Monday, 13 February 2017

In The Doghouse - Excerpt

In The Doghouse

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Jerry Thorne is on the run with a greyhound, and nowhere left to turn for safety but an old one-time friend, Mike Brown. Which could be a huge mistake. Not only did Jerry have a crush on the man back in the day, Mike happens to be a cop and has no wish to take in the two strays…

Chapter One

I'm a coward. A fully paid up, card-carrying and devoutly fervent coward and I've never made any secret of it. And I like my kneecaps just the way they are. Which is why I was heading out of London as fast as the car could take me on a particularly fogged-in January night. Not only fog, but frost and black ice as well, I discovered, as we skated round a curve in the Fosse Way. Not all Roman roads are plumb line straight, and the Fosse can kink with the best of them. Don't ask me what I was doing on the Fosse Way—I haven't a clue. I'd initially intended to head north. I have friends in Leeds, and I knew we'd be safe up there. But with Joe Mullins on my tail, I'd stayed away from the main roads.

So, since I was taking which ever turnings panic and instinct suggested, while clutching the steering wheel with the grip of a drowning man on a lifebelt and my foot as heavy on the accelerator as I dared in the weather conditions, I'd gone a bit astray. You don't believe me? Listen, I only discovered I was on the Fosse heading southwest when the road sign loomed out of the murk and informed me that Cirencester was ten miles away. On the plus side, as far as I could tell, no one was following us.

The reason why I was haring around the country like a panicked greyhound was—a greyhound. Spot, aka Edie's Lightning, all ridiculously long legs, ditto tongue, and soulful eyes, patrolled my Renault's back seat, shedding brindle and white hair on my upholstery as he went from one window to the next.

Normally I worked at the Customer Information Desk in my local branch of Lloyds Bank. In my spare time I was a member of Brayswood Harriers, an amateur cycling club. Not exactly Tour de France material, any of us, but we did okay at the inter-county level. I'd taken a week off from the Evil Day Job and my training schedule to stand in for Uncle George in his hardware shop while he and Aunt Edie prepared Spot for his upcoming race. They both were greyhound fanatics, and had two or three around the house for as long as I could remember. Usually it was a couple of older dogs kept as beloved pets when their racing days were over, and a young dog in training. Uncle always named their dogs for Aunt Edie; Edie's Charm, Edie's Surprise, Edie's Gift, Edie's—well, you get the idea. Each dog was as much a family member as a racer, and were great characters in that laidback greyhound kind of way. The current three were Gift, Surprise, and Lightning.

Anyhow, all was well, until things started to go pear-shaped. First, Uncle George's old van failed its MOT and the garage had to order in a part, so I was making deliveries in my Renault. Then he dropped an oilcan, slipped in the resulting mess and buggered up his left wrist. These things come in threes, so I wasn't entirely surprised when he'd come to the shop late this afternoon. His worried expression had been warning enough that things weren't about to improve.

"Do me a favour, Jer, my lad," he'd said. "Take Spot to the vet for me and get her to do a blood test on the quiet. He's as jumpy as a cat on a griddle today, and that's not right. I think he's been nobbled."

I'd scoffed, of course. I mean, the race was tomorrow night, and so far Spot was the odds on favourite. Uncle George loved the skinny streak of greased lightning as much as he did his own kids, and it would no more occur to him to give Spot performance enhancing anything than to shove steroids down the rugby-playing twins' throats. Besides, the local track had drug-testing down to a fine art. He wouldn't get away with it.

But if the dog had been dosed with something and it showed up in the post-race tests, both he and Uncle would be blacklisted, banned, fined, and generally be neck-deep in the manure. Zero tolerance was the watchword for the Brayswood Greyhound Racetrack.

I took a quick glance in the rear-view mirror. The road behind us was clear. In the foreground was Spot, tongue lolling, still going back and forth like a canine metronome. Which was odd. He was normally a pretty laidback kind of character, and even I knew this was excessive. He probably should have been travelling in his crate in the Renault's boot, rather than the back seat, but I hadn't paused to fiddle around with catches and locks. I'd bunged him in the back and taken off like Vettel in pole position at Monaco, and moments later the black BMW was hot on our tail.

~ * ~

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Release Day for Manifold Press

February 1st, and Manifold Press has three titles out of the starting gate today. Once again, this small Press punches so far above its weight, Manifold should be in a Marvel movie, scripted by Josh Whedon. In no particular order they are:
Harbinger Island by Dorian Dawes

Every community has a dark side, a sordid past that’s kept to hushed whispers and out of the ears of prying tourists – and Harbinger Island has the darkest shades of them all. Professor Bartleby Prouse is obsessed with the secrets and occult conspiracies surrounding the island’s myriad of unsolved murders and mysteries. He’ll have to use every bit of magic and cunning at his disposal if he is to protect his students after they unwittingly draw the attention of one of the island’s most insidious cults.

Harbinger Island is a collection of character-driven stories which combine dark fantasy and horror elements within a modern setting. The diverse cast of LGBT+ individuals come from various backgrounds, and the stories examine the prejudices they experience in their day-to-day lives along with the supernatural horrors they face.

84,500 words / 322pages


Ardent by Heloise West

In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.

As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.

But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.

75,600 words / 292 pages

Last, but by no means least, is a new Espresso Shot from Rainbow Award winner Jay Lewis Taylor (The Espresso Shots imprint is designed for shorter works, with a more informal publishing schedule than for Manifold's ‘regular’ works.). This story follows on from his successful recent novel Across Your Dreams:

Break of Another Day by Jay Lewis Taylor

The Great War is over. Jack Townsend, no longer a hospital orderly, is back at work in his photographer’s shop in Lewisham. But there is no peace yet; his blackmailer is still in business, and Celia Vavasour seems determined to manage his life. All his life; even his love-life …

Meanwhile in Sussex, David Lewry, former army officer, is still holding off from a closer relationship with Alan Kershaw, once in the Navy and now the village’s GP. Lew knows how much Alan wants him, but this last step is one he cannot take – not yet, unless something changes …

16,200 words / 66 pages