a uniformed policeman. Karl walked over. “I think my wife needs medical attention,” he said. He held up her arm so that the PC could see the injury. “Come with me,” said the PC. Their feet crunched through the gravel in a loping rhythm. “Not far to the road now,” he said and squeezed her shoulder. “I feel funny, Karl. The girl poisoned me,” she said. Her pupils were dilated. Something moved in the trees. “What’s that?” she said. There was a soft sound. A crunch of gravel that wasn’t theirs and an arm around his neck. Karl tried to shout, but the arm tightened around his windpipe. Something hard knocked the revolver out of his hand. Then Ute was pulled away. He was being propelled towards the road. He stamped on a foot. There was a sharp intake of breath very close to his ear. Then a male voice cursed. Outside the gates sat three police cars. DI Clarke walked towards him. “OK, sergeant,” he said. The hands that and females are produced. Between draped her arms around his neck August and September mating takes place and kissed him on the lips. “Come during flight. After mating, male adults die on, let’s get out of here,” and females shed their wings and he said. She leaned on him. Return to the soil to overwinter. He could feel her breath on his neck – his reward. They turned the corner into the entrance hall. “What about Tony?” she said. “We’ll call the police as soon as we can,” he said. Together they staggered out of the front door, across the terrace and onto the gravel drive. “We have a bit of walking to do. Are you strong enough?” he said. Ute lifted her head and nodded. There was a strange hush. The normal night sounds seemed absent. Karl smiled at her. Emerge in spring and lay eggs. The little smoke. He tried the handle first brood will be fed by and the door swung inwards. “Oh my the queen for three to four God, Karl,” cried Ute. Her dress weeks before pupating in the soil. Adult was marked with dark patches, her workers emerge after two weeks to hair matted and he could see maintain the nest and feed the even in the dark that there queen and subsequent larvae. When adults find were bloody marks on the stacks a food source they leave a phalanx of sheets and towels. “I didn’t shoot trail of chemicals known as pheromones did I?” he said. She staggered back to the nest for others towards him, her arms outstretched. “No, to follow. Towards the end of summer my darling, you rescued me.” She winged males to the queen and her nest simply makes larder. Beyond the shelves piled high space for another. For this reason with packets, tins and jars was it is best to focus on a thick wooden door, locked, controlling only those nests that are course. He knocked on it. “Karl?” causing real problems. “Adult worker ants are,” said the voice on the other side, “all female, wingless, and around 5mm”. “I’m coming,” said Karl. “Stand away in length. Queens are significantly longer and from the door.” He heard scuffling. Fatter larvae are white legless grubs, roughly holding the revolver at arm’s length, 5mm long. Each colony can vary – in he pointed it – at the door’s size from as small as 500 lock and squeezed the trigger. There individuals too many thousands. After over-wintering, females was a terrific bang, and the wind. Something glinted Heaps of earth around the nest on the ground just to the entrance can be a nuisance in left of the front door. He the lawn where they interfere with crouched down to take a look. An old fashioned key. It could bury low-growing plants. Karl stepped into the red ant Myrmica rubra and the main corridor. Don’t turn on the black ant. Queen ants are the lights. To the left was a fly in from neighbouring gardens all a short hall at the end the time but are killed by of which, on the right, was ants from existing nests. Killing a door. The door “She has locked me in the small piles of earth around laundry cupboard,” said the voice [in holes in soil, lawns, paths, and German. Karl located the ventilation grille at the base of exterior walls. To it he said, “I am Adults and may be in the house coming.” There was nothing for it, around fresh and stored food, but to shoot the lock off on sap-sucking pest-infested plants. Large swarms hit the front door. Karl rounded on the flying ants appear in late corner to the terrace and noticed summer. Plants affected. Garden ants rarely cause damage to Cordelia’s pot plants. However, they feed on the garden, its oversized drooping blooms grown sugary foods, oily seeds, honeydewed and sinister in the dark. The tree’s aphid-infected plants and other small insects rattled in.

Look, Know #1, 2013

Quinnell wrinkled his nose. The incident room offered breathable air made up of two parts male sweat to one part bad food. The team Pankhurst had put together were chatting at desks littered with open files, humming computers, and steaming coffee. Adams sat by the window, twirling a biro between the fingers. Quinnell picked up the murder book and weighed it in his hand. He looked at the faces around the room – the indolent, the incompetent and the untrustworthy. He was in good company for he was all three. Donohue walked in, raising the tone slightly.

“I’ve got the guest-list,” he said, handing a sheet of paper to Quinnell. “Looks like a few members of the criminal fraternity have got an interest in art,” he added.

Look, Know #2, 2013


Look, Know is the A-side of a 1982 7″ single by The Fall, released on Kamera Records. You can listen to it here.


My New House #1, 2013

When the morning came she found herself all covered with dew. A wooden door banged. Footsteps click-clacked towards her. “Jeremy! It’s another bloody squatter,” said a woman. X could smell something sickly – an expensive perfume. The woman was close.

“She’s not a squatter, darling. She’d have to be inside the house to be a squatter. She’s a vagrant,” said a man from a little further away.

“Shoo,” said the woman.

X turned her head in the direction of the voices. The shoes approached – royal blue and gleaming. X reached for the bag, and felt the pain in her right hand, the one that told her what she’d done. Of course the bag was gone. X swore, rolled away from the shoes, got herself into a kneeling position, clambered to her feet and stood up – a giant, bedraggled, black moth.

“Oh God, Jeremy, she’s bleeding on the lawn,” said the woman.

“Come back here, darling. I’m going to call the police,” said the man.

X shrugged. It was no more than she deserved – she’d really f-ed up since the murder. Her eyes dry and gummy with sleep, but the man and the woman looked like the kind she saw in the windows of expensive restaurants in town. It was a nice house. They didn’t deserve this. She watched them retreat behind their mock-thirties front door.

My New House #2, 2013


My New House is track 8 on The Fall’s 1985 album, This Nation’s Saving Grace. The album is widely regarded (in the music press) as one of the group’s best. It’s certainly more accessible than a lot of the more recent output and recommended as a way into their uniquely ugly/ beautiful music. You can listen to it here.



Backdrop, 2013

* * *

This post is dedicated to Nikki.


Garden #1, 2013

After eight o’clock, Sambourne was eerily silent. No teenagers congregated outside the shops. No one shouted. There was virtually no traffic. The sky was massive and the smell of slowness – leaf mould and old stone, mainly – seemed to pervade the whole village. Jenny followed the shadowed path past St. Mary’s to the shrine. The shrine to the Virgin was lit by fluttering nightlights. Flowers had been laid on the ground, and a few around the image of the Virgin. Scrawled messages had been pinned to its wooden surround. Can you help me? Jenny said to the object. She shifted her weight from one pinched, aching foot to the other, and fixed her gaze on Mary’s image. The wind moved the branches of the trees, so that they rattled against each other, but other than that there was no sound. Jenny felt nothing. The image wasn’t even interesting to look at. She was on her own.

Garden #2, 2013


Garden is the third track on The Fall’s 1983 album, Perverted by Language. It’s nonsensical, but poetry of the highest order, set to urgent, pounding, repetitive music. I strongly urge you to seek it out.


 SONY DSCSignal to Noise #1, 2013

Set back from the lip of the opening was a metal-runged ladder that ran the depth of the shaft. The vertical tunnel terminated in a cool grey corridor of rough concrete. Anyone expecting to smell beer would have been disappointed. If anything the cellar smelt of mice and their doings. And something human.

“Come out,” he said to the empty corridor. From his standpoint he could make out a series of openings two to the right and the same to the left. “Come out,” he said again, with less conviction this time. His shirt stuck to his skin. A little way off to his left, a man coughed in a concrete room.

The words, “I’m unarmed,” echoed down the corridor carried by a voice Quinnell did not recognise. It sounded nothing like the man he and Sparks had found in the Guild Hall. Its accent came from several rungs higher up Bamtree’s social ladder.

“Well, I’ve got a gun,” said Quinnell. “Are you going to come out now?”

“Alright,” said the voice. The man appeared in the corridor. The vigour he had displayed in the chase replaced by a sullen shuffle. The dirty fingers of one hand were held aloft in a gesture of surrender. “I know you from somewhere,” said the man, nodding in Quinnell’s direction. The other hand clutched a wretched carrier bag to his chest.

“I want you to answer some questions,” said Quinnell.

“You’re a policeman?” said the man. He squinted and shuffled a little closer to Quinnell, sniffing all the while. “I’ve had enough police for one day,” he said. There was an extra sibilance when he said the word police. “Where’s your gun, then?” he added.

“There is no gun,” said Quinnell. “I’m impatient, I’m sorry.”


Signal to Noise #2, 2013


Listen here to Signals by Brian Eno, the fourth track from his 1983 album, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. And here to Schizophrenia by Sonic Youth, the first song from their 1987 album, Sister.


Untitled digital photograph, 2012

Untitled photomontage, 2012

Untitled digital photograph, 2012

Untitled digital photograph, 2012

Untitled digital photograph, 2012

“There are no demons behind this – just men, Rufus. We’re creating Hell on Earth.”

Untitled digital photograph, 2008

The following is from Chapter 13 of the novel, originally extracted for reading at a writers’ group. Chapter 13 is a big one – currently 300-400 pages long. So, a small extract…

For the first time ever she saw it rain gravel. Terence the driver fell over backwards, like a felled tree, into the mouth of the garage. She let him lie for a while then, when he didn’t get up again, Jennifer walked over to see what had happened. From the concertina metal doorway she could see him sprawled on his back, a marijuana cigarette smouldering just out of reach of his right hand. His left still held the gun.

“Are you alright?” she said.

“Jenny.” The driver didn’t move. He spoke to the ceiling.

“Yes,” she said.

The left hand laid the pistol carefully to rest on the concrete floor.

“You haven’t shot yourself have you?” she said.

Without raising his head, Terence said in a low voice, “No, I must have blanked out for a second and squeezed the trigger by accident.”

Jennifer walked smartly into the garage and ground the joint underfoot. “Naked flames: not good in a garage,” she said.

“Do me a favour. Don’t tell anyone about this,” said Terence.

“Spoilsport,” she said.

“I mean it. Tony’s very anti-drugs. If he knew I’d been smoking, he’d sack me.”

“You’re joking.”

“Please, Jenny.”

“Alright, but you owe me one big boy.” She turned on her shiny heels and left the driver where he lay.

In a moment they would all come running to see what the noise had been. Jennifer picked her way down the path between the outside wall of the garage and the moat. It ended in a dilemma. Did she step out onto the lawn, possibly alerting the inquisitive guests in the drawing room to her presence, making them wonder what she was doing there? Or did she somehow squeeze herself into the undergrowth, where ivy and brambles had been allowed to run wild, but beyond which stood a line of trees in the shade of which she could hide?

She peeked around the corner of the garage. A figure stood on the concrete terrace that adjoined the drawing room, a hand raised to its ear: Dave. Tony, who was now dressed in a silver shirt, stepped out to join him. They exchanged a few words and then the singer disappeared back inside the house. Dave tapped a number into his phone. A mobile ring-tone she had not heard before started blaring in the garage. Jennifer retreated. No way could she appear from behind the garage now. Nothing about her conduct must arouse Tony’s suspicions, not now when everything was going so well. The bramble bushes behind her were up to waist height. She had nothing with her to cut through them, and nothing obvious to hand that would act as a switch. Then she saw, lent on its side against the garage wall, a broken decorator’s plank. It was damp and slimy and snails had congregated on its shady underside. But the plank was all she had, so she lifted it and laid it down over the spiky undergrowth. Thorns squeaked and a fallen branch snapped. Then all noise stopped. And she was shimmying across the plank into the shade of the trees.

Dave’s voice grew louder as he approached the garage; he was still talking into his phone. If you took away the garage there was probably less than twenty feet between him and Jennifer. She concentrated only on the next step. Make no noise. Breath become invisible, inaudible. After twenty-five-six-seven steps, the path widened. Enough that she didn’t have to stop to unpick thorny tendrils from her skirt and jacket every few feet. She allowed herself to breathe and filled her lungs with a welcoming earthy smell. Rotting leaves? The aroma belonged somewhere else, where? The time Danny got lost in the New Forest. Long before he got his hands on a drum kit.

Jennifer felt a sharp pain in her ankle. She had wandered into a nettle patch. “Ow, shit,” she said and hopped to a patch of bare earth under a big old tree. On a protruding root, she set about massaging her ankles through her sheer black tights. She knew she needed a dock leaf, but didn’t know what one looked like.

Around the curve from the base of the old tree, the gap between the undergrowth and the moat got narrower. If it got much tighter her clothes would be ruined. She thought she could see movement, a bird or something flitting across the path, but it was just flies. Where she was, the brambles were still too thick to climb through, so she pushed herself up off the tree and walked with burning ankles down the slope towards the narrowing path.

Its perfect body blocking her way, one dark eye open and glassy, lay a fox attended by three house sparrows. The birds did not fly off at her approach, but continued to regard the corpse with interest. Scarlet berries or fruit of some kind, had fallen from the surrounding plants and into the gaps between paw and tree root, snout and leaf. Here is death, thought the sparrows. Nijinsky, thought Jennifer. Nijinsky. This was her new world – savage, beautiful, vengeful. Seemingly as cunning a confection as her own outward appearance. What set of circumstances had led the fox and the birds into this composition? To this frozen moment. The fox had a neat brown bullet hole in its neck. Small spots of blood marked the fur here and there, but otherwise there was surprisingly little mess. It must have been Terence, she thought. Not as bad a shot as he seemed. If he stayed off the weed he could be quite dangerous.

She too could be dangerous, the girl who had chosen this path, the maid whose origins lay in an ‘A’ level art class. An oh-yes moment: she chanced upon Untitled 1975 by Cindy Sherman in a book about the eighties. It was made up of 23 head and shoulder shots of Cindy from the first, where she wore glasses, no make-up and limp shoulder-length hair, through twenty-one minor changes – glasses taken off, blusher, eye shadow and eyeliner applied, thick red lipstick, a beauty mark and a black choker added – one picture at a time. Until at last she looked like a different person; still Cindy, but with a new hard outer layer. This work of art was something else. It did something in the world. To Jenny it said, “It is possible to effect change.” So she put away her paints and started using her body as her material. And here she was, as much of a confection as the Cindy Sherman of Untitled 1975, as much of a result of circumstance as the dead fox before her. What a pretty picture they made: the fox, the maid, the house sparrows, the spilled fruit.

Jennifer stepped over the dead animal and found herself in a less overgrown area. The blackberries had been cut back, the nettles cleared. Just ahead of her and to the left, she could see the foundations of the summer house. A little further along she would be able to slip out onto the lawn behind the tool shed.

 Untitled digital photograph (1990)

Kandinsky “Spark Out”
By Dave Swallow
Crime Editor

Shamed singer Tony Kandinsky has admitted his arrest on suspicion of possessing drugs was “stupid – whatever – my own fault.”

The former Blue Rider star was taken into custody yesterday after being found out cold in his car in London’s West End. A Good Samaritan who phoned emergency services spotted the semi-conscious star, 41, slumped at the wheel of his Saab 900 convertible, outside the Commoners Club. Police and an ambulance raced to the scene.

After making sure he had no obvious injury, officers breath-tested and searched the millionaire star. Police allegedly found cocaine and heroin on his person and in the Saab. A breath test proved positive.

Flash Tony, whose smash eighties hits included The Colour (of Love) – was arrested on suspicion of possessing controlled substances and driving while unfit through alcohol.

One witness said, “Tony was spark out – he looked a right old state. He could hardly speak.” The ex-Blue Rider star was taken to London’s West End Central police station and kept in a cell overnight…

 The Mercury, 19th February 1999

One Hit Wonder:

Ptolmaic Egg

Circumnavigating the Sea of Self/ We Are The Egg
Date: April 21, 1974
Chart Position: 9
Available: Tabula Rasa II, remastered and expanded (Klangtone! Import)

The sludgy prog of Circumnavigating the Sea of Self was never going to be a chart hit in 1974. Til Blake’s paean to the pleasures of the flesh in 12/8, and famously featuring a didgeridoo solo, was just the wrong side of whimsical. But the B-side, We Are The Egg, was a different story. “Me and Malc the roadie wrote it in half a day,” Calum McVey, Ptolmaic Egg’s drummer recalls. We Are The Egg was a four-to-the-floor, straight-ahead glam stomp that neatly satirised the band’s tour-album-tour routine from the perspective of a drum roadie. “Set ‘em up! Skins, seating, high hat, kick drum, toms,” sings McVey, then laughs. “It was a bit of a problem when it was a hit.” Creative tensions in the band increased as the single climbed the singles chart. McVey explains, “We’d never had a hit before. It wasn’t what The Egg was supposed to be about. And Til didn’t know how to handle the attention. He was a serious poet and musician and all of a sudden there was the promise of money, and girls and a better van. He wanted all that, but he wanted to be famous for his long, rambling songs too, not We Are The Egg.” The band was booked for Top of the Pops, but… “Due to some strange rule the beeb had at the time, we had to play the A side. Well, mime to it.” To make light of the fact that they weren’t playing the real hit, the band’s young guitarist “Went on dressed like Alvin Stardust and sprinkled glitter over the crowd, instead of playing his guitar.” Til sacked him. Tensions in the band got worse. “Til knew he couldn’t go back to writing the stuff he had before – there was no going back from a top ten hit single. So, we tried to write another. Til insisted on writing the lyrics, but to me they sounded, y’know, insincere.” Follow-up single, The Lido Stomp, stalled in the lower reaches of the UK chart.

“You had to admire him – Til took this really bold step and as a result we lost our original fanbase,” McVey breaks off to laugh at this. “I remember him saying to me, “It’s no good trying to attack the mainstream from the outside, you’ve got to be right inside to subvert it.” Then he shaved his beard off. And on went the make-up.”

The Lido Stomp made the Top 30 in France and Italy and was a top ten hit in Germany. “It was Germany that broke up the band,” says McVey, “We were on our way to do some TV there. Til wouldn’t travel with the rest of the band at that point, so we all flew out seperately with plans to meet in Bonn. But Til never turned up – there’d been some mix-up at the airport and he ended up in Norway. There was no way he was going to make it to Bonn in time, so we recorded the show without him. Then we flew home, because we had a tour to do.” But Til never came home. “Something happened to him out there. We got a telegram from him a week before the start of the tour saying he’d quit the band and the music biz. We were a bit shaken. There was a lot of money at stake. We had to struggle on with Bob standing in on vocals. But I think we all knew it was over for The Egg. And at the end of the tour it just sort of fizzled out. At least we didn’t split up because of drugs, or musical differences or nicking each other’s girlfriends or any of that stuff – it was a cock-up at Heathrow what did it.”

“After The Egg I realised I wasn’t going to be a drummer for the rest of my life, so I diversified.” McVey went on to write hits for Slinky, The Splitz, and Jack in the seventies. “A great time,” he laughs. In the eighties he reinvented himself as the producer of choice for Los Angeles hair-metal bands, including Toxyn.

But what happened to the other members of Ptolmaic Egg? Til Blake, the band’s singer, songwriter and leader, “runs an organic farm somewhere in Yorkshire.” Bob Tunage, who played bass and sang, “teaches bass to kids at rock school over here in the States.” Dave Black, guitarist, “works in computing”. But what of the other young guitarist – the one who got the sack? “You’d know him as Tony Kandinsky – he was the only one of us to become a proper pop star. His guitar sound really made We Are The Egg – like a young Pete Townshend he was. He never played like that again of course. I still see Tony; he’s a lovely bloke nowadays.” Today Calum McVey runs his own label, Dyzfunkshun. “A lot of death metal, one funk-metal outfit, called Bompdozer and strangely a whole new breed of prog bands. It’s like my life’s come full circle,” he laughs.

Mofo, May 2007