Chris Trengove

Writing about writing

‘CLAWS OF FURY’ – Prologue and Chapter One

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CLAWS OF FURY was originally published by Bloomsbury in 1996, under the title KATZERS. It was one of the first swathe of titles to be published by their just-set-up children’s division, soon to become awash with money when Harry Potter took off. Despite the promise of publicity and promotion for KATZERS, little was forthcoming, and the book was also saddled with possibly the most hideous cover of all time. CLAWS OF FURY is now available again on Amazon Kindle with a great cover by renowned comics artist Kev Hopgood, as is its sequel CLAWS OF THUNDER. I’m working on the third book in the Trilogy, CLAWS OF VENGEANCE, aiming at publication in 2015.

As he approached the foothills, the young Katzer warrior reined in his mount and turned to look back over the plain.
It was a day’s ride away now, but in his mind’s eye he could still see the battlefield: the scattered dead, the wounded supporting each other as they staggered from the scene of slaughter, Mangies to their tented camps, Katzers to their walled cities.
He shook his head as if the gesture would rid him of the pain, the dull ache that had been his companion for every step of the ride. He felt the place where his right ear had once been. Now there was nothing but a ragged stump, the fur around it caked with dried blood. It was the legacy of a wild stroke from a Mangy shortsword . . . and the beginning of the legend of One-Ear Tom.
It had been a great victory for the Katzers. The Mangies outnumbered them, and they were savage fighters, giving no quarter. But they were disorganised and undisciplined. In the end, they were beaten by the subtle strategies of the Katzers, led by three warrior chiefs – Tom, his brother Tamm and Fleekolla.
Yet for Tom, it was a hollow victory. He had seen many friends killed or wounded. He had also seen Tamm die, going down under a howling, snarling pack of Mangies. Pity his poor young widow,and the kit she was expecting!
Tom wanted no more of it. His taste for fighting had been dulled by years of war. Now he just wanted peace, quiet and, above all, solitude.
He turned away from the plain. He flicked the reins, and the big dappled war rat snorted once and moved off, picking its way carefully over the loose rocks.
Above him, in the distance, he could see the snow-covered peaks of the Stony Mountains . . .

With all the fluid grace of his cat forebears, Ninelives padded down the dark alleyway, his smoky grey fur blending with the shadows. He scanned the grimy, peeling walls for an escape route – a door, a window, anything. He was only seconds in front of his pursuers, and – spit and screech, it was a dead end! No, wait. There, in the wall, a gate . . .
He wrenched it open and found himself in a courtyard, a green, shady place walled in on all sides. He looked around. Which way? Not much choice – back the way he had come, or through an archway that led to some steps. There was no cover, just a few shrubs and plants, nothing that would hide even his slim frame. So if he didn’t hit the steps they’d got him for sure . . .
Ninelives sprinted for the archway and leaped up the steps, taking them three at a time. Moments later, his pursuers arrived in the courtyard.
There were two of them; a girl with salmon-pink fur, a boy with a glossy black coat and white hind-paws. The girl pointed at the archway. ‘He must have gone that way. There’s no other choice.’
The boy grinned. ‘Ha! I know this building. My uncle used to live here. There’s only a couple of flats up there, and then the roof. We’ve got him!’
Whooping excitedly, the pair rushed for the archway and up the stairs.
Ninelives had already reached the roof. Claws of hell! A sheer drop on all sides! The nearest building was five metres away, across a side street. He looked down at the street, which was
thronged with Katzers, rushing to finish their shopping for the coming Katerwaul Festival. It was at least ten metres down, a risky drop even for a young, fit Katzer like Ninelives.
There was no way, and yet . . . Ninelives could hear the stairway echoing with footsteps as his pursuers closed in on him. He made a fast decision. As the boy and the girl burst through the door onto the roof, they saw Ninelives dashing for the edge.
The girl put her forepaw out in a warning gesture. ‘Hey, don’t . . .’ she shouted, her cry dying in her throat as Ninelives launched himself into the void, hind-paws pumping like a long-jumper’s.
He nearly made it. If the rooftop on the other side had been a few centimetres lower, he would have. But instead of hitting the roof hind-paws first, Ninelives slammed awkwardly into the wall, his claws scrabbling at the edge of the roof.
For a moment, Ninelives hung. But his strength had been knocked out of him by the impact, and his grip quickly began to falter. He looked down. Some of the Katzers in the street below had spotted him and were pointing upwards. On the opposite rooftop, the girl and the boy were shouting and waving their arms.
Ninelives didn’t hear them, nor the Katzers in the street. He relaxed his limbs, letting the key muscle groups fall into place. Then, as the crowd below gasped, he dropped, feet first.
The moment stretched out, dreamlike . . . then suddenly, halfway down the wall, Ninelives seemed to stop in mid-air, as if he’d hit an invisible safety net. Actually, as he dropped, he’d seen a waste pipe which ran across the side of the building, and had instinctively grabbed it. For a moment, it held . . . then sheared away. Again, the crowd below gasped. But instead of breaking away completely, the pipe buckled. Under Ninelives’ weight, it bent towards the ground, creaking and cracking, until, a metre from street level, the young Katzer was able to drop lightly down onto the pads of his feet.
The crowd heaved a sigh, a mixture of relief and disapproval. One of them, a well-dressed, middle-aged Katzer with long, waxed whiskers, shouted at Ninelives: ‘Hey, kit, you want to watch yourself, larking about like that! You might have fallen on someone!’
But Ninelives was already away, his body singing with adrenaline. He was used to being lucky.
‘Sorry! Gotta go!’ he called back over his shoulder as he sprinted off.
By the time his pursuers dashed out into the street, Ninelives had disappeared and the crowd had dispersed. Hands on hips, the girl glared up and down the street. ‘Spit!’ she exclaimed. ‘KatHunt is supposed to be a game! How dare he take risks like that! Wait till I get hold of him! I’ll kill him myself! I don’t care if he is my brother!’

Twenty kilometres from Katzburgh, out on the plain, Warrod the Cur paced up and down the tent of skins and furs that was his headquarters, twirling the gnarled hardwood ‘war rod’ that had made him famous. Part wolf, part dobermann, two metres of solid muscle, Warrod looked every bit the ruthless warrior he was.
He was attended by his two deputies, Rottler the rottweiler and Gizzard, known as the Merciless, apit-bull crossbreed whose compact build belied his legendary ferocity. They both knew better than tointerrupt their chief when he was thinking.
Warrod spoke, the sudden harshness of his voice making his deputies flinch. ‘A festival, you say?’
‘That’s right guv. They call it the Katerwaul Festival,’ said Rottler. ‘Once a year they hold it. Quite an occasion, I’ve heard tell.’
Warrod sneered. ‘An occasion, eh? It sounds as though you’d like to go and join in the fun. You wouldn’t be a Katzer-lover, would you, Rottler?’
Rottler shifted his feet uneasily. ‘Hey, not me, Warrod. I’m no Katzer-lover. I just meant –’
Gizzard continued for the tongue-tied deputy: ‘He just meant that it’s quite an event, Warrod. It starts off with this big race in the main square, then there are circuses, sideshows, all sorts of things. It usually goes on for days.’
‘Well, it won’t this year!’ said Warrod, his eyes glittering. ‘Because this year those fun-loving fishgobblers are going to entertain some special guests: Warrod the Cur and the hordes of the Mangies!’
Rottler looked dubious. ‘Er, with respect guv, it seems a bit unfair. I mean, attacking them when they’re having a knees-up. Know what I mean?’
Warrod exploded, smashing his rod down onto the table with tremendous force. ‘By the fangs of the Cur! We’re talking about the enemy here Rottler!’
A spasm of fear passed across the deputy’s battle-scarred face. ‘I know guv, but –’
Without warning, Warrod reached out and grasped Rottler by the throat, lifting his heavy bulk effortlessly off the floor. As Rottler gagged helplessly, Warrod thrust his face close to his deputy’s muzzle. ‘The Katzers are the enemy, he hissed, and don’t you forget it. It’s them or us Rottler! Katzers or Mangies!’
Rottler’s eyes were bulging, but he managed to croak: ‘Y-yes, Warrod, them or us. I know, I know!’
As suddenly as he had grabbed it, Warrod released Rottler’s throat, pushing his coughing, choking deputy away from him in disgust.
He started pacing again, for all the world as if nothing had happened. Finally, he turned and looked at Gizzard and Rottler. ‘Tell me, why do you think the Katzers live in comfort, while we Mangies have been reduced to eating lizard meat?’
Rottler and Gizzard had no answer.
‘Wham!’ The war rod smashed down again, this time onto a stout wooden chest. The lid of the chest splintered under the impact. Warrod’s eyes glittered as he hissed at his two deputies: ‘I’ll tell you why! It’s not because they’re cleverer or tougher than us. It’s because they’re better organised. That’s why they beat us forty years ago, and that’s why they’re better off than us now!’ Warrod emphasised his point by sweeping everything off the table with his rod, lamps and dishes smashing on the floor at the feet of Rottler and Gizzard.
Rottler licked his lips nervously. ‘Yeah, right, guv. I couldn’t agree more.’
Warrod turned his piercing gaze on Rottler. ‘I don’t want agreement Rottler, I want action! Finally, under my leadership, the Six Tribes of the Mangies are united. Now, for the first time in forty years, we can grind those milk-drinkers under our heels!’
Rottler nodded enthusiastically. ‘Under our heels! Right! We’ll fix those Katzers!’
‘We’re your men, Warrod,’ said Gizzard softly. ‘Just give us the word!’
Warrod’s cold stare swept over his two deputies. ‘I’ll give you the word, Gizzard. The word is kill! The word is burn! We’ll hit them right when they’ll feel it most – in the middle of their precious festival!’
Rottler looked dubious again. ‘But – with the greatest respect guv – we know that they double the guards. . . and they check out every traveller arriving at the town . . . and . . .’
Warrod interrupted him. ‘You’re forgetting something Rottler. The Mangies now have a leader – a leader who’s survived years of tribal war and four assassination attempts. So this time, Rottler, we’ll use our intelligence.’
Rottler tried, unsuccessfully, to look intelligent. ‘Intelligence, right guv, I’m with you.’
For a moment, it almost looked as though Warrod was going to smile, but he didn’t. Instead he turned to his other deputy. ‘Gizzard, I want you to infiltrate Katzburgh, find out what’s going on, take hostages if you have to. I want an up-to-date report on the Katzers’ defences.’
‘I’m on my way.’ Gizzard left the tent, while Warrod continued to issue orders. ‘Rottler, I want you to call a meeting of the Top Dogs.’
Rottler was all business. ‘Right guv, no problem. Er, when do you want the meeting for, exactly?’
Warrod looked at his deputy as if he was talking gibberish.
Rottler continued quickly: ‘I mean, they’re all pretty busy, being Top Dogs and all . . . how about tomorrow at noon?’
Warrod drew himself up to his full height, his hackles rising as if electrified, his yellow eyes
bulging with rage. ‘Now!‘ he screamed, swiping at Rottler with his rod. ‘You thick-necked excuse for a half-witted tripehound! When I say I want something done, I want it done now!’
Rottler scuttled towards the exit, warding off Warrod’s blows with his thick forearms. ‘Right guv, got you. I’ll have them here right away. They’ll be here immediately, if not sooner . . .’
So saying, moving amazingly fast for such a heavily built Mangy, he escaped through the tasselled doorway of the tent.

Ninelives made straight for the main square of the city, the Katzerplace. He had a plan. He knew that, the day before Katerwaul, the square would be filling up with market stalls, all laden with festive delicacies – smoked carp and roach, eel fingers, starling kebabs, fragrant cream and yoghourt dishes.
It would be filled with strong smells that would throw a cloak of confusion over his tracks.
Ninelives rounded a corner into a street which led to the Katzerplace, only to find his way blocked by dozens of colourful hand-painted wagons and trailers. Spit and screech! The circus! The street was closed and the only way ahead lay through an entrance with a turnstile, guarded by a tough-looking Katzer who was as wide as he was tall.
As he got closer, Ninelives recognised him. It was Sly Squat, a swaggering bully with whom he’d had a number of run-ins over the years. Ninelives hadn’t seen him around in a while, and now he came to think of it, Spacer had mentioned something about his joining the circus.
Ninelives thought fast. He smiled to himself. Here was a chance to put distance between himself and the other two, and get up Sly’s nose at the same time. Ignoring the queue of young Katzers waiting to get in, he dashed towards the entrance of the circus, and, right under Sly’s nose, vaulted over the turnstile.
‘Oi you!’ Sly called after him. For a moment, it looked as though he was going to desert his post and chase Ninelives, but there were too many excited young Katzers in the queue. He contented himself with snarling after Ninelives: ‘Don’t worry, kit, I’ll get you later!’
Then he sullenly turned back to his customers, his hand already out for entrance money.


Written by Chris Trengove

November 6, 2014 at 11:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized


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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


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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:

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


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LOOM recently topped 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


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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.
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


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We published this last year as a belated sequel to our seventies striptease novel IT’S YOUR MONEY IN MY POCKET, DEAR, NOT MINE IN YOURS – not least because the earlier book continues to sell steadily, and we thought readers deserved to know what happened next! In EMPORIUM, the failing club is taken over by a strippers’ co-operative bankrolled by demented Chinese communist carpenter Chan, and stage manager Jeff, who took time out to try and become a photographer, finds himself back at the club. Here, in one of the more romantic chapters of the book, he takes beautiful star stripper Dolly out for a night on the town…


Calming Chan down, getting him to re-hire everyone, and convincing The Major that the whole Free World wasn’t under immediate threat, at least not by one small Chinese carpenter, had taken him most of the day. He’d had to close the club as well, as all the seating was soaked.  He just hoped it would be dry enough by opening time tomorrow.  On top of all that, he was getting a sneaking suspicion that Chan was up to something – planning more decisive revolutionary action than simply haranguing the girls in the dressing room. Man of the people though he was, he hoped that Chan wasn’t going to destabilize the club’s fragile economy just as it was starting to edge into the black.

So all told he was tired, and slightly pissed, and had he not had a tryst with Dolly, he might well have shot off home, rolled a large one and got an early night. As the club had been closed he hadn’t seen Dolly all day, and he wondered whether she’d show up. She was probably just having him on, he reflected, and tomorrow there’d be some excuse, and he’d have to pretend he knew she wasn’t being serious. But, just in case, he’d nipped round the corner to Austins in Shaftesbury Avenue and treated himself to a new Arrow shirt, pale blue, with button-down collar.

Jeff looked at his watch: ten twenty. He’d give her ten more minutes. He pulled out his tobacco, expertly made a thin roll-up. He took a puff, wondered what to do if she did turn up. Should they stay in The Fox? Typical Soho pub, walls and ceiling darkened by decades of nicotine, a clientele of hardened drinkers, prozzies and clapped-out Bohemians. Not exactly a romantic environment. Maybe he should take her to Ronnie Scott’s. James Moody was on, and he wanted to see him anyway. So even if it was a bust with Dolly, he’d get to hear a good night’s jazz. Then he remembered that a lot of girls hated jazz, and that one date he’d taken to the Bull’s Head at Barnes had dumped him as they left the club.

Ten twenty-five. She obviously wasn’t coming anyway. He shouldn’t have let himself think that she might. I mean, it was ridiculous. She could have any man she wanted. He didn’t even know what she was doing stripping. She was more like a model, better-looking than most of the ones you saw in the papers and magazines. Brighter too, he was starting to realize.

Half past ten. OK, that’s it. Jeff got up, nodded goodnight to the barman and made for the door. As he opened it he was almost bowled over by a blonde tornado:

“Sorry, sorry… oh, Jeff it’s you, you weren’t going, were you?” Jeff grinned weakly. As usual, she looked stunning. “Nah, just going to get a bit of fresh air.”

“Oh good, I ran all the way here. They’re over-running at the Crescent Moon. The stage manager there’s bloody useless.” Dolly took Jeff’s arm and beamed up at him. “Not like you. Pity you’re not doing it so much now.”

Jeff didn’t know what to say. No one had ever complimented him on his stage-managing talents before. “OK… well… how about a drink?” he said lamely. Dolly glanced round the pub, took in the complement of drunks and losers.

“Maybe. Not here though.”

“Well, we could go to the Nellie Dean, or the…”

“Dancing! That’s what we should do. We should go dancing!”

Two hours later Jeff was grooving to Desmond Dekker in Count Suckle’s Q Club. He wasn’t sure how they’d got in, although he knew that when you looked like Dolly you had carte blanche to get into almost any club in London.  And he was with her, so that’s how he must have got in.

Jeff was a decent if unshowy dancer, having in another life been one of Ruislip’s  ‘mod’ contingent, but he hadn’t unveiled his moves for a long time. Since the last party he’d attended with Marigold in fact. In the mid-sixties he used to frequent clubs like The Flamingo and Klook’s Kleek when the great horn bands – Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band – were in the ascendant. But the last time he went to see Zoot Money he was shocked to find that the Big Roll Band had overnight transmogrified into Dantalion’s Chariot, and instead of letting the good times roll, they’d become madmen running through the psychedelic fields. That was when he realised it was all over for his beloved soul and R’n’B, and that going to gigs would now usually involve sitting on the floor and nodding your head to endless guitar solos.

But not here at the Q Club. Desmond was giving it all he’d got:


You think I never see you when you jump over de wall

You think I never see you when you accidentally fall

Me said a it mek, mek you pop you bitter gall

I check you out and you’re cold, girl

I dig you out and you’re cold girl

Rock it to me children

Jeff had no idea what the lyrics meant, but he did know that the music was great, and that he felt better than he had in months. Maybe years. And it wasn’t just because he’d had four rum and cokes and, in the gents, smoked some industrial-strength ganja, courtesy of a generous member of Desmond’s band. It was because he was actually enjoying himself – and wow, was Dolly a great dancer! He was surprised, because she didn’t show much of a sense of rhythm in her numbers at the club, but maybe it was because they were so strictly choreographed. And of course she wasn’t so much dancing, as presenting her body for the delectation of a bunch of strangers.

Now she was dancing with him, swerving back and forth to him, grinning with delight, but somehow also forming part of a group of black girls who were doing their own thing, vying with each other’s moves, bending at the knee and getting so close to the ground that he thought that they too might ‘accidentally fall.’ But they didn’t .

The music – relaxed and tense simultaneously – carried him away, and Desmond went into his final verse:


I told you once and I told you twice

Wha’ sweet nanny goat a go run him belly good

Me said a it mek, mek your pop you bitter gall

A it mek, while you accidentally fall

A it mek, hear she cryin’ fe ice water

Right at the end of the song, as the crowd erupted into applause, and Desmond and his sweat-soaked band walked off-stage, Dolly swung into Jeff, pulled his head down and kissed him, deep and long. He responded, holding her close to him, and at that moment realised that this was something, not nothing. She had always been planning to turn up to meet him. The date wasn’t just a whimsy on her part, to be cancelled on an equal whim.

The DJ took over from the band, Many Rivers To Cross following seamlessly on from Desmond’s final notes. Many of the dancers left the floor, the remaining ones coupling up for the dreamy, slow Jimmy Cliff song. Dolly put her arms around Jeff, leant her head on his shoulder and moved slinkily in time to the music. Although she hadn’t been smoking ganja, she’d matched him with the rum and cokes, so was also a little bit tipsy. After a minute she lifted her head and whispered in his ear: “Let’s go somewhere else.”

Jeff was ready to listen to any suggestion from this beautiful girl who seemed, against all the odds, to have taken to him.

“OK, where do you want to go? The Candy Bar? We could get a drink at Gerry’s…”

“Your place,” she said, tickling his ear with the tip of her tongue.

In the cab on the way to Jeff’s flat – suddenly he was the sort of guy who’d call a cab at the drop of a hat – Jeff and Dolly were locked blissfully together. The cabbie checked them out in his rear mirror, but didn’t say anything. Jeff thought he’d detected a ‘look’ when he’d flagged him down outside the Q Club – maybe a ‘white people in black club’ questioning look – but he didn’t care. As long as the cabbie got him back to his place as fast as possible, he didn’t mind if he was Enoch bloody Powell. The cab pulled in outside Jeff’s block, and Jeff paid him, skimping on the tip. Jeff turned away, but the cabbie said:

“Any good then guv?” Expecting some sort of iffy comment, Jeff turned back. “What do you mean?”

“Desmond. Any good? I’m a Toots and the Maytals man meself, but I love that 007 Desmond did. You know, dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail, a shanty town…”

Jeff grinned. “Yeah, he did that… he was great, actually.”

“Nice one. I wouldn’t have minded going meself, but I had a late shift. Anyway, see you guv…”  The cabbie made to head off, but Jeff stopped him, pressed a pound note into his hand. It was a massive tip, and the cabbie’s eyes lit up. “Cheers squire – have a good night!”

Once in the flat, Jeff and Dolly came together like tigers, clawing, scrabbling at each, ripping clothes off too fast, so that they became entangled, harder to remove. But soon they were naked, fell onto the unmade bed, pressed against each other from face to toe. For Jeff it had been a while, and Dolly was so goddamn desirable. He kissed her ravenously, she responded, biting at his neck with sharp little teeth. He ran his hands over her body – such smooth skin! Now totally entwined, Jeff lifted himself up to enter her – and the phone rang.

“Leave it, leave it!” said Dolly urgently, pulling Jeff’s face back down to hers. He left it. But the ringing went on and on. Jeff tried to blank it out, but couldn’t help remembering that last time he’d spoken to his mother she’d said that dad had taken a turn for the worse. Unless it was New Year’s Eve, phone calls in the middle of the night were never good. In his mind guilt wrestled with desire, and guilt won. He picked up the phone.

It was Marigold.

And she was crying.

Written by Chris Trengove

September 24, 2014 at 11:29 am


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Here’s the first part of chapter one of THE FEAR, second book in the FRANKENSTEIN VIGILANTE series. Of it, an American reviewer wrote: “Cerval Frankenstein and his Incorruptibles are back with a vengeance in FRANKENSTEIN VIGILANTE: THE FEAR. The Incorruptibles series of books… takes an interesting and exciting turn in this latest story, which kicks the entire franchise up a lofty notch.”

IT WAS DIFFICULT TO PINPOINT THE MOMENT when the smouldering fire of revolution in The Smoke finally sputtered and died. When the Incorruptibles retreated to the Frankenstein estate to nurse their wounds? When Dalton Trager Rhineheart sold out to Colette Garcia Cognito? In any event, it seemed only moments before the Commission regained its stranglehold on the city-state, and its allies in the coal, iron and steam cartels took heart. Colette would lead the way and life would be good.

At one minute past midnight, Battersby Power Station exploded.

The hulking, stone-built structure, more castle than industrial building, was blown to fragments, everyone in it vaporized. The explosion also blasted a massive crater in the accumulator caverns beneath the station, creating a basin as wide and long as Battersby Park itself. In the five minutes following midnight, every sub-accumulator in The Smoke blew up, in a catastrophic chain reaction that spread darkness, death and panic throughout The Smoke.
No one would ever be able to assess the real effect of the disaster, partly because many who died were reduced to dust, partly because The Smoke wasn’t the kind of place that could accurately account for its population. But the death roll was in the tens of thousands. Houses, offices, warehouses and factories were reduced to brick-sized pieces of rubble. Bridges collapsed, roads were cratered, vehicles tossed into the air like handfuls of nuts and bolts.
And then the disturbances began, what eventually became known as the Electricidad Riots. Since the downfall of the Silencios and the coming of electricidad, the citizens of The Smoke had lived in an uneasy limbo, hoping for things to get better, shrugging resignedly when they didn’t. It was as if the explosions had blown the lid off their frustration. Looting started within minutes of the blast. Individually and in marauding bands, Smokies stole whatever they could find, whatever had any value; and if anyone tried to stop them, that was an invitation to a brutal beating, a violent death.
Murder was a by-product of the looting. But it wasn’t long before it became an end in itself, street predators raping, assaulting, killing with a violence that might have shocked a Manu cannibal.
A couple of hours before the explosions, roiling black clouds had signalled a coming thunderstorm, and Battersby Power Station technicians had begun their routine preparations to capture the coming lightning to convert it into usable power. The father of electricidad, Doctor Pedro Robledo Efrain, and his young assistant Siddeley Yip-Harbottle, were in his lab working on a project for the Incorruptibles, trialling the latest version of Evangeline Evionne’s prosthetic legs. As the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed above his house in suburban Ussher, Efrain glanced up nervously, although Siddeley seemed barely aware of the threatening weather.
In the early days of electricidad, Efrain had supervised the power station during the critical lightning-collection moments. Then, he had been acutely aware that the success of the Electricidad Consortium that he had founded was dependent on the safe capture and conversion of lightning and, though he was a modest man, he had felt that his genius was vital to the process. By the time of the disaster, however, he was learning to trust his well-trained staff. Besides, tonight’s storm came in so fast, the rain pounding down so furiously, that he knew he could not get to the power station in time to oversee the operation.
He focussed on the work in hand.
“Don’t worry Doc,” said his young assistant, “they’ve done this loads of times. Nothing’s going to go wrong.” Smiling wryly at her self-possession, Efrain consoled himself with the thought that she was right. His staff had collected and stored the power of lightning many times before – why should tonight be any different?
But that night was different. Very different.
As the rain pelted down and the thunder rolled, the power station’s people worked the gigantic knife switches, turned the massive potentiometer dials and monitored the huge brass meters even as, with a powerful, humming energy, the control motors thrust Battersby’s cast-iron antennae up into the night sky, probing, searching for that lightning strike, to suck electricidad out of the heavens, transform it into controllable, functional energy.
Moments before midnight, the first lightning bolt struck the antennae, appeared to consume them as it travelled down through the above ground transformers – and at one minute past midnight, the imprisoned lightning began to detonate with unimaginable force.

The next day, as dawn rose bright and clear – clear as it could be in this filthy coal-smoky world – with no trace of the previous night’s extreme weather, the full extent of the damage to the city became clear. Most of the affluent suburbs, built on higher ground, had survived more or less unscathed – including, ironically, Doctor Efrain’s home base in Ussher. The serious damage was mostly in the areas where the sub-accums were situated: the poorer quarters and industrial zones like Burrowham.
More shocking than the physical damage, however, was the almost instant disintegration of The Smoke’s already rotting social fabric.
Police Chief Bar One mobilized his force but their free passage was hampered by huge piles of rubble, tangled metal wrecks which had once been steamers, jitneys and hackneys, as well as bodies, both human and animal.
Hampered, too, by the pitiless barbarity of looters, rioters and opportunistic thieves. Who were they, these people who seemed to appear from nowhere, pillaging shops and dwellings, barricading streets and setting fire to steamers? No one quite knew; although it was a fact that many in The Smoke had been un- or under-employed for decades, bitterly resentful of the concentration of wealth in the Commission’s and the affluenzos’ hands. The brief period following the death of Silencio supremo Franklin Rooseveldt Pfarrer at the hands of the Incorruptibles, when it seemed there might be some hope for the future, had not been long enough for these hatreds to fade. Now the explosions and the chaos which followed provided an opportunity for sweet revenge.

Keira Specklestone Pfarrer, only daughter of the dead Silencio chief, had been woken by the detonations, which were close enough to shatter a couple of the bullet-proof windows of the mansion she had once shared with her father. Designed to look old, but actually built only a few years ago, Cranbury Court offered dozens of bedrooms, as well as dining and living rooms of cavernous proportions. Franklyn Rooseveldt had a preference for the baronial style, and those rooms were decorated with invented coats of arms and the heads of big game animals bought in bulk. Now Keira Specklestone lived in the huge house alone, apart from numerous maids, butlers, cooks, handymen, drivers and the handful of freelance Silencios who, like ronin, had attached themselves to her household as bodyguards. She had assumed that her staff would attend to whatever had caused the sudden noises, and went back to sleep.
The next morning, arising at the crack of eleven, Keira decided that she wanted to visit Rrods & Phortnum, despite distant sounds of riot and mayhem. But if Keira Specklestone was unaware of the smell of burning and death, the rumours of murder and rape, the maid who brought her morning tea wasn’t. She had family in town, and one of them had only narrowly escaped a marauding mob.
“Miss,” she began fearfully, “maybe you shouldn’t…” but it was if Keira were deaf. “Tell… tell… ” Keira couldn’t remember any of her drivers’ names. “Tell them to get my steamer ready. The one with the zebra-skin seats. And run my shower.” The maid saw that Keira wasn’t going to listen to sense, went to the bathroom and ran the shower, then fled to the servants’ quarters and passed on the message. None of the chauffeurs wanted to drive the steamer out into the unknown dangers of The Smoke, but the Silencio newcomers were not so fearful. Violent by nature and training, they were also courageous in their own way, not ones to shrink from conflict. Besides, this might be an opportunity to further ingratiate themselves with Keira and rise up the ladder of her household.
Because Cranbury Court was situated on high ground on the outskirts of The Smoke, the fearful damage of the previous night was not obvious for the first few miles; though groups of UnderGrunts were assembled here and there, restless, like carnivores scenting blood but unsure which way the wind was blowing. The Silencios – a driver and three bodyguards – recognized the threat these groups represented, yet weren’t afraid. They were professionals; the street people were amateurs. They stoked the custom steamer’s boilers, deftly operated the speed levers and gripped their Ximans more tightly.
Keira was oblivious as she gazed through the armoured windows at the passing scene, which gradually became less leafy as they passed out of Cranbury into the city centre. The people didn’t register, not simply because they were UnderGrunts but because she didn’t recognize anyone as human unless they were either friends or celebrities. There was little animosity in her attitude, simply indifference. As to the damage to roads and buildings, the steamer bouncing uncomfortably through potholes and swerving violently around wreckage, she just wondered why, at the level of taxes Daddy paid, the Commission didn’t at least repair the roads.
Daddy. For a moment tears filled her eyes but truth to tell he was already fading fast into the past. Keira lived only in the present, her sole purpose the indulgence of every current whim, at least until it quickly passed.
The Silencios grew grimmer – silent – as the steamer closed on The Smoke’s centre. The worst of the rioting and looting had been concentrated here, where the pickings were the richest. The destruction was far more obvious than at the start of the shopping expedition. Even Rrods itself was severely damaged, its elegant window mannequins lying sprawled and headless, walls cracked and blackened from fire, iron and glass doors hanging. The Smoke’s most exclusive store had a beleaguered air to it, emphasized by a volatile mob of wannabe looters, gathering in dangerous numbers, but held at bay for the moment by Ximan-toting guards wearing Rrods’s plum-coloured livery.
The Silencios read the UnderGrunts’ hungry gazes and knew that sheer numbers – and the prizes within the store – would soon overcome the mob’s fear of the guards.
The driver made a decision. “Miss,” he said, turning to Keira and speaking through the vehicle’s internal AvCom. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”
“What isn’t a good idea?” asked Keira blandly.
“A shopping expedition? At this time? I mean, with the explosions and riots and all that.”
“Explosions? Riots? What are you talking about?” she asked. She was intent on the purchasing orgy to come and had already forgotten the blasts of the night before. The Silencio driver turned to the bodyguards and rolled his eyes. Could any human be this unaware? Nevertheless, he persisted: “I don’t like the look of some of the folk out there.” He was astonished to be interrupted by a high-pitched giggle. “Heeheeeheeee! No one likes the look of them. They’re UnderGrunts! Now, come on, slowpoke, park this baby and let’s buy!”

Written by Chris Trengove

September 11, 2014 at 9:53 am