Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Front Page [plus Cinderella Rockefella video]

The nags were against me.  Six races.  Six bets.  All blown out before the finishing line.  I’m going to change bars, I told myself, this place is bad fucking luck for me.  Superstition and gambling become more impassioned bed fellows the worse your luck is –and mine, mine hadn’t seen anything to show for it in months.
I sat at the bar in the Front Page cursing my luck, cursing the Racing Post, cursing the barman who had talked through the back page of form listings and most probably caused me to rush to a decision when time and a clear head was required.  As the stranger pulled up a seat beside me I cursed him too.  Wednesday afternoon, quite possibly the quietest time in a bar’s week and in a room full of empty, cold seats this prick parks up alongside me.
‘Scotch and water and whatever this guy is having.’
My good friend –the stranger.
The drinks arrive.  I tear up my docket, push the Racing Post to one side and cradle my spiced rum like it’s a new born.  I toss it back as he nips at his, I order up including my new amigo’s tastes in my request.  He looks the grifter type.  He’s a well-worn face, a pair of shoes that have passed too many miles under them and a smile that just doesn’t go with his overall presence.
I take a moment.  Savouring how awkward the silence is.
‘You got any tips for the next one?’ he asks, throwing a glance towards the television set and the list of pun-based names and racing colours.
‘Believe me buddy, you don’t want my tips.’
‘But if you had to choose.’
I consider him, what the fuck’s his problem?
‘If I had to choose… I’d play Glengarry, with maybe Dirty Uncle to place.’
‘Ok.’ the stranger replies ‘thanks.’ Tossing back his drink he gets to his feet, dusts himself down, pushes in his bar stool and leaves.  I turn back towards the TV, towards the bartender and a minute later the creak of the door triggers a ray of light to dance across the tavern before it sighs shut again and there he is.  Parked up alongside me again, unlit cigarette tucked behind the ear, racing docket in his hand.
‘Two more.’
The bartender pours.  We drink.  The race runs.  He loses.
‘I told you so,’ I say ‘I’m going through a slump.’
The stranger nods, gets to his feet and leaves.  This time I watch the door.  The bookmaker’s is across the street and I can all but see him in my mind’s eye casually looking left then right before crossing over and going inside.  Inside for what?  Did the prick win?  Can’t have, he’s left the docket behind.  I look around for support but nobody else seems remotely interested in what’s going on.  Maybe this is why I want to be a writer while most other people in this city just want to be left alone.
The door opens, and he’s returned.  With two hands bursting with bank notes of all denominations; he smiles the smile of a first-prize wanker before he slips back up on to his stool and counts his take.  I look on in awe, and now so does everyone else.  So there are still some things that can get the attention of the perpetually sauced.
‘A round of drinks for all my friends!’ the words are met with an uncoordinated chorus of cheers from the little pockets of high functioning alcoholics that litter the floor on this –one of society's optimum slaving days.
My rum appears but the stomach has fallen out of me and I tentatively nip at it, all the while offering up some side-eye.  He plays at pretending like he hasn’t clocked me but he has, I know he has, and he knows that I know he has.  The games we play.
I go to speak.
He beats me to it.
‘Harvey,’ he says extending his hand, spinning on his stool ‘Harvey Neary.’
‘Doug Morgan.’ I shake.
‘What do you do for a living, Doug?  That’s the sort of questions people ask when they meet new folk and fain interest, right?’
‘That’s one of them, Harvey.  I’m sitting in a bar in the middle of the week.  I’m a Captain of Industry.  I’m a CEO.  I’m the Venue Events Manager of one of those fucking entertainment complexes down by the river.  What about you?  And kids, that’s another one of those questions.  You got any fucking kids Harvey?’
He laughs.
‘Exactly.  No Doug.  No fucking kids.  Based on how rough your fingertips look and the fact that you’re six litres of piss on a Wednesday I’d say musician.’
‘Writer, and I’m only four litres of piss.  What about you?  You back a better pony than the one I picked or…’
‘Actually I just walked in and took this money Doug.’ his voice was cold, low and sincere.  It gave me a shiver.
‘From…’ my eyes chart their way to the door.
Harvey nods, then orders two more drinks, much to the disgruntled disappointment of the rest of the booze house who now sit dry.  I switch to beer.  His eyes are dead and I know for sure I no longer have the stomach for spiced rum.
‘So let me get this straight,’ the beer is cool on my lip ‘you just walked over to Sean Graham and took all that money.’
‘There was one or two more steps to it but… yeah.’
‘And now you sit here.’
‘And now I sit here.’
‘Aren’t you worried about the police?’ As I ask the question I look around at all my fellow drunks.  All of Harvey’s potential meat-shields should he decide to take them hostage when the pigs roll up all lights flashing, ready for big business.  The drink has sapped a lot of my strength.  I’m not the man my frame suggests.  If Harvey was to get serious in here, could I stop him?  Could I do anything other than watch and know that the fear of the moment would be nothing compared to the emasculation that would follow should I make it through the ordeal alive?
‘There’s nothing to worry about.  I don’t envision the police…’
‘Why?’ I lean in, almost trying to sniff the answer from him.  ‘Why don’t you envision the police…’
‘Because everyone in the betting shop is dead.’
Emasculation suddenly looks a lot more appealing and even though I don’t want to ask, I have to.
‘What do you mean dead?  Did… did you kill them?’
Leaning in Harvey maintains my eye ‘Sort of.  I mean it’s complicated Doug.  I didn’t take my hand to any of them, and I didn’t shoot, or stab, or strangle any of them or kill them in what would be deemed a conventional way but yes it was my decision to stop their clocks.’
‘What did you do?’
The questions just keep coming.
‘You wouldn’t believe me Doug, and you wouldn’t really want to know.  You think you want to know but believe me.  You’re much better out of it.’
I look around.  So many pre-corpses.
‘So what, you walk in here, strike up a conversation, kill a betting shop full of people, tell me about it and then what?  Just walk away?’
‘Well, no Doug.’
I’m next.
‘I’ve still got a good two-thirds of a drink in front of me.’
‘And when that’s done?’
‘Depends… is this place any good for lunch?’
‘How’d you kill them?’
‘Leave it alone.’
‘How’d you kill them?’
‘You really want to know?’ his heckles were up.
I nod, even though I’m no longer sure I do want to know.  Maybe it’s more a need.  His eyes wander in their sockets as he picks over his words.  Reaching into his pocket he pulls out his phone and starts typing.  Setting it on the bar he pushes it over to me.  It reads: Cinderella Rockefella.
‘What is this?’ I ask.
‘Asked and answered.’ his grin knowing.
‘I don’t understand, what does this even fucking mean?’
With a sigh of exasperation and a roll of the eye he collects his phone, tucks it away and considers me… again.
‘You asked how I killed all those people, I’ve just shown you.’
‘No,’ now my heckles are rising ‘no.  All you’ve done is type some shit into your phone and piss me off.’
‘In 1967 Esther and Abi Ofarim recorded a song written by Mason Williams and Nancy Ames.  That song was Cinderella Rockefella.  Now, when it’s sung or when you watch a recording of it… like that on the Eamon Andrews Show it’s harmless, annoying but harmless, but when you whistle it…’
‘Whistle?’ I laugh. ‘Fuck Harvey, fuck.  Fuck you really had me going there.  Shit.’ Turning to the bartender I tell him ‘Pour Harvey another drink, I’ll have one too.’
The sound is almost a squawk and as Harvey whistles do, do, do-do, do, do doo-do, do-do-do my eyes take a turn around the bar.  At first nothing happens.  At first the old salts, and drunks, and burnouts carry on carrying on but then there’s a moment.  A moment when they realize that something inside them has stopped.  Clutching their throats, chests, hearts they turn one-by-one to face Harvey, to look to me; to plead for help.  But there’s no help to be given.
They’re dead before they touchdown on the cold, sticky, floor tiles.
I turn to Harvey, breaking away eye contact with a bum I’ve grown particularly fond of during my time at the Front Page.  He used to be a writer too.  A newspaper man.  Harvey is smiling, more of a smirk really.  A real dickhead smirk, a “I told you so” know it all kinda deal.  The type you couldn’t ever get tired of hitting.  I don’t though.  The booze has left me weak and the shock has all but painted a yellow line down my back.
‘See?’ he says.
I nod.
‘Now you know what it is, so the good news is that it can never take you.’
I’m still nodding.  I’ve nothing to say until a question pops into my head; so cautiously I open my mouth and ask it.
‘And what’s the bad news?’
‘Well Doug,’ he takes a sip of a fresh pint abandoned on the bar ‘the bad news is you’re going to need to be real careful about when you relax because one way or another you will end up whistling it and when you do…’ another sip from the pint that was destined to go room temperature and flat passes his lips ‘when you do god help whoever you’re around.  It’ll strip everyone you’ve ever loved right out of your life.’
The click of his fingers snaps me out of my head, back into the room, back into the Front Page surrounded by almost a dozen slowly cooling corpses.  Downing the pint Harvey climbs from his stool, fixes his shirt collar and walks to the exit.  I follow suit.
Outside the city is warm, humming with life and the first bar almost passes my lips simply because I’m trying so hard not to whistle it.
A Fast City teen-mom passes by dressed in her best going-out onesie, pushing a twin-seater stroller and smoking a Berkley Blue.  Harvey smiles my way and with an expanse of the eyes and a double nod of the head all but dares me to do it.  Go on, do it.
The street is busier than normal.  Commuters and curious alike line the other side of the road along a strip of yellow tape as the police (shit!  The Police!) chalk up, and photograph, and dust the multiple crime scene that was once a busy Sean Graham’s bookmaker shop.  Walking head-on into the middle of it Harvey yells to the police, daring their attention maybe?  Or maybe he’s up to something else?
‘Officer!  Officer!  Excuse-fuckin-me officer!!’
‘Sir, watch your tongue.’ the beat cop advises.
I don’t hear much of what’s next due to the hurly-burly that seems to be making its way through the crowd of nosey-parkers but I do recognize the finger of suspicion and it’s being pointed my way.  Harvey winks as he lowers his hand, the police officer’s face is stern –serious and the locals are all clucking away dead-eyeing me and making sure to get all the facts right in their heads for the forthcoming days of gossiping.  With his radio clutched under his helmet strapped chin the cop calls through something.  Soon the betting shop is empty of boys in blue as they all advance towards me with Harvey bringing up the rear.
‘Yup, that’s the guy officer.  I saw him kill every single one of them.  If you ask in that bar you’ll probably find someone who could corroborate the fact that he left with enough time to do all of this.’
I knew he was a prick the moment I saw him, and now this.  A betting shop full of necro-fuck-sleeves, a bar populated with more of the same and this charismatic motherfucker with the unflinching finger pointed my direction.  As the police surround me I pray.  I pray that I’m fifteen again and sleeping off a particularly unpleasant side-effect of some cheap soap-bar.  That one of the police officers would break stoic stride, smirk and let me in on the fact that all this was some elaborate trick played on me for the entertainment of the masses on some hidden camera show.  That maybe I was mad and I haven’t lived a real day in twenty years but the circle kept closing, the officer’s eyes got bigger and closer and fixed while their hands rest on their sidearms.  Without realizing I’m whistling it, I’m whistling it.  Unsure of what’ll happen I blow out do, do, do-do, do, do doo-do, do-do-do.  The boys in blue turn purple from the neck up, grasp at thin air as though they could pluck and swallow it to stave off the on-coming death.
When they’re all dead Harvey gives me a round of applause and leaves.

I return to my stool in the Front Page in an effort to get an idea of what’s next for me while life at New Market races on.

For anyone who doesn't know the song, which is admirable, why not check out Cinderella Rockafella below.  Please remember to use whistling responsibly.

The Front Page is part of Short Stories That All Definitely Happened, due for release in 2015 through Venice Books and first published with the author's consent on Literally Stories.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Story of the Week

The Front Page has been voted Literally Stories' story of the week (Monday 12th - Friday 16th January) by readers of the site and fans on Facebook.  If you're yet to read it, you can check it out [here] and if it turns out to be something you like then please avail yourself of some sample stories from the forthcoming publication Short Stories That All Definitely Happened [here].

Monday, 26 January 2015

Henry Roscoe: Detective, Sort of

At a recent writer’s event in London I was given two pieces of advice by Rob Thorogood, the creator of BBC 1’s Death in Paradise
1. Don’t be working on the same project after a year. 
2. If it doesn’t sell, don’t take it personally.  You delivered.  You completed your side of the arrangement.

By default, I’ve found myself breaking the first rule as I’ve been working on a Noir set in Belfast for the guts of 18 months and change but it was only last May when the project really started taking shape.  Originally, Henry Roscoe: Detective, Sort of was envisioned as a manuscript.  A novel, something that might actually stand a chance of selling (if you’ve seen my royalties you’d understand) but it wasn’t until I’d pushed out a first draft that I had a conversation with a filmmaker friend who was keen on the idea of moving a movie out of it.  Equally interested, I started on the tricky job of adapting the relatively short manuscript (60,000 words) into a spec film script.  The first draft came in at 210 pages/minutes… really?  How is it a slip of a book makes a 3 hour movie?  It’s the age-old trap of trying to edit your own work.

He moved on to another project, the movie idea cooled and I got to thinking maybe it would make a better TV series.  I write a film blog [here] but I’ve been hooked on the Third Golden Age of television since the early days of Tony Soprano, Jack Bauer and co.  I scripted a pilot episode and, on a whim, pitched it to Northern Ireland Screen (NI Screen) who offer Independent Writer Awards to projects they think are worthwhile and, most importantly, commercially viable.

Amazingly, Henry Roscoe – 1.01 “Pilot” made it through to the funding stage without any hitches.  The money hit the bank pretty promptly and since then I’ve been writing, re-writing, adapting, culling, experimenting with non-linear narrative while at the same time adhering to the codes and conventions of Noir (and in particular, the loyal lens).

What I’ve handed in today is, in my own modest opinion, infinitely better than what it had been at manuscript stage, film spec script stage, and the first television draft.  I’ve delivered.  Based on what Rob said I’ve succeeded, though that’s not to say I’m not hoping that my counterparts at NI Screen also make good on their end and line up a production company or channel to bring it to life.  I’d very much like that, but at the moment I’m just content that this challenging, exhausting experience, which has been nothing short of brilliant, has concluded and I haven’t fucked it up. 

I don’t often buy in for validation, praise, or positive reinforcement.  Like many, I tend to put more stock in the first star reviews (which I’ve thankfully avoided until now) than the five star reviews but there’s something undeniably reaffirming about someone giving you money (with a side order of faith).  It’s been a B-12 shot to the soul.

I’m going to take some time off now.  Not long, maybe a week or so, but it’s needed.  I’ve been living with these characters now for a year and a half in which time I’ve bought a house, got married in Las Vegas, and spent an uncountable number of man hours in front of the laptop trying to make the best six episodes of television I possibly can.  I’m not even sure why I’m blogging this.  I think it’s more for me than anyone else reading it.  At best, it’s closing the door on the first stage of development and worst -a goodbye to an unmade project that I might stumble upon in years to come and wonder how I could have forgotten it.

For anyone interested, here’s the show details and logline:

Henry Roscoe: Detective, Sort of

"Logline" In an effort to keep up with the mortgage, Henry O’Toole takes to the streets of Belfast as a gumshoe for hire. As he balances the demands of his new job, his ex-wife, his weekly pub quiz and alcohol addiction it doesn’t take long for him to learn, not all questions come with multiple choice answers.

If you're looking a screenwriter I can be found on Stage 32 or email [here] otherwise, I'll see you soon.

"Synopsis" Set in modern day Belfast, against the competitive world of Pub Quizzes, HR:DSO tells the tale of Henry Roscoe O'Toole, a high functioning alcoholic with acute self awareness and an unmanageable mortgage.  With a dead marriage and a lost job behind him, Henry sets himself up as a Private Detective (sort of) in order to pay the bills; but it's not long before he discovers that what lies in the chiaroscuro shadows of Belfast's streets can cost you more than money.

Monday, 19 January 2015

In The Zone

Intergalactic Space Rangers is a website that promises Science Fiction at its best!  They are currently working on a range of creative endeavors including a TV series and Audio Book series that sets itself up as a 1950's radio-style Twilight Zone meets Tales From the Crypt purveyor of shocks, thrills, spills and kills!

Issue one of Doorways and Dimensions is available now for download [here].  Breathe tells the story of an Astronaut trapped on a space station that's slowly running out of air but filling up with company.  In a forthcoming installment of Doorways and Dimensions, the Intergalactic Space Rangers are going to be taking on one of my short stories; recently published on Literally Stories [read here], The Front Page.

If you've $1.99 to spare help the I.S.R fund future projects and raise the bar for independent artists.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Short Odds

A short story from the forthcoming Short Stories That All Definitely Happened has been published on the excellent new site Literally Stories.  The story is called The Front Page and deals with the trauma of ear-worms.

If you've a spare hour (or two) you could do a lot worse than spend it browsing Literally Stories which is quickly pulling together narratives from incredible writers in the genre.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Smashed Bone

For the next two weeks the first 'Part' of Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l] is free through Smashwords.  Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l]: Part I is an extract from my 2013 released Roman á clef novel about the early days of Douglas Morgan (1979-1991) and deals with the often troubled relationship between his mother, Ruth, and drunken deadbeat father, Jack.

Interested/curious folk can pick up the 1/3 book via Smashwords by clicking on the link [here].  If you like it and want the rest it's available via Amazon Kindle [here] for U.S customers, and [here] for the UK.  It can also be found in paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all other carriers of low life lit.

Synopsis [sɪˈnɒp.sɪs]
The sophomore follow-up to Lost Angeles is the semi-biographical tale of author David Louden's alter-ego Doug Morgan as he struggles to connect with his father Jack, his mother Ruth and the working class ideology of "a real job". 

From his early adventure filled days in Poleglass through to the alcohol induced haze of his early twenties Doug's life (much like the city) is one at conflict with itself. Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l] is filled with humour, sex, guilt and the shameful dream of a boy wanting to create more than a family of haunted heirs. 

Other Titles by the Author

Full time whiskey enthusiast Doug Morgan is on a downward spiral. Over the past two years the Irish man has played witness to the slow and steady decay of his life and he’s finally called time. Haunted by an unacknowledged pain Doug swaps the white collar nine to five of Belfast for one last charge into oblivion in the City of Angels. A scotch-soaked stranger in a strange land Doug befriends a series of like minded and self destructive vagabonds who, like him, are aiming for chaos. In a city that sees thousands of people per year come to be discovered why has one man come to get lost? 

The two Doug Morgan, Roman á clef novels in one compilation.  Downward Facing Doug features Louden's protagonist Morgan on his self destructive ride through Los Angeles in his debut novel, Lost Angeles, before charting the formative years in 1980's-90's Belfast, in Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l].  Also included are three shorts from the forthcoming collection, Short Stories That All Definitely Happened.