Archives for posts with tag: Thriller

All That Numbs You #1, 2013

Welcome to Bamtree!

To find the quaint village of Bamtree take the M27 to the Kennelworthy exit. Kennelworthy’s a small village built around a main road. After a mile take the narrow lane between the chemical factory and the dump. Drive slowly or you’ll miss the turning, although perhaps not the cloying aroma of slurry. At the end of the lane, where all around you is barren fields and abandoned farm machinery you will find a sludgy indistinct track bordered by stubble and broken brick. Follow it to the top of Starvation Hill, which is often crowned by a miasma of lazy insects. If your windscreen wipers can cope, on the other side of the hill you will be able to see an ancient road, built on the bones of our ancestors and surfaced with unwanted Robbie Williams CDs. Turn left and keep driving and you can avoid the whole sorry mess. Turn right and you’re on Main Street. It no longer connects to any other highway, sealing off the Bamtree community from a grateful world. You’ve arrived. Good luck!

–          The Official Tourist Guide to Bamtree (1986)

All That Numbs You #2, 2013

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All That Numbs You is the final track on Thomas Feiner and Anywhen’s 2008 album (actually a reissue with tweaks), The Opiates Revised. It’s an extraordinary piece of work and as far as I know their only release. It’s dark and loping (possibly injured) and yearning and mournful. And I haven’t stopped playing it since it was released. Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to get hold of – it was something of a lost classic before it was spruced up and now it’s a lost classic once more. Anyway, don’t take my word for it, listen to the track here. You might also want to listen to Dinah and the Beautiful Blue.

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Hand In Glove #1, 2013

Her answers checked out, but she twitched and fiddled. She seemed fragile and restless, rocking to and fro on the edge of the armchair. Some did – nervous witnesses often assumed the manner of the guilty. Something in the corner of the room she didn’t want him to see. Drugs? She never let her gaze go that way. The way she moved her head gave it away. Quinnell looked where she wouldn’t. A small portable TV next to an occasional table on which stood the kind of table lamp you would pick up in a discount store, and an unused glass ashtray; nothing unusual.

DI Quinnell thanked her for her time. “You’re not planning on leaving town are you? Only we may need to talk to you again if there are any details we need to clarify.”

She assured him she was staying put until the holidays in August. “So why did you run off?” he said. Without missing a beat, she said, “I was scared.” He told her that her friend, one of the other member of waiting staff, had stayed put until the police arrived. She glanced around the room, avoiding the one spot, then shook her head and said, “I ain’t him.”

“No,” he said and consulted his watch. There were other visits to be made, including one to Tanya’s flat. The framed erotic print on the wall reminded him to get going.

As he got into the Rover, he saw the girl framed by the sitting room window, elaborately placing a hat on her head, as if she was playing a dressing up game. A confection that involved a black lace veil. The other young woman who’d done a runner was a mystery. Savage was seen with her on his arm. Then nothing.

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Hand In Glove was the first single to be released by The Smiths (May 1983). It did not chart (unless you include the Indie Chart) and I would have missed it had it not been for a friend in my English class who lent it me along with This Charming Man.  He told me they were the best band he’d ever heard (he still maintains this is the case). And I was totally blown away.

If you’re new to The Smiths skip the debut album and go straight to Hatful of Hollow – both of the singles are on it along with superior versions of most of the debut along with BBC session tracks. You can listen to Hand In Glove here.

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I Come and Stand at Your Door #1, 2013

 “You’re wearing odd shoes,” said Detective Sergaent Donohue. Quinnell grumbled. He shuffled across the tiles towards Donohue, a pained expression on his face, his plastic overshoes rustling. “It’s an interesting look,” said Donohue.

“Why did you call me, Franc? Surely you know, I’m the sh_t on the sole of the department’s shoe. My presence here could cause you all kinds of problems,” said Quinnell.

“Oh, I don’t think so, DI Quinnell,” said Donohue. He busied himself with the examination of the corpse. “There’s cash in his trouser pocket, and a what looks like a wallet in his jacket, so I don’t think we’re looking at a robbery,” said Donohue.

The victim was sprawled on the toilet, a lilac shirt wound round his head like a makeshift bandage. But there did not appear to be any blood on it. The victim was naked to the waist, suggesting the shirt was his own. A loosely folded sheet of paper protruded from his left hand. Quinnell placed the man in his forties. His lower jaw reminded Quinnell of that of a comic book hero. It was accentuated by a beard as black as a policeman’s notebook.

“What about Stamp? Did you call him?” said Quinnell. Donohue hummed to himself. “Stamp’s sick,” he said. “Ah, so I was second choice after all,” said Quinnell. Donohue stooped to examine the victim’s arms. “Wounds to both wrists. Most of the blood’s pooled here and here. Odd but it looks like once the action moved into the cubicle, he just sat still for it,” said Donohue. “And no, I wanted you.”

Quinnell crouched down to examine the trail of blood that led out of the cubicle. “Did you get a statement from the CSOs?” he said. DS Donohue nodded and said, “But they weren’t the first on the scene. The two men who raised the alarm would have been more useful, but the CSOs let them go.”

Donohue registered Quinnell’s look of disbelief, then smiled and said, “It gets better. The CSOs compromised the scene: no gloves or overshoes. Their fingerprints are probably everywhere. And one of them moved the body – he thought our man here was alive.”

Quinnell shook his head. “What about the other witnesses – the party guests?” he said.

“One of the CSOs ran into the private view and told the guests what they’d found. The guests lost interest in the art pretty quickly after that,” said Donohue.

“I can’t believe I let you drag me into this – I’ve got a bad foot,” said Quinnell.

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I Come and Stand At Your Door is the twelfth track on The Fall’s 1997 album, Levitate. It’s a predominantly electronic collection and features sound cut-ups and unusual vocal arrangements (particularly on The Quartet of Doc Shanley). I Come and Stand At Your Door is one of the more straightforward tracks – based on a poem by Nazım Hikmet and a traditional tune, previously performed by Pete Seeger, The Misunderstood and The Byrds. The album was released on a label called Artful, which no longer exists, so the physical artifact is pretty difficult to track down. You can hear the whole album here. I thoroughly recommend you listen to track 4, I’m a Mummy!

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Lemmings #1, 2013

Spider clawed at the thick fingers around his throat. He stamped at the pedals, the floor of the car, and the door, but he couldn’t seem to get the message through to Quinnell that he did not want to die. “Stop struggling,” said Quinnell. He gave Spider’s head a hard slap and Spider did as he was told. The Mustang’s windows had steamed up. From the darkness a short-bladed knife consolidated itself and glittered in the rear-view mirror.

“Mr Quinnell,” Spider hissed.

“You mucked everything up,” said Quinnell with a tone that sounded like regret. He pressed the tip of the blade to Spider’s throat. Spider yelped.

Quinnell’s face was flushed. Even the red in his moustaches seemed to have intensified. Following the curve of Spider’s throat, the blade moved slowly and with great deliberation, not too soft and not too hard. Momentarily, it left behind a neat red line. Then it got messy.

Spider spluttered something that sounded like f_k. “You didn’t have to do that,” he rasped. He squirmed in his seat. There was blood down the front of his yellow jumpsuit.

“It’s been a long day,” said Quinnell.

Spider tried to turn his head, but Quinnell did not want him to turn his head. So he hit the side of Spider’s head with the hilt of his knife to keep it where he wanted it.

“How did you find me?” said Spider.

“I’m asking the questions,” said Quinnell. “You lied to me, Mickey.”

The slight movement of Spider’s neck Quinnell’s fingers allowed suggested he wanted to shake his head. “Why?” said Quinnell. Spider sniffed.

“Of course, you’re not going to tell me anything. Not for nothing; that would be against your principles,” said Quinnell. “But I could torture the answer out of you.”

“Who’s your boss, Mr. Quinnell?” Spider hissed.

“You’re the one who knows everything; you tell me,” said Quinnell.

“Detective Superintendent Pankhurst,” said Spider. “Think about it.”

“Pathetic. That’s your answer?” Quinnell relaxed his grip. But the knife blade remained. “Very weak, Mickey,” he said.

Spider chanced turning his head to face his interrogator. “The culture’s changing, Mr. Quinnell,” he said. “And Bamtree’s changing with it. Our old arrangement was good, but someone made me a better offer.”

“Who actually paid you?” said Quinnell.

“No money involved.” Spider laughed a tight little laugh, which turned into a cough that rattled through him and shook the car around them. When the fit subsided he added, “Just be glad you didn’t hurt me too bad, Mr. Quinnell. I’ve become an asset.”

“You’re a prick,” said Quinnell. “Tell me who paid you.”

“I can’t do that, Mr Quinnell. As you know, words is my business, and those words would cost me dear.” There was a sour chemical taint to Spider’s breath. He turned back round so he was facing the windscreen. “Please don’t make a mistake here that we’ll both regret.”

“Mickey, you are no longer under my protection. May God help you.” Quinnell withdrew the knife. He slid back in his seat, folded the knife away, swung the car door open and climbed out. It had all been for nothing – paying the kid in the squad car – the bloody car-chase. Quinnell blinked in the darkness.

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Lemmings (Including Cog) is the first track on Van der Graaf Generator’s 1971 album, Pawn Hearts. The original album was a massive three tracks long, the whole of side two being taken up by A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers (23:04). The album reached the number one spot in Italy. When the band toured the country to support it in 1972, riots broke out. Exhausted on their return to the UK, the band split. And reformed in 1975. Split again in 1978. Reformed in 2005 and are still going today (minus flute/ sax player David Jackson). The remaining members (Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton and Guy Evans) are touring this year and have promised to play A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers in full. You can see the song being performed on Belgian TV here. But, you know, buy the album.

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Just after I ran into Jimmy Clancy, I met up with David Cook. I’ve known David since 1986. We were at art school together in the nineteen (mutter, mutter, mutter). He’s an artist and runs a great blog about art in London here. I was very jealous of David’s red jacket (not the reason this photograph is B&W). Anyway, thanks for letting me take your photograph, David! Hope you like it.

David Cook, 2013

Industry #1, 2013

Spider took some time to decide the shape was inanimate. While he was thinking about it, a thick mist descended on the quarry, coating everything in glistening damp. He shrugged and shrugged again, sniffing at the air. Swaying, he cocked an ear to the rustle and creak of the trees.

On a path above him, Quinnell farted and laughed.

Putting the flashlight down for a moment, Spider patted the pockets of his canary yellow jumpsuit, eventually locating what he was after – a small wrap of paper. This he unpicked and held to his nose. He snorted hungrily.

Because, because, because there were shaky, angular shadows to be cast, work boots that needed crunching unevenly over the loose chippings, and oaths to be spoken.

A little further along the track, he wiped the aviator shades from his face and folded them into a top pocket. “Your move,” he shouted less than confidently, and rubbed the torch over his brow. There was no reply; Spider loathed silence. To his friends in the clubs he would say, “The thing about silence is it’s difficult to interpret, and near worthless as a commodity.”

He followed the curve of the path and approached the dark shape of the Rover. Because he wanted the answer to a question: who was responsible for running his beautiful claret-coloured 1966 Ford Mustang off the road?

Near enough to read the number plate he shouted in surprise.  The car was as still and dark as a freshly dug grave. Spider stepped away smartly and played the torch beam over the immediate area. Including through the windscreen into the car’s cabin, which was empty. “Shit,” he said.

The track was about ten foot wide. A couple of feet to the right there was a steep drop to the next escarpment, to the left a vertical climb to more trees. Beyond the Rover, the track narrowed to little more than a footpath, hemmed in on either side by straggly-looking undergrowth. From there the path disappeared into the murk created by a stand of bushy evergreens. This seemed to be the only option as Quinnell’s hiding place. “I’m not going in there,” Spider mumbled. Wind and the drizzle slicked his black hair to his face.

There was a movement in the evergreens – a slight swaying caused by the wind. Faraway a dog snarled, and as an afterthought added a weak warning bark. Otherwise the quarry was quiet. Spider waited. When he was sure he could not hear anything human in origin, he turned on his heels and ran.

All the way back to his car, where he tugged at the door, tossed the baseball bat onto the passenger seat, and jumped into the driver’s seat. The seat was in the wrong position – it had been ratcheted forward. And there was something else different about the car: the smell. The air had become heavy and sweet. Adjusting the rear-view mirror he became aware of the shape of a man sitting on the back seat. “Fuh – ” said Spider. The man on the back seat’s fingers closed around Spider’s throat, and squeezing hard, cut off the final consonant.

“Hello Mickey,” said the man.

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Industry is the sixth track on King Crimson’s 1984 album, Three of a Perfect Pair. It’s an instrumental piece. The album’s the third and final by the 80s version of the band.  You can listen to a live version of the track here.

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Just outside The Plough, a pub on Museum Street, I ran into Jimmy Clancy. He is an art collector. He was very interested in portraits and agreed to me taking a few shots of him. This was the first; I took it the moment he agreed. It’s my favourite. Thanks very much, Jimmy! Hope you like your picture.

Jimmy Clancy, 2013

Steppenwolf #1, 2013

When the call came, Detective Inspector Quinnell was sitting in the shadows of a tree at the edge of the topmost escarpment of the Light and Jennings’ Agricultural Lime and Bulk Chalk Quarry.

Far below, a man called Spider moved shakily through the lunar eeriness of the excavations, nervously playing a flashlight beam over the path his instinct had told him to follow. His other hand held a baseball bat. Quinnell watched him turn a bend and stop. Something had given Spider pause, an ambiguity in the torch-lit future. He stood still. Without taking his eyes from the shape, he shouted, “Whoever you are, you’re f_ing mental – you nearly killed us both.”

Quinnell wheezed happily to himself. Forcing two fingers into his trouser pocket he turned off the mobile. It was time to inflict some pain.

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Steppenwolf is the second track on Hawkwind’s 1976 album, Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music. The album marks a point of transition for the band. Bassist, Lemmy was gone and vocalist/ poet, Robert Calvert was back. There are space-rock wigouts in evidence, but songs like Back on The Streets point the way to the band’s taughter, more angular future. You can listen to Steppenwolf here.

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No travelogue today. Too tired.

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.