Chris Trengove

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Archive for October 2014

CHAPTER 1 OF ‘FRANKENSTEIN VIGILANTE: THE INCORRUPTIBLES’

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At presstime we’re working on the final chapters of THE RECKONING, the third book in the FRANKENSTEIN VIGILANTE series – book one, THE INCORRUPTIBLES and the second volume, THE FEAR, are both currently available. Here’s the opening chapter of THE INCORRUPTIBLES, in which our heroes are found fighting off ruthless mobsters The Silencios:

OUTSIDE, IT WAS PAST MIDNIGHT, but who would know, the way days were in The Smoke; the dirt, the smog, sulphurous vapour eternally swirling, daylight hours often as dark as night.
That was one of the passions that drove Doctor Pedro Robledo Efrain’s furious efforts to find solutions; not so much the dark of the days but the filth, the mucous acid air that ate away soft membranes and turned eyes red as roosters. Tonight, he’d been working eighteen straight hours in his laboratory, the electro-acetylene arclights throwing pools so brilliant that individual molecules might almost have popped into view; but only Efrain’s rumbling hungry stomach marked the passage of time.
Several years ago, he had brought electricidad to life, summoned it from the skies, harnessed it, certain that one day it would render coal and shale extinct, evolve The Smoke to a state of grace beyond steam. But, summoned, electricidad refused to capitulate, other than on a scale that could power Arielectros and other small two- and three-wheeled vehicles. These were being seen in gradually increasing numbers on The Smoke’s streets, humming along for the short distances they could achieve between battery changes.
On the grand scale needed to light and power The Smoke, electricidad killed even while it promised a new life. Efrain had succeeded in storing the new force in accumulators; sidecar-sized for the Arielectros, and massive lead and glass structures for heavy duty usage. These batteries would hold their charge for a short while, but the real problem remained: how to transmit electricidad over distances longer than a city block without fatal side-effects. Efrain’s single-minded determination to solve this conundrum provided all the sustenance he needed to work days and nights at a time.
With the kind of money they made, the danger pay, the pioneering electricista engineers might have leapfrogged into The Smoke’s affluenzos but for the extreme peril of their work, which had a fifty per cent mortality rate. Efrain had built diffusers to neutralize stray death waves, but so far they didn’t react fast enough to be much use.

Now he bent over an aluminium chassis on which were mounted a series of ceramic coils, his focus so intense that he didn’t hear the laboratory door open. Didn’t see the killers who moved silently through the pools of blinding acetylene light. Didn’t sense the presence of death.
To the assassins, focussed on Efrain’s laboratory-coated back, the man seemed more vigorous than expected. Leaner. More youthful. But it was just a sense. How could it be more, the Doctor hunched over his coils, his face hidden from the assassins?
They glided across the laboratory in formation, an asymmetrical trident, the smallest and most lethal of the trio leading, blade glittering, held flat, parallel to the floor. The second assassin carried a spring-loaded cosh, and the third a short-barreled Smallwood shotgun, hammers cocked. The lead killer drew back for the attack, his plan to angle the blade in below the rib cage and then twist and sweep, so that the razor edge would slice organs, guts and blood vessels – not an immediate death but spectacular, and the Silencios loved spectacle. It kept the victim pool cowed.
But even as the murderer reached for Efrain, planning to lock one arm around the Doctor’s neck while the other plunged the knife, the Doctor turned and stood tall, his lab coat hanging open to reveal not a middle-aged, frail academic but the young, powerful Cerval Franks, leader of the youthful vigilantes known throughout The Smoke as the Incorruptibles. No one knew their identities, but they were capturing the imagination of The Smoke’s UnderGrunts and, increasingly, its hard-pressed middle class. One thing was certain – they were hated equally by Silencio mobsters and the Commission. In The Smoke’s oligarchy, the Commission was the administration and the executive, the Silencios the executioners.
The killer hesitated for a second then pressed ahead, knowing he was supported by bludgeon and shotgun; but the delay was enough. Cerval’s hand shot forward, holding the jagged end of a glass pipette. Its hollow tube pierced the assassin’s throat just below his Adam’s apple. Cerval withdrew the tube and stepped back, watching with an almost curious expression as the assassin’s hands went to the tiny round, red wound. He tried to speak, but air burst from the hole, diverted from his vocal cords, spraying pink foam. Nothing but a stunned, sibilant hiss – then the killer support crew burst into action, recovered from its moment of shocked paralysis.
In these desperate fractions of seconds, which stretched out into long and easy moments of contemplation as lethal action slowed time, Cerval wondered what had happened to the journalist. Where was she? Had he chosen the wrong one, distracted by sexual desire, the gut kick he’d experienced when she’d interviewed him? Too late now. She’d miss the sting, a sensational exclusive that would surely have enabled her to break free from the smarmy platitudes of The News Of The Smoke’s society columns.
During these contemplative fractions of time, it seemed that Cerval was a sitting target; for he took no notice of the two follow-up killers, the one raising his cosh and the other the sawn-off Smallwood. His focus remained on the standing knifeman who, though not yet dead, was immobilized by incomprehension and agonizing pain.
Then – pandemonium. A giant of a man – young, but well over seven feet tall – erupted from beneath a massive copper and teak workbench, sending it flying as if it were a child’s school desk. The giant seized the Smallwood, wrenched it from the killer’s grip, reversed it and fired both barrels. The blast almost cut the gunman in two, throwing him back in a splatter of red and fatty tissue, a stench of gunpowder and shit.
“Thorsten,” said Cerval reprovingly; ideally, his plan called for the assassins to be taken alive and made to reveal their employers. But even as he spoke Evangeline Evionne appeared, as if from nowhere, springing towards the third killer. Despite the shock of Efrain’s transformation into Cerval and the Smallwood’s deafening blast, his cosh was already raised and swinging down in a short arc which would shatter Evangeline’s skull – except that she was now where the cosh was not, seizing the killer’s arm as it descended. He stumbled forward, and Evangeline whipped him in an almost complete circle, initiating a violent somersault which ended when his head struck the sharp brass corner of another lab bench. He slid to the floor, leaking blood and brains.

It had all taken perhaps thirty seconds; and in the silence, shotgun blasts still echoing in their ears, Cerval stepped towards his still-standing assassin and gently shoved him backwards. The man sat heavily, the grunt coming not from his mouth but from the hole Cerval had opened in his throat. He tried to say something but only gurgled a bloody spray. From his sitting position he fell slowly sideways, to lie spreadeagled like a broken puppet.
“Can’t speak?” asked Cerval. “Now you really are a Silencio.”

A sudden explosion of sound and action and the three Incorruptibles whirled to see at least half a dozen more Silencio gunmen smashing into the lab. An ambush! A betrayal! The journalist? Or, Cerval wondered, at the moment he foresaw and accepted his own death, a set-up: the Silencio bosses were ruthless enough to sacrifice the first three assassins if it meant that they could kill or capture the young vigilantes.
A gurgle. Cerval looked down and saw a half-smile flicker across the face of the stricken knifeman. In a spasm of fury he slammed his foot down on the man’s punctured throat and heard the hyoid break. The knifeman’s silence was now eternal. Cerval turned to join his partners. They would sell their lives at high cost.
Cerval, Thorsten and Evangeline were hopelessly out-numbered and out-gunned. Cerval himself had no weapon – he hadn’t thought he would need one for this simple sting operation, designed simply to capture Silencio assassins and expose them. The sting was just part of Cerval’s longer term plan to sever the connection between the Commission and the Silencios, to empower The Smoke’s people to halt the city-state’s decline from democracy to autocracy.
He had dedicated his young life to this idea, and believed, heart and soul, that the elimination of crime and corruption, the destruction of the Silencios, the Commission’s most effective enforcers, was the first step. That was the story the journalist was supposed to tell on the back of this sting. The plan had backfired.

Off to one side, the giant Thorsten had picked up the lab table and, holding it before him like a huge shield, was driving a handful of shooters back. Some were armed with Smallwoods, latest model, their blasts deep, booming, regularly spaced because every two shots required reloading; some were armed with the new multi-barreled Ximan machine pistol, a weapon whose wild inaccuracy was counteracted by its terrifying fire power. As the slugs hit the two inch teak of the table top, splinters flew off the reverse side, slicing into Thorsten, but the giant youth continued to move forward, fearless, a force beyond nature.
Evangeline was fighting her own battles, zigzagging with the unpredictable speed and the dance-like moves of karoeira, the martial art she had practised for twelve years. She hit one gunman so hard that his ribcage imploded and the Ximan flew from his hands. Evangeline snatched the weapon out of the air and tossed it to Cerval, who turned it on the attackers but was hamstrung by the weapon’s erratic pattern. In these close quarters, he might as easily kill or wound his friends as his enemies.

On one level, Cerval fought for his life. On another, he continued to wonder: if this was a Silencio ambush, how had they known of his plan? Had he been betrayed by the beautiful journalist? Or by one of the Incorruptibles, unthinkable as that might be? Was there an unknown informer?
He knew that he would never have the chance to figure it out, for he, Thorsten and Evangeline were going to die in this ambush. Already, Thorsten was weakening, lacerated horribly by the teak splinters and now under attack by two shotgunners who had outflanked him. Cerval lunged towards them, cranking the Ximan and seeing the heavy slugs stitch a blood-soaked path across one of the Silencio goons. The others were too close to Thorsten for Cerval to get a clean shot, so he dropped the weapon and sprang forward, knife in hand, accepting that he would die in the attempt to save his oldest friend.
He found Evangeline at his side and couldn’t help himself.
“Sorry,” he said.
“Better sorry than safe,” she replied and the two of them moved to join their staggering, bleeding, dying friend, the mountainous Thorsten Laverack.

Written by Chris Trengove

October 13, 2014 at 6:25 pm

PREFACE TO ‘IT’S YOUR MONEY IN MY POCKET’

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“It’s Your Money In My Pocket, Dear, Not mine In Yours” is – after “Full Moon” – the most consistent seller of all the books that Peter and I have written. Originally published by Quartet, now available on Amazon Kindle, it’s a portrait of a long-lost world, the Soho of the early seventies. Here’s the preface which we added to the Kindle edition, which tells something of the background of the book, and gives an insight into the way publishing was conducted before it became the province of corporate bean-counters:

PREFACE
Even to acknowledge that we were around in the early seventies is something of a giveaway, but Peter and I wrote “It’s Your Money” when we were very young – five to be exact.

We’d just hooked up again after a few years – we were at school together – and discovered that we were both trying to make a living as writers. We decided to pool our talents, and at first concentrated on TV, coming up with a play about football hooligans entitled “Peanut”. It was almost immediately pulled out of the slush pile at London Weekend Television by an astute script editor, the lovely Patricia Larbey, wife of Bob Larbey of “The Good Life” fame. Imagine anything being pulled out of the slush pile these days…

But despite Patricia championing our cause, we didn’t get too far at LWT. We had ideas for two comedy series, about a girl band and a restaurant, but the then programme controller – later a very big TV wheel indeed – told us that the viewing public wouldn’t be interested in either setting. (A couple of years later “Rock Follies” and “Robin’s Nest” both became big hits. Don’t get me started…)

Instead, the LWT powers-that-be put us to work knocking out gags for camp comedian Larry Grayson. Trouble was, the gags couldn’t refer in any way to the star’s obvious and much traded-on homosexuality… which meant that we were stuck with something of a hard row to hoe. What next?

Well, I’d been subsidising my scribbling by working as a stage manager in a Soho strip club. The way it came about was the way jobs often came about in those days – casual word of mouth. A friend of mine met a stripper on holiday, and when they got back she got him a job at a strip joint just off Dean Street. Once he’d been there a while, a second job become available – or rather a second shift, the strip industry’s working day being divided up 12 to 6, 6 to 12. I was sick of being assistant editor of a printing trade magazine, and when he rowed me in, I jumped at the chance.

Go from a well-paid media job with prospects, to a poorly-paid job involving night work and women who wear tassels? Absolutely. Remember that Harold Wilson – the man who gave the Beatles knighthoods – was still in Downing Street, there was full employment and hippy idealism wasn’t yet dead. Actually, being career-minded was regarded as a bit infra dig, marking you out as a soulless ‘breadhead.’ And crucially, if you didn’t like your job, you could find another in a matter of days. Last resorts were working in Harrods and teaching – the latter, apart from a degree of some sort, requiring no special training then.

Anyway, I was changing lights, operating an ancient Ferrograph tape recorder and heating up a lava lamp to resemble an erect penis, while Peter was knocking out scripts for industrial films – what these days would probably be known as ‘corporate videos’. One evening over a drink I was telling him about my day, which culminated in me having to chuck out a punter who was fondling himself under a bowler hat on his lap. Peter – who had plenty of experience of West End lowlife himself – started to laugh, and said “That’s it! That’s what we do next – we take the lid off strip!”

So we started on the project, at first putting together a film screenplay. We’d got plenty of writing experience by now, and it didn’t take too long, but we quickly found out something that applies now as then – it’s very, very difficult to sell an original screenplay on spec (and we didn’t of course have an agent, nor had it occurred to us to try and get one.)

Long story short, we punted the screenplay around, getting the usual “thanks but no thanks,” and pretty much ended up hitting a brick wall. I guess we might have left it there, but something told us that this was a story worth telling, so we decided to start all over again, this time writing the story in novel form – the book you’ve just downloaded, in fact.

I’ve already implied that things often got done more informally in those days. If you wanted a job on a building site, the chances are the foreman would point you at a wheelbarrow and tell you to get on with it. You didn’t have to fill out an application form and tell him what you aimed to be doing in five years’ time. Nor would he have regaled you with Murphy & Co.’s “mission statement.” So believe me if I say that “It’s Your Money In My Pocket, Dear, Not Mine In Yours” found its way to a publisher via someone Peter met in a pub (he has no recollection of the encounter) who knew someone who knew someone who was starting up a publishing company.

That company turned out to be Quartet, under the aegis of former Panther Books execs William Miller and John Boothe. By modern standards, their taking us on was amazingly straightforward – they called us in, offered us cups of tea and said “we like it and we’re going to publish it.” No wading through layers of minions, no major re-writes… and they even offered a decent advance. (Belated thanks to them – sadly, William died in 2009, after a later career spent largely in Japan.)

And so it was, in 1973, that we found ourselves among the first releases of the new company, which was shortly to achieve a degree of notoriety with the publication of the frank – for then – Joy of Sex. We got a raft of good reviews from papers like The Times and the Manchester Evening News, and even did a radio interview along with the Chairman of the Soho Society. For a nanosecond we thought we had it made when legendary film director Joseph Losey showed an interest.

In the end, Losey passed – although we did get an offer from another, less distinguished, film mogul, who wanted to parcel up options into such small bits, spread over so many years, that we’d have been lucky to afford a packet of Woodbines with each payment. The fact that the address of his company was something like ‘Behind the Lockups, Balls Pond Road’ was also a clue that he was no David Lean in the making.

What the publication of “It’s Your Money” actually led to was one more book, “Engulfed In A Tide Of Filth” (also available on Kindle) before Quartet was taken over, becoming a respected but less radical outfit than the one that Willie and John had set up. There was apparently no room for snarky, smutty comic fiction under the new regime, and our joint book output was put on hold until the publication of our bio of Keith Moon, “Moon The Loon” (“Full Moon” in the US) in 1981. In fact we seem to have been air-brushed, Soviet-style, from Quartet’s official history – the company can apparently find no mention of us or our books in the company’s records.

So, almost forty years after its original publication, how does “It’s Your Money” stand up? Well, obviously it’s a period piece. It’s set in a world where stereo speakers were a bit of a novelty, computers were confined to James Bond films, and the idea of mobile phones was too wild even for science fiction. Flying cars, yes. Phones you can carry around? Much too far-fetched…

By the same token, Soho was a far cry from being the stamping ground of ad men, designers and video directors that it is today. In those days, not long after the gang wars of the fifties and sixties, it was a proper red light district, chock-full of strip clubs, clip joints, peep shows and business girls. Not to say that anything would happen to you if you took an evening stroll around Old Compton Street or Wardour Street, but you had to keep your wits about you – even if you were bent on legitimate pleasure, heading for Ronnie Scott’s, The Flamingo or any of another half-dozen music hotspots.

The strip joint that “It’s Your Money’s” Le Can-Can is based on was one of the classier establishments – which means to say that it featured sets, costumes, even a choreographer. It’s a tribute to the phlegm of the girls that not only did they have to hurtle back and forth across Soho to slot into the schedules of the clubs – which only employed a few dozen girls between them – they might have to get ‘em off whilst pretending to be Sleeping Beauty, Marie-Antoinette or Titilayo the African Princess and lip-synching to Petula Clark.

The punters didn’t care about any of that, of course, as long as they got an eyeful of what they’d paid to see. Not a huge amount, either – 50p if I remember rightly, and for that you could stay as long as you liked. We had one old gent, ex-army, who’d come in at 12 noon and stay until midnight, sustaining himself with egg sandwiches and leaving his seat only for toilet breaks. I had to sort out a terrible pensioner stand-off when another ancient punter took his place while he was doing his ablutions.

So yes, the book is set in a different, long-vanished world. Almost all of the ‘live show’ strip clubs are gone. For better or ill, Soho is now a lighter, brighter, more bushy-tailed kind of place, where you’d be happy to take your spouse – or your children – for dinner. Inevitably, because it’s a period piece, the book has dated here and there. Writing it now, we’d probably do some things differently, but not too many – and indeed, we’ve taken a more modern perspective on the place and period in our recent film and TV screenplays entitled “Flash Chord.”

All that remains to say is that I hope you enjoy reading “It’s Your Money” as much as Peter and I enjoyed writing it all those years ago. Welcome to Le Can-Can!

Written by Chris Trengove

October 11, 2014 at 11:20 am

EXTRACT FROM ‘LOOM: ISLAND OF TERROR’

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LOOM recently topped Amazon.com ratings in the ‘comedy horror’ genre, although it’s actually more horror than comedy – and what comedy there is, is extremely dark. The story tells what happens when Nick, Claire and their wayward son Jack move from London to Loom, a remote island off the Scottish coast. They’re looking for a simpler lifestyle in a close-knit community – but almost immediately things start to go horribly wrong:

The atmosphere at supper was tense. Claire was drinking hard and fast, already two thirds through a bottle of rioja. Even though she didn’t know the full truth, she was furious that Muppet was still missing. Jack, pale, but apparently compos mentis, was texting while eating. Irritated, Nick said:
“Do you have to do that?” Jack continued texting.
“Yes.” Finally he looked up. “Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of laughs around this table.”
“And whose fault is that?” said Nick. Jack sighed heavily. “Probably mine, dad. Seeing as how I’m such a useless dickhead.”
“Christ Jack,” said Claire, slurring her words a little, “give it a rest. You might be more use if you weren’t out of it half the time.” Jack looked at her with contempt in his eyes. “Yeah, I’m the only one round here who’s ever out of it.” Claire stared at him. “Don’t you dare…” But Jack cut her off. “Dare what? You’ve got no right to tell me what to do.”
Claire put the glass down, stabbed at her food with her fork. “Having a couple of glasses of wine is not the same as getting out of your mind on drugs.”
“I told you, I was ill, all right?” Claire shook her head disbelievingly.
“Claire,” said Nick, “if he says he was ill, he was ill.”
“Right, side with him. You always do in the end.” She got up abruptly, took her plate, scraped the remaining food into the bin.
Jack’s phone signalled an incoming text. He smiled briefly as it flashed up ‘CAZ.’
Claire returned to the table, arms folded. “Fair do’s though Jack,” she said, “in your own way you’re some kind of genius.”
Jack looked up from his phone, mustered a world of scorn into one word: “What?”
“I mean, somehow you’ve managed to sniff out drugs in a place where they think ground coffee is exotic. How’d you manage that? Where’d you get the stuff?”
“Stuff? There’s no stuff!”
“Oh no, of course not. So your eyes are dilated, you look like shit, you can’t walk straight. That’s from eating school dinners, is it?”
“Claire, he’s a teenager!” Nick said.
“Then ask this fucking teenager where he’d been that night when PC Plod brought him home!”
Nick looked the question at Jack, who blinked, suddenly shifty. Quickly, he returned his attention back to his iPhone. “Well? Where were you?” Jack didn’t look up, his fingers furiously tapping.
“Out. I hooked up with some other kids.”
“On our first night on the island?” said Claire. “How could you know anyone – you hadn’t even been to school.” His face a mask of contempt, Jack held up the phone. “Modern communications technology – ever heard of it?”
Although this dinner was swiftly going the way of all too many family meals before, Nick tried to make peace. “Look, Jack, it’s OK if you hang out with people, as long as you don’t…”
“Don’t what?” Jack interrupted. “Oh, you mean get in with,” he made the ‘inverted commas’ sign, “bad company? Break the rules?”
Nick’s tone hardened. “You know what I mean. This is supposed to be a fresh start. We don’t want any secrets.” This time Jack actually smiled, a mirthless grimace.
“Sure. No secrets in this family, right?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Claire gave Nick a hard look. “Yes, what is that supposed to mean?”

Later, a hissing match in the bedroom, Claire pacing around: “You bastard! When were you going to tell me?” Nick passed his hand over his face, rubbed his eyes. “There’s nothing to tell Claire. We were looking for Muppet.”
“Oh, right, funny you didn’t ask me to help look. No, it turns out some twenty-two-year-old barmaid is Hercule bloody Poirot!”
“She’s closer to thirty.” Nick knew it was weak even as he spoke the words. Claire’s eyes flashed. “Oh, same age as your internet bitch – that makes all the difference!”
“Claire, Shelley knows the area. She played there when she was a kid.” Claire pounced on it. “And now she’s playing with you there. How nice!” Claire paused, faced Nick with her arms folded. “Nick, do you seriously expect me to believe you after all that shit I put up with back home.” Nick thought the worst was over, reached for her.
“Claire,” he said softly – but it wasn’t over and Claire pulled away from him. “Get your hands off me, Nick. I’m going.” She marched towards the door. Nick took a step towards her. “What do you mean, going? There’s nowhere to go.”
“I’m just going, OK? Don’t try to stop me.”
It was raining as Claire stormed out of the store and jumped into the car. She keyed the Mondeo’s ignition, but it wouldn’t start, which enraged her further. When it finally fired up, she slammed it into gear and peeled out furiously, tyres skidding on the wet tarmac.

The watchers followed the car, communicating by soft sibilant sounds. The sounds became more urgent as the car’s lights disappeared into the distance, and the watchers increased speed, catching up with the vehicle without difficulty. They stayed well back, out of sight.
Claire was now up on the island’s perimeter road – pretty much the only road – driving too fast. She knew that if she continued to drive it wouldn’t be long before she ended up where she had started. In frustration, she slammed her palms against the steering wheel, and almost clipped the barrier that divided the road from a sheer drop to the sea. Because she was travelling too fast, when she sped around the corner by the lighthouse and saw the body in the road, all she could do was slam on the brakes. The car slid in the wet, scraped along the barrier, sparks flying, spun and hit the body. Claire felt a sickening lurch as the front wheels ran over it. Her head banged into the steering wheel and she bounced back into her seat, stunned for a moment. Her eyes opened. Instantly sobered, she whispered “Oh my God, what I have I done?” She got out of the car and, filled with dread, stooped to examine the body that was wedged behind the front wheels. It was face down, top half in the road, bottom half under the car.
She knelt and, apprehensive almost to the point of paralysis, reached out. The body had been totally motionless but as she touched it, it writhed! Twisted. Turned to face her. Claire screamed as she saw its face for the first time: deathly white, lips drawn back in a dreadful rictus-grin – huge, blood-stained incisors.
This incomprehensible thing was alive and grinning at her!
Claire sprang up. Collided with something. Or someone. She screamed again. Spun around. Found herself face to face with another such creature. The same grin. The same flesh-and-blood stained teeth.
Claire spun away, now unable to stop screaming, only to collide with yet another vision of horror. Every way she turned, a blood-chilling mutant closed in on her, reaching for her, seizing her.
She went down and her attackers’ claws extended, ripping into her throat; as she fell the creatures piled in on her, slashing, tearing, biting.
Her dying screams mixed with the horrible, spine-chilling ‘voices’ of her mutant killers.

Written by Chris Trengove

October 7, 2014 at 11:02 am

CHAPTER 1 OF ‘BLOOD RANCH’

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BLOOD RANCH was the first horror story that Peter and I wrote together, originally as a screenplay. We eventually adapted it into novella form, at the same time bringing it forward in time from the classic ‘Western’ period to the present day. It’s scary vampire stuff, with some wry laughs along the way, but also has something to say about the current state of the US, as shown in this opening chapter:

THIS IS NOT A PLACE TO WALK ALONE, this remote stretch of border country, arid, scrubby, snake-infested. Even the coyotes and their hopeful, fearful clients aren’t sure where the border runs without the help of their handheld GPS systems. And the U.S. Border Patrol trucks prefer not to drive this stretch, leaving it to air patrols and infrared sensors. The sensors often fail, fried by the desert heat and frozen in the desert night. Even when they work, they often cannot tell the difference between the coyote guides and their followers and the real coyotes – scraggy, flea-ridden beasts that scurry through the desert scrub, ribs like a pawn shop xylophone.
Right here, on the border, a deep ravine and a short ugly cliff divide despair and poverty from hope of riches. The setting sun and the stored heat in the sand and rock create a thermal that climbs the cliff and reaches invisibly up into the darkening skies, and on that thermal an eagle soars, momentarily silhouetted, black, against the sun. But even after it has traversed the sun, it remains black. Jet black, with burning eyes.
Wings spread, the burning-eye eagle makes a majestic turn which takes it lower and lower.
There’s a chill wherever its shadow falls. Rats, rabbits and reptiles flee but the eagle has no interest in this prey.
It lives on blood. Human blood.
A formidable black all-terrain vehicle traverses this harsh world. A huge SUV elongated to hearse-like proportions. Its tripled shocks pump as knobbly tires pound rocks and dirt. Smoked glass windows. Silver trim. The low-down growl of a behemoth V12, supercharger whistling. The five-ton vibrations transmit through the rock and sand causing small creatures to flee in terror, and a group of dehydrated wannabe immigrants to cower deep in a ravine. Even their coyote is intimidated. Crosses himself surreptitiously. Looks up. Sees the swooping eagle. Crosses himself again. His charges whimper.
Now the eagle is barely five feet off the ground, closing in on the vehicle, head – fierce beak and burning eyes – turned toward the driver’s window. The glass slides down to reveal a man behind the wheel, late middle age and powerfully built.
His elegant three-piece suit, watch chain glittering across its vest, is clean and uncreased. This man is timeless, hard to place. Neither American nor Mexican. Weather-beaten. Clean-shaven.
He watches the eagle complete a swooping circle, once more passing in front of the setting sun, which is now kissing the surrounding hilltops. And there, silhouetted, is a band of cross-border vigilantes. Thugs, rapists and opportunists. Gun show-bought semi-auto weaponry, 50-round mags, internet-modified firepower. These men are on a mission: to keep the fucking spics out of America. Kill the men and rape the women. Steal anything in their pathetic stashes that might be of value. If the Border Patrol can’t do the job, these psychos will do it for them.
And here, hoo-boy, is a ve-hicle that reeks of wealth and booty.
It never occurs to them to wonder why their trucks and bikes – and they themselves – are smothered in dust, streaked with sweat, while the subject of their attentions might have emerged from a car wash just moments ago.
The vigilantes fire up their engines and, Nugent blasting from their sound systems, accelerate across the desert, arrow formation towards the intruder.
The eagle circles high above, looking down on the coming mayhem, dusk rapidly falling.
The driver calmly watches the approaching convoy, easing off the throttle and coming to a halt.
The vigilantes circle the massive vehicle, closing in as the eagle screams from the skies. Not a warning but a war cry. The vigilantes exit their trucks, dismount from their bikes. Slam their magazines, rack their shotguns. They close in, eyes locked on the immaculate driver who shows no fear. Most in his position would, they know, be making a futile run for it. Pleading. Or bargaining. But this man radiates power, and the vigilantes’ dust- and dirt-stained faces begin to show the first signs of uncertainty, unnerved by the stillness of their out-gunned and outnumbered prey. Their now fear-tinged hatred is almost tangible.
The vigilante leader steps toward the driver’s window, AK-47 loosely cradled in his arms. He’s too macho to betray his anxiety by aiming the weapon directly at his victim. The driver remains still as stone, curiously dead eyes fixed on the approaching man. The vigilante raises his gun, aims it for the first time and slowly begins to squeeze the trigger.
At the last second, he shifts his aim and puts a fiery burst right through the hearse-like rear bodywork of the vehicle. At least, the burst ought to pass through it, but instead, the bullets ricochet off bullet-proof glass and steel.
The vigilante leader is forced, humiliatingly, to duck and dive to avoid the ricochets.
There’s some sniggering from his followers, sharks only too willing to rip their leader apart at the slightest sign of weakness; but he swings the weapon toward them and they know he wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger if that’s what it takes to maintain his control.
He turns back to the vehicle but the driver’s window is sliding up, shutting him out with a solid thunk, the glass black and opaque. He isn’t going to risk a repeat of the ricochets, so the vigilante leader approaches the back of the hearse. As he reaches it, the rear window lowers.
Invitingly?
The leader glances at his followers, who are all watching him intently. Fear is leeching out from the rear window, its cold hand squeezing his heart, but the price of leadership is no way back. He returns his gaze to the vehicle, peers in; sees only darkness, a black silk curtain hanging between the rear window and the vehicle’s interior.
He reaches out cautiously with the gun barrel, lifts the silk with its tip.
His expression turns to sheer terror as the entity within lunges at him, jaws smashing through his ribcage and seizing his living heart, ripping it, pulsing, blood jetting, from his chest.
The vigilante leader’s scream dies with him, a terrible choking gurgle.
His followers are frozen in place, too shocked by what they have seen – what did they see? – to scramble to their own vehicles and get the hell out of there.
And, frozen, they are easy prey for the huge, shadowy creature that materializes from the hearse and destroys them as easily as it did their leader. Chests implode. Hearts eviscerated. Blood drained. Not one of them quick enough to escape the speed and ferocity of this spectral force.
As the slaughter ends, the big vehicle moves off into the darkness.
The illegals and their coyote, hiding in the ravine, did not see the murderous confrontation but when the big vehicle has moved off, its muffled roar and the vibration of its giant tires dying, there is only silence. Not even the sounds of desert creatures. In that dead silence, the illegals cautiously emerge. They are desperate for food and water. The coyote’s GPS has failed and though he claims to know the way his charges suspect he is as lost and scared as they. Perhaps the gabachos, in their trucks and on their bikes, have left something behind…
They approach cautiously, guided by the rising moon’s light which glints on the vigilantes’ abandoned vehicles. The coyote and the first few men examine the vehicles, gratefully sucking the canteens and plastic water bottles dry, but a couple of kids, more curious and resilient, less desperate for water, move ahead,
Their screams, shrieks of undiluted terror, bring their parents running. Slowly, a circle gathers around the mutilated corpses. Parents hide their children’s eyes. Men try to shield their women. But the carnage, the savage brutalization that each corpse shares, the whiteness of the blood-drained bodies, draws their gazes, forces them to look.
“Los Eternos,” whispers a woman. “Los eternos de sangre.”

Written by Chris Trengove

October 2, 2014 at 2:57 pm