Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Auggie Wren's Christmas Story

One of my all-time favourite Xmas stories: "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story" by Paul Auster.

The story also constitutes the first part of the closing chapter (5. Auggie) of the 1995 movie "Smoke", which I've embedded below.
The movie is directed by Wayne Wang and Paul Auster.
Writer: Paul Auster.
Leading roles in the scene: Harvey Keitel and William Hurt.

I hope you enjoy this great story-telling as much as I do.

I wish you all a fantastic Christmas and all the best for 2015!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Interview by Léa Touch Book

Further to the October 30th review of 'Out of Bounds'
Léa Touch Book has published our recent interview.

You can read it in full at:

It's in French and English. It's also mainly about 'Out of Bounds'. However, some insight into my new book, 'The Perfectionist', is provided.

Thank you Léa for your great work and for your support.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Wise Men at their End Know Dark is Right; I See The Future as Bright

I look out the window. The light is no more. The windstorm is hissing, hurling everything it’s got at me like an angry child, yet screaming at me like winter’s wrathful prophet. I think to myself, only a month and few days till Christmas. For many, the coming weeks are geared towards preparing the festive season. It’s a special time. People are more upbeat and generally pleased to feast and celebrate together. It’s an annual show. And despite its predictability and clichés, it’s still widely-anticipated and the magic still lives on. This year, Xmas will have another meaning for me. It’ll be the first time in ten years that the importance of the event itself will be significantly toned down. With other fish to fry, Christmas preparation only accounts for a small portion of my rush. But I’m nonetheless looking forward to the break. Time goes on, relentlessly, unforgiving in its destruction of each and every passing day. My agenda is hectic and it’ll remain that way until Christmas. I have a lot of personal business to sort out, a move to take care of. And when all that dies down, I’ll hit the road. The break will be some kind of warrior’s rest before a new year starts and offers me new chances, new ambitions, new hopes. In 2015 I start afresh.

The literary project goes on. As I’ve previously mentioned, writing is the glue that keeps me together and I seek shelter in the writer’s retreat as real life goes on and Murphy’s Law oftentimes comes knocking on my door. Writing is my haven. Needless to say I am eager to resume the editing of ‘The Perfectionist’ manuscript and to actively engage with agents and publishers. The book is being proof-read and I hope to send submissions in late-January. In the meantime I must work on a synopsis and the cover-letters, which are so crucial to stand a chance in the slush piles. However, I’ve taken a pause from writing in the last weeks and have instead occasionally penned down some thoughts for future stories, long and short. One novel idea in particular is growing on me, but I still have to weigh its pros and cons and figure out if it is a viable project or if I have the guts to take it all the way. Having finished writing two novels I’m tempted to write about many different things and I’m having difficulty channeling these creative sparks. The 2015 Writers & Artists short story competition helped me narrow my focus and was a temporary yet much-needed opportunity to write again. But that’s done now and I have to wait for the results in March.
Moments of inspiration come and go. Besides they bloom within me in various forms. So I’m constantly on the lookout, and when I see/hear/read something I enjoy, I wonder, how can my feelings be processed? How can the sound of music penetrate my ear, filter through my brain, and become a source of energy that is blasted all the way through my body to my fingers with which I can write down my impressions? There are no real answers to those questions. I guess you have to be open and willing to feel and be at one with your senses, curious enough to translate what you’ve experienced into a medley of words, and not be afraid that what you’re doing can be perceived as a waste of time – writer’s retreat, remember.

I went to see ‘Interstellar’ yesterday. And although I enjoyed the movie, I’m not sure I have digested it properly and transformed my impressions into something noteworthy. But since the screening I’m a little haunted by a sequence in the film which takes place shortly after Matthew McConaughey’s rescue team is propelled into deep space. Nothing happens in this sequence. It’s just a series of shots showing the space vessel hovering silently. No music. No sound effects. Only silent darkness, which is broken by Michael Caine’s excellent voice-off as he recites Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’ It’s a beautiful poem, and until I can process the wonderful juxtaposition of the space odyssey and the intensity of the verse, I leave it here for future consideration.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

(Dylan Thomas, 1951)

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2015 Short Story Competition

I’ve just submitted a short story for the “Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2015 Short Story Competition”. For the 2014 edition I submitted “An Evening with Walter”. The story could be no longer than 2,000 words, and was on the theme of 'The Visit'. This year, the same maximum word count applies and the theme is ‘Joy’. My entry is a story narrated by a young girl during the London blitz. Where’s the joy in that? I guess you’ll have to wait and find out.

Anyone can participate. The competition is open to all ages, professions and nationalities. All you need to do is create a free account on the Writers' & Artists' website. The closing date is midnight on Sunday 15th February 2015. And the winners of the competition will be announced in March 2015. You can read about the terms and conditions, the prizes, and about what’s required for the submission at this link:

On an interesting note, by submitting you grant The Bloomsbury Publishing Group the right to publish your entry. Remember this is the publisher who “gambled” with J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Out of Bounds: First Review in French

My first review in French, courtesy of Léa Touch Book. Thank you, Léa.

French Touch : A very good thriller, an endearing main character, a fierce humor, an intriguing investigation and end on a high note ! All the ingredients for a great reading !

Chronique : J'avais une légère appréhension à relire en anglais après quelques mois d'abstinence mais cela c'était sans compter la  plume efficace et le récit porteur d'Out of Bounds.

J'ai tout de suite plongé dans ce polar, notamment grâce à son protagoniste principale Kyle. C'est un être très touchant, qui représente une véritable antithèse entre ce qu'il est et ce qu'il fait parfois mais c'est avant tout au travers de son humour que je me suis attachée. J'aime sincèrement l'ironie des pensées du héros, son sens du sarcasme parfois qui nous permet dans des moments de tension romanesque, de continuer à voir la petite lueur d'espoir. On ressent une vraie empathie pour ce personnage du fait de ses motivations humaines voire altruistes, celles du quotidien : subvenir aux besoins de sa famille.

Au-delà de Kyle, l'auteur nous présente un autre protagoniste : Bornholm, le flic. Un être intègre, qui va au fur et à mesure analyser en enquêter sur les événements dans lesquels est impliqué Kyle. L'auteur mélange savamment le point de vue, les doutes, les peurs de Kyle avec les investigations externes du policier.

Autre point que j'ai aimé, ce sont les flashbacks, plus particulièrement celui de la rencontre entre Kyle et sa femme, Simon Duke va au-delà du simple policier, il écrit un authentique roman avec une enquête mais aussi des émotions. Ma lecture m'a fait penser d'ailleurs à La Défense Lincoln de Michael Connelly : livre que j'ai adoré !

L'écriture est à l'image du livre : efficace, sensible, bien menée. Out of bounds est peut-être un premier roman mais certainement pas le dernier ! La fin est vraiment parfaite et conclue très bien l'ensemble.

En définitive, si vous souhaitez lire en V.O., si vous adorez les polars efficaces avec une pointe d'émotions : Out of bounds est fait pour vous !

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Gone Girl: Book vs Movie. The winner is…

When it comes to comparing a book and a movie based on a book, the book nearly always prevails. When talking about emotional experiences, I can’t think of many instances where a movie is superior to a book. You have blatant examples which showcase the fact that books can be infinitely better than their on-screen adaptations ('Da Vinci Code' comes to mind). Now one may argue that books and movies are inherently different mediums and shouldn’t be intended to convey the same experience, but let me expose a few ideas anyway.

The simple reason why books prevail over movies is because if you read the book first, you’ve already created the picture in your mind. After all, you’ve spent time reading the book (days, perhaps weeks even) and it was more than a mere 90-minute popcorn-eating commitment. You are convinced that your picture is the right picture. And no matter how talented a movie director can be, his vision of what the picture looks like, is nothing like yours. In your mind he gets it all wrong. That’s what makes reading a truly unique and personal experience. Not one reader shares the same vision.

This is also the feedback I’m picking up for ‘Out of Bounds’. People who have read my book are marked by different scenes and read different meanings. A friend once said if my book should be made into a movie, he’d see Colin Farrell as Kyle. Others would certainly disagree and would cast a less ‘manly’ actor for the part.

The multiple reading experiences make books exciting. And this applies to you too. You may read a book today, love it, and then return to it ten years later. You might continue to love it but for different reasons or simply due to a change of context in your own life; or not like it as much because you have read other books in the meantime which you’d qualify as superior.

There is also the issue of character depth and plot complexity. Naturally you cannot convey all the book’s twist and turns, huge cast, and characters’ thoughts and actions into a 90-120 minute motion picture. Cuts have to be made, screenplays have to be tweaked, and plots simplified to a certain extent. That’s part of the game, and you can’t really dislike movie adaptations for that reason alone.

After having read and really enjoyed the book by Gillian Flynn about a year or so ago, yesterday I saw ‘Gone Girl’ at the local cinema. And this is what inspired me to pen down the above.

Here, I will not discuss the differences between the book and the movie, as this has been done by other reviewers and bloggers already. However, I noted one serious flaw: Nick's first-person narrative in the movie is gone, and so we lose much of his complexity and equally twisted nature. I saw Amy as the most evil of the two and her transformation into a monster peaked when she “disposed of” former boyfriend, the obsessive Desi.

I wouldn’t say ‘Gone Girl’ is a woman-hating movie (that would be taking things too far) but the result is that the movie seems to be on Nick's side from the start, thus sort of making the case for him. Thanks to Nick's first-person narrative in the book, a status-quo dynamic is maintained and the reader doesn’t really know whom to root for.

‘Gone Girl’ is not a bad movie by any means. Had I not read the novel, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. What is there not to like? Fincher is a brilliant director (remember Alien 3, Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, The Social Network?…). The cinematography is slick and a feast for the eye. The score by the always great Trent Reznor was weaved in pretty neatly. Ben Affleck as Nick was a good choice and he played the part convincingly well. Rosamund Pike's turn as the sadistic, calculating and often-whispering Amy was spot on too.

The overall result was good and I’d recommend it. Furthermore, I liked it despite previously knowing about the twists and turns. So if you too have read the book, you might be of the same opinion. If you haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s novel, then your experience should be even more rewarding. But bear this in mind: Fincher's film is like a well-polished and stylish synopsis: informative and engaging. But Flynn's novel is the whole psychologist's case study, the full picture in some way.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Building Castles and Shit-Scrubbing

The ball is no longer in my court. I have passed on the manuscript to my trusted proof-reader as well as to a dear friend with whom I bounced off ideas and storyline progression during the whole writing process. I have finally shared my newborn creative offspring with a closed circle of people.

After the necessary cosmetic and structural changes to the book I anticipate carrying over in the coming month or two, I will be able to share my work beyond this closed circle and test the waters with literary agents, or why not with publishers who invite authors to submit their manuscripts directly to them. I say necessary, because no matter how many times you read your own work, there are always corrections to be made. After the third read, your eyes are blinded and less critical of what's written. As Ernest Hemingway elegantly put it, "the first draft of anything is shit." So with the editing work and shit-scrubbing ahead of us, I'm going to be realistic and aim for January-February 2015 for the novel's submission. Quite annoyed with myself, I actually missed the boat with a recent HarperCollins initiative entitled "Killer Reads". My manuscript was 90% complete, but it was too late to meet their deadline! All is not lost, though. Apparently they will be opening their doors for submissions again. I may have another opportunity further down the line.

Needless to say my approach with agents this time will be different. This is my second book and I have learnt lessons with the first one. I know where many of my strengths and weaknesses lie, and I've taken into account a lot of the feedback with regard to 'Out of Bounds'. Furthermore, I can demonstrate that I've been through the whole process before and that I oversaw everything a publication entails. I can even prove it by sending the agents to the weblinks for 'Out of Bounds'. This time I enter the fray with more confidence and experience. I also have more of a social media presence than before I published 'Out of Bounds', and I have a larger network of contacts than before. All bodes well.

Naturally my work doesn't stop here. To ensure I get a proper chance with the agents and publishers, I have to pen down a cover-letter as well as a plot synopsis to hook the reader. The latter is especially difficult. It's like an administrative submission form: if everything isn't in order, the agent might not want to check your manuscript, and reject your enquiry. However, contrary to a bureaucratic submission form, the synopsis must be entertaining and well-written, while remaining short and sweet. It's an opportunity to showcase the strengths of your novel and direct the reader's attention to what you think makes the book so great.

Besides the synopsis and cover-letter, I'm planning a few short stories before I begin a third novel. Writers & Artists have another competition on the theme 'Joy' and their deadline is February 2015. I've also been asked to write a story for the Christmas edition of a local magazine. So I'll be busy writing and imagining, imagining stories and interesting characters or situations I want to write about, bringing some of these ideas to life, and hell, why not have one of those revelatory moments when I realise I have substance to commence a new book.

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." - Henry David Thoreau

Monday, 29 September 2014

Second Chance

There are moments in life when you really question what you do. There are times when everything which made perfect sense prior to a sudden wave of doubting somewhat loses its meaning. You spend your time erecting and adhering to moral values and virtues, and like a wind changing its direction, your principles and beliefs are swept away; they crumble, they crash like a house of cards. I consider myself to be at times a morally upright, maybe even righteous kind of guy. I've got one hell of an armour to protect me from outside insanity, but oftentimes I have the feeling that those insane outsiders know where my weak spot is and thrive on jabbing at it. Slowly but surely they gnaw at my armour and the hole leading to the weak spot gets bigger and bigger. I am aware of this hole, but no matter how gaping it may be, I have difficulty in fending off the intruder, and I feel exposed to life's uncertainties and assaults.

Suffering and joy have both taught me well in recent months. Life presented me with challenges, and now, sanity has returned. I stand tall. Although some dark clouds do indeed remain, spread haphazardly in the sky above me, I look at my prospects with renewed hope. Like the phoenix, I too will rise from the fires and ashes, spread my wings, and roar my bravery.

Bringing this down from the clouds and back to the new manuscript, I reckon I'm in an in-between phase. My emotions dart from hot to cold, back to hot again, and so forth. Some days I read what I've written and think I'm just so awesome; other days I wonder what the heck crossed my mind before writing such a pile of crap. Fortunately, I'm an eager and optimistic person, I like to be methodical. I've been through this before with 'Out of Bounds', and I can tell that my writing has improved, generally-speaking of course. I've learnt lessons with my first novel and now I apply my newly-gained knowledge to the second novel. The reason why I'm experiencing these pangs of doubt is that I'm soon going to be sharing my new manuscript. It's a second novel, and so the stakes will be even higher this time. I've been through the process and those who'll give me feedback will, I expect, be more ruthless - well, at least I hope they will be.

I tend to agree with a recent and well-written review of 'Out of Bounds' which exposes quite succinctly what could be considered as my flaws. Basically, my writing could have been improved by a professional edit, with tweaks to an occasionally odd style of dialogue. It was considered that the narrative stopped flowing at times and some bits were a bit clunky. This is constructive feedback I have to take on board, and I'm keeping it in mind as I edit the new manuscript.

The final approximate word count is 115,000. I have a tentative title. I have to finish re-reading it for the umpteenth time, and then I'll submit it for proof-reading before mid-October. Assuming the proof-read takes as long as the proof-read for 'Out of Bounds', I should have collected all the feedback before the turn of the year. This means I'll be seeking representation via literary agents as of January 2015.

Stay tuned, I hope to break more news in the months to come.
Hopefully, this time round I'll be able to better put forward my potential as a writer, brand myself, and take the momentum to a whole new stage.
Stay tuned, this is my second chance.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Charity Review Singled Out

My review for Frank Westworth's 'A Last Act of Charity' was selected by Murder, Mayhem, & More as their feature review on the occasion of the book launch, which took place on 25 September 2014.

For those of you who haven't yet heard about the Killing Sisters sensation, here's the review (also available on leading crime & sci-fi book and movie review website MurderMayhem&More)

A Last Act Of Charity: never a dull moment

"A Last Act Of Charity is a truly unique reading experience. The author, Frank Westworth, injects style, pace and energy into a witty, thrilling, and sometimes sickening story. The plot is mainly driven by independent snoop, contract killer, VW van / Harley-Davidson enthusiast, master blues guitarist, frequent drinker and the very pragmatic JJ Stoner. With such a resume, needless to say Stoner is an interesting man and he delivers a brutal and gutsy performance.

Stoner shares wise words of advice after emerging the victor in what was a one-sided coffee shop brawl: “‘His ankle’s broken. It will need setting. His nose is broken. It’ll be fine, but it will be hard to breathe through it for a while. It would be a kindness to take him to a medic, or call for one.’ Silence. Bewilderment. The invincible superiority of youth facing the demonstrable superiority of a single older man.”

The cool, often emotionless Stoner takes you on a roller coaster of a ride right until the very end. And when you think all is over in this murky and very graphic underworld, it’s not: Stoner is set to star again as the blunt but witty anti-hero of two more novels. A Last Act Of Charity is the first book of what is known as the Killing Sister trilogy (he already features in two short stories: First Contract and Two Wrongs – currently available in ebook).

If Stoner isn’t colourful enough for you, then rest assured the remaining cast provides plenty of crazy and unforgettable moments. The characters of this novel are so zany that you might either end up laughing out loud or re-reading segments to make sure that some of the weird and fascinating scenes (sometimes involving strange women and unconventional sexual acts) weren’t figments of your own imagination. Their encounters with Stoner are entertaining, funny, perhaps even tragic, but always interesting. And you are also guaranteed clever and punchy dialogue.

The three sisters and the trail of dead bodies and blood they leave behind was riveting storytelling. Even the more secondary characters fit in well and help the plot in their manner. You have the return of an old army comrade, threatening Stoner on his turf; there’s also Stoner’s unofficial employer, simply known as The Hard Man. Finally you have the women, who have important roles in Stoner’s world and provide their fair share of tongue-in-cheek moments. In a nutshell, you’re never quite sure whether Stoner’s network is composed of friends or enemies, or whether their intentions are of the dubious kind.

Not only does Westworth add depth to his characters, he enjoys weaving in his passion for blues and motorcycles as interludes to the story, albeit maybe a little too much at times if you don’t share such interests. A minor hiccup (although you may not agree with me) in what is otherwise a riveting first novel."

A Last Act Of Charity by Frank Westworth is available in paperback and ebook at bookshops and online.

Monday, 15 September 2014

'Out of Bounds' is an interesting read.

'Out of Bounds' was selected for review by Eurocrime this month.

My book was among their September 2014 features, which included:

M J Arlidge's second book featuring Southampton's DI Helen Grace, Pop Goes the Weasel; Bill Daly's Black Mail, the first in the DCI Charlie Anderson series set in Glasgow; Alan Furst's Midnight in Europe set in the late 1930s; Bill Kitson's Buried in the Past, the eighth in the DI Mike Nash series; Austrian author Gabi Kreslehner's Rain Girl; George Mann's Sherlock Holmes - The Spirit Box; Last Kiss by Louise Phillips, the third in the Dr Kate Pearson set in and around Dublin; and Kerry Wilkinson's Crossing the Line, the eighth in the DI Jesica Daniel series set in Manchester.

Heres' the review (also available at
"Kyle Hunt lives in Charleston, South Carolina with his partner and children. He struggles to survive on his salary as an installer of security systems and cameras and has debts including back rent. When he is contacted on his private telephone number offering him $20,000 for a private installation of equipment at a house after work hours he is very tempted. Little does he know that this is the start of his troubles with the police and some very frightening criminals. A murder at a storage facility leads the police direct to him although he has no knowledge of how or why his name came to be on the files of the facility.

When his family is subsequently threatened, Kyle realises that he must try to get to the bottom of who set him up if he is to make sure that he gets out of the mess that surrounds him. However, his investigations just seem to make the situation worse. He finds himself pursued by a criminal who is quite prepared to kill anyone in his way and the detective in charge of the murder who is convinced that Kyle, although perhaps innocent, still knows more than he is telling.

I found the characterisation interesting: Kyle is a loner and therefore has few friends that he can call on and seems incredibly naive and almost juvenile in his response to his problems. The story includes flash-backs to explain his history of drug dependency and depression and while this does go somewhere to explain his reactions, I didn't find it totally believable. I found most of the other characters rather thinly written – for instance that of his partner, Pilar – she is a very important part in his life who seems to influence a lot of his actions and I wanted to know more about her.

This is a first novel and there is a mixture of writing in the first and the third person. Personally, I find this style of writing rather irritating as, as is the case here, the transitions between scenes written in first person and those in third person jar for the reader and therefore break the flow of action.
OUT OF BOUNDS is an interesting read. There is a lot of description in the book - which at 390 pages is quite long - and this sometimes slows down the action in the story which is actually, at the core, quite fast paced."

Susan White, England
September 2014

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A Last Act of Charity: Never a Dull Moment

I am proud to be one of the recipients of an advance copy of the new crime-thriller ‘A Last Act of Charity’ by Frank Westworth. ‘A Last Act of Charity’ will be published on 25th September 2014.

Here’s what R.J. Ellory, award-winning author of ‘A Quiet Belief in Angels’, said about ‘A Last Act of Charity’: “Guns, girls, guitars and scenes of gruesome violence, all shot through with a wit sharp enough to draw blood. With terse and brilliant prose, Westworth delivers a plot that drags you along relentlessly. Loved it, unconditionally.”

Here is my review for ‘A Last Act of Charity’:

A Last Act of Charity: Never a Dull Moment

‘A Last Act of Charity’ is a truly unique reading experience. The author, Frank Westworth, injects style, pace and energy into a witty, thrilling, and sometimes sickening story.
The plot is mainly driven by independent snoop, contract killer, VW van/Harley-Davidson enthusiast, master blues guitarist, frequent drinker, and the very pragmatic JJ Stoner. With such a resume, needless to say Stoner is an interesting man, and delivers a brutal and gutsy performance.

He shares wise words of advice after emerging the victor in what was a one-sided coffee shop brawl: “‘His ankle’s broken. It will need setting. His nose is broken. It’ll be fine, but it will be hard to breathe through it for a while. It would be a kindness to take him to a medic, or call for one.’ Silence. Bewilderment. The invincible superiority of youth facing the demonstrable superiority of a single older man.”

The cool, often emotionless Stoner takes you on a roller coaster of a ride right until the very end. And when you think all is over in this murky and very graphic underworld, it’s not: Stoner is set to star again as the blunt but witty anti-hero of two more novels. ‘A Last Act of Charity’ is the first book of what is known as the Killing Sister trilogy (NB: he already features in two short stories: ‘First Contract’ and ‘Two Wrongs’ – currently available in e-book).

If Stoner isn’t colorful enough for you, then rest assured the remaining cast provides plenty of crazy and unforgettable moments. The characters of this novel are so zany that you might either end up laughing out loud or re-reading segments to make sure that some of the weird and fascinating scenes (sometimes involving strange women and unconventional sexual acts) weren’t figments of your own imagination. Their encounters with Stoner are entertaining, funny, perhaps even tragic, but always interesting. And you are also guaranteed clever and punchy dialogue.

The three sisters and the trail of dead bodies and blood they leave behind was riveting storytelling. Even the more secondary characters fit in well and help the plot in their manner. You have the return of an old army comrade, threatening Stoner on his turf; there’s also Stoner’s unofficial employer, simply known as ‘The Hard Man’. Finally you have the women, who have important roles in Stoner’s world and provide their fair share of tongue-in-cheek moments. In a nutshell, you’re never quite sure whether Stoner’s network is composed of friends or enemies, or whether their intentions are of the dubious kind.

Not only does Westworth add depth to his characters, he enjoys weaving in his passion for blues and motorcycles as interludes to the story, albeit maybe a little too much at times if you don’t share such interests. A minor hiccup (although you may not agree with me) in what is otherwise a riveting first novel.

You can pre-order 'A Last Act of Charity' at:

Monday, 1 September 2014

Out of Bounds: 2 New Reviews

By Rowena Hoseason at MurderMayhemandMore

Out Of Bounds: a first novel packed with potential
Out Of Bounds is an interesting interpretation of a crime-thriller standard from a new author. Take an ordinary joe, muddle him up in something seriously grim, set the dogs on him and watch the innocent guy try to thrash his way free from an ever-tightening noose, beset by bad guys and the long arm of the law alike.

Give the unwilling hero something to fight for – in this case a loving wife and two young daughters who may pay the ultimate price for his moment of weakness. Take away everyone he can trust and make sure all his workmates, friends and associates could be complicit in the conspiracy. Set a pugnacious but honest and even-handed cop on his trail. Scare him witless with a series of encounters with a seriously tough hombre, an enforcer for a drug cartel, the kinda guy whose knife never takes ‘no’ for an answer and from whom you really shouldn’t ever, never, not even when threatened with redundancy, poverty and domestic strife, accept $20,000 in cash. Then watch the rabbit run and see if he can twist out of the snare…

All this is familiar territory but author Simon Duke introduces some interesting twists to the constantly evolving plot, swapping back and forth between the investigating cop and a first-person perspective of the fall guy who is desperately fighting for everything he holds dear. He turns out to be a tougher character than first appearances suggest. Initially Kyle-the-patsy is a bit of a whiner, complaining about his long hours, and soppily doting on his perfecto familio, harking back to his days in psychotherapy for anxiety attacks as a teenager. As the situation goes from awful to catastrophic, and he endures emotional angst, physical violence and cold-blooded killings at first hand, so Kyle discovers hidden resources, a tougher inner self. There’s a particularly compelling scene where he digs deep to convince himself to man up, to reach for the next threshold, to push himself past his previous limits.

Out Of Bounds is a first novel and it’s self-published. It’s better presented than many similar books but could have been improved by a professional edit, with tweaks to the occasionally odd style of dialogue. There were also a few sections where the narrative stopped flowing and felt somewhat stilted; big chunks of exposition and less-than-snappy dialogue to wade through. The female characters don’t do too well, either: the woman-under-threat felt like a plot device more than a person and was wonderfully good at stupidly putting herself and her kids at risk. She also switched from shrill squawking to devoted loving in a single sentence: from yelling to smooching in an instant. She, and a couple of the DEA / FBI guys, felt like characters straight from central casting.

However, if you can cope with an occasional clunky moment then you’ll be rewarded with several deft plot twists (especially on the ‘who can you trust?’ theme), and a truly wince-inducing finale where the author really puts poor old Kyle through the wringer. The ending was all the more rewarding for being unexpected – and pretty brave – in its outcome.

Simon Duke has real potential as a writer: this is a neat plot packed with ongoing action and a strong narrative thread. Out Of Bounds gives us glimmers of what the author can do: f’rinstance, on a midnight drive, the hero starts seeing the tail-lights of cars on the freeway as the red, glaring eyes of the demons that beset him. Powerful stuff. Hopefully Duke will develop more of this kind of style in his next novel.


Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason



By Louise Hunter at Crime Book Club

Out of Bounds by Simon Duke - Review

Book Blerb – Framed for murder and trapped in a conspiracy set in motion by a narcotics trafficking network, a cash-strapped man soon regrets accepting an easy and well-paid job. It was simply too good to be true. Kyle Hunt, an over-anxious thirty-three-year-old security equipment installer, living in Charleston, South Carolina, with his girlfriend Pilar Tellez and their two daughters, is having difficulty making ends meet. When local businessman Hector Ramirez and his tough associate Ray Dupree call on him for an off-the-record installation of a surveillance system and offer twenty thousand dollars in compensation, Hunt recklessly carries out the task. In the process he inadvertently sees private information, which ultimately backfires on him as a cargo facility is soon after robbed and a homicide is committed. Relentlessly looking for the killer of the cargo facility employee, veteran homicide detective Jacob Bornholm has earmarked Hunt as his prime suspect. And, to make matters worse, Dupree also reckons Hunt is responsible for the heist.

Review – I really enjoyed ‘Out Of Bounds’, a normal sort of guy gets mixed up in a felonious underworld. I love is fast pace and detailed plot.

It is a book you will want to read in one go!

When Kyle Hunt needs some money he accepts a job from a local businessman, he regrets this when everything starts to fall apart around him and his family are in danger. When Kyle is set up to take the fall for murder and is also in the frame for other crimes he needs to start his own enquiry.
The many different characters are well written and make ‘Out Of Bounds’ an exciting read, from the cop that has to cross the line to the many members of the underworld.

Overall score: 4 out of 5


Sunday, 17 August 2014

‘Mr. Inner Critic’ and the Quest for Solace

Life can be hectic, relentless, almost artificial. Its sometimes brutally-imposed driving force leads us unknowingly to stressful destinations. Feeling pressured, my reflex instinct to wind down became writing. Its magical effect not only unleashes the demons within me and keeps them at bay, but it also channels them, transforms them into creative urges, and sometimes those urges do translate into thoughts and words, which I do my best to transcribe and put ink on paper. Oftentimes turning negative thoughts, spasms, and stomach knots into constructive writing has helped me turn what may have seemed a dark alley into a brightly-lit boulevard; its inspirational lights guiding me further, showing me the must-see attractions and dreams of glory ahead. It may sound clichéd, yet writing is a healing force, and believing in what I do has become my mantra.

Recently I had a delightful conversation with someone who is very dear to me about hope and optimism. The subject became topical because we were reading about self-criticism and how most often that criticism is negative. Within each one of us we have a negative inner voice that constantly judges, criticizes and negates us. That voice is known as “Mr. Inner Critic”. Mr. Inner Critic makes us humble, asks us to step back and reconsider the bold and spontaneous ideas we might think of voicing out. You end up feeling bad, blaming yourself for whatever reasons. Mr. Inner Critic says you are weak and inspires shame. Mr. Inner Critic loves to highlight what you didn’t do right instead of what you did right. He lives in your brain, and sure as hell doesn’t pay the rent. The question begs, how do you get rid of such a parasite? I’d say you need a combination of hope, optimism, but above all self-acceptance. Negate Mr. Inner Critic’s power which stems from the belief that you are not okay the way you are, by starting to feel compassion for yourself and by considering self-forgiveness. Let “Mr. Hope” co-habit with Mr. Inner Critic for a while. It might feel a little crowded up there, but after a while Mr. Inner Critic might want to change his bachelor’s pad into something more harmonious, inspired by Mr. Hope. Sure, outside factors have their role to play, but to meet such a state of inner calm you must bear in mind that the lion’s share of the job is yours.

It’s important to stand back and look at the picture you have painted thus far. As I write my new novel, I am aware that I reach symbolic milestones, and when I reach their thresholds I force myself to study what has been accomplished and what is left to do. End of last week I reached the 100,000 word mark and only a handful of chapters remain to be written. I reached what may well be the penultimate hurdle in the manuscript. Rather than write some more, I studied my synopsis carefully and gave thought to how I would shape my concluding chapters. On Friday night I felt like writing, but fended off the urge, knowing that Mr. Inner Critic could at any point take over and tell me that what I would be writing wouldn’t be worth a hill of beans. I needed a simpler, quieter, and more natural environment. My mind had other plans.

I took my daughter to the mountains the next morning instead. She wanted adventure; I sought solace. We drove two hours south, packed lunch and camera at hand. Villages got smaller and smaller as we approached the foot of the mountains, temperature dropping as we climbed the mountain side in the Renault Twingo. I tried to share some of my optimism with the Twingo, reassuring her that she was capable of dealing with those winding, narrow and treacherous roads, and taking us to the top albeit in second, sometimes first gear. She made it; we made it. And there we were, at the summit, glaring at the fullness of the natural world: the vast blue lake, towered by rock-crumbling mountain sides, like a swimming pool in a closed-off fortress; the mountain sides themselves looking like imposing amphitheatres of green, gray, and white of their spiraling, trickling waterfalls; vast, gray skies, seemingly brooding over what weather they intended to produce next. Our senses were heightened as we embarked on a day’s adventure of hiking, stream crossing, and constant discovery. Breathing pure air, and in tune with the ebb and flow of this natural spectacle, I felt humbled by nature and by how insignificant a human life can be in comparison. My inner peace was nothing compared to the majestic silence of the greater world surrounding us. Solace I was looking for, solace I found.

I returned to the manuscript this morning, fuelled with renewed hope and hunger. I added another couple of thousand words, made a radical character change, and made a few adjustments to the events of the final chapters. The mountains, the lake and the waterfalls still loom over me, teaching me the greater peace, the peace so crucial to my undertakings, the peace within me.

Mr. Inner Critic predicts a storm after I finish the manuscript, and that what I feel is the calm before the storm of finding an agent to represent me and facing the possibility of rejection again. Yet Mr. Hope has his word to say and he’s here to stay. ‘Believe in yourself,’ he says. ‘For no-one else will do it. Persevere and you will do fine.’ Certainly words of wisdom and of renewed optimism for a man of thirty-five with a whole new life ahead of him. 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Where to Find 'Out of Bounds'

The ebook version of 'Out of Bounds' was recently included on Kobo and on the catalogues of its international distribution partners. The book is available on quite a lot of websites now. Below is an updated list of the places where you can buy 'Out of Bounds'.

Out of Bounds on (Price – $10.99)



Out of Bounds on (Price €9.50 ):

Out of Bounds on Amazon is also available on,, (Price in Euro)

ebook on (Price $3.99)

Barnes & Noble (Price $3.99)
Feltrinelli (Italy) 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Does The Writer Own His Characters, Or Do The Characters Own The Writer?

I’m 90,000 words into the second novel. I’m starting chapter 31 of 39. With the target of 110,000-120,000 words in total, I guess I’m mathematically three quarters of the way there. Statistically I have made it past the 80,000 word threshold, which means that what I have written is a novel and no longer a novella. All of this, however, is subject to change. As I write along, I realize that in spite of its solidity my plot backbone has to sometimes be tweaked and expanded. Basically what I had in mind when I first put pen to paper in December 2013 seemed to make a lot of sense back then, but now not as much. Some ideas I had then have since been ruled out and others weaved in as they seem more natural and appropriate. As a result I have merged chapters or separated them by adding extra elements and necessary interludes to the plot. I have also made notes to rectify some scenes and wipe out others at a later stage.

Another fascinating aspect about novel writing is the way your characters build up over time and how they gain in credibility and depth as you write. I knew that my main protagonist – Gerry – would carry the story. However, little did I know that several of the secondary characters would become so important. Although the author is supposed to know his characters inside out, there is a lot of room for improvisation, and you get to discover them as you continue to write about them. Pushing my thoughts a little further, I guess a writer’s relationship with his characters is in some ways comparable to new real-life relationships. When you meet someone for the first time you have an opinion on that person; the more time you spend with the person, the better you get to know the person; you get to see pros and cons; and you are able to flesh out that initial opinion with the knowledge you have gained. Unlike real-life though the writer is omnipotent, almost God-like. As he embarks on writing a new novel, he decides on the fate of his characters and alters them to his heart’s content. The characters are merely illustrations of the writer’s inner-self and his mixed bag of feelings. However, the more the writer ventures into the novel, and the more his characters live on to see another day, the more meaningful they become. The characters have gained in substance and are a lot more present in the writer’s mind. He has given them a persona and names that mean something. They have been present in written scenes and have made their presence felt. Now if the writer wishes to alter them or do something more radical like remove them from the plot altogether, it requires a lot more consideration. Not only has the writer spent time with them and got to know them better, but they have subtly carved themselves comfortable places in the plot. The writer must think twice before tampering with their fate.
I sometimes wonder if the relevant characters are in fact more powerful than the writer who imagined them in the first place. The writer is now forced to respect them, and he roots for them so much as he believes in the book he has written and in the strength and depth of his characters. The roles are certainly reversed after publication. The writer spends his time promoting his characters and he must speak on their behalf with blind faith. As far as I am concerned, when I first started ‘Out of Bounds’ I wasn’t too sure how the characters Ray Dupree and Jacob Bornholm would develop. In spite of them being polar opposites, they are pretty much the shoulder angel and devil of Kyle’s conscience. You need them both to secure a certain sense of harmony and balance in the world. Bornholm isn’t your straight-forward good guy, and neither is Ray your straight-forward bad guy. As I continued to write about them, they both grew in complexity, transcending the stereotypical boundaries we tend to establish when we think of a cop and a villain. Similar to Kyle and Pilar, Bornholm and Ray took on a whole new dimension. Can Ray be seen as the serpent who tricks Kyle, like Eve, into eating fruit from the Garden of Eden’s forbidden tree? Likewise, why is that Bornholm is at Kyle’s side in the final chapter of the book? (Those of you who have read the end will know what I’m hinting at here). Bornholm and Ray: two pivotal characters who began as vague ideas and then grew to become more than your average cameo role.

I have entered a second wave of promoting ‘Out of Bounds’. I am increasingly trying my luck with crime fiction review blogs and have joined the masses of people who are seeking to grab a little bit of newspaper attention. The book is in the hands of several reviewers as I write these words, and I am hoping to see my online presence increase soon. I am looking forward to reading the first reviews and to the possible domino effect they can potentially have in terms of the awareness factor for ‘Out of Bounds’.
I am also trying to promote the book locally. However, being an author having written in the English language only is undoubtedly quite a hurdle when you live in southwest France. Having said that, I am trying to work my way into a local crime fiction festival, which is taking place in Toulouse in October. It’s called ‘Toulouse Polar du Sud’ aka the 6ème Festival International des Littératures Policières. The conference organizers have been kind enough to get back to me and suggest we meet up in October.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get to meet other writers, talk about ‘Out of Bounds’, and make an impression? I go there as an underdog, but similar to the relationships they have with their characters, will they rule me out there and then or will they think about their encounter with me once the conference is over? Like an imagined character, can I achieve more than a cameo role and become meaningful in the eyes of the literary elite?
I will strive to meet that target.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Never Give Up

The pace of my writing has slowed down in recent weeks. I am more than 70,000 words into the manuscript of my second novel and I have a solid enough story backbone, which should allow me to focus on the writing until the end. It's more or less a straight line now until I complete the book. I don't see any obstacles in my way with the exception of my own personal moral dilemmas. Some issues have popped up in my life. They are temporarily preventing me from being my usual prolific self, and hence the absence of news on the blog for a while. However, I am confident that my pace will return to normal soon.

Taking a step back from the longer writing spells has allowed me to reflect on my main character (let's call him Gerry for the time being) and his motivations. He's an arrogant, selfish and gung-ho business journalist; in some way a cowboy of modern times. He's sex-obsessed and generally an annoying person to be with. But as his investigation progresses, his commitment to resolving the murders intensifies, and his feelings for the main female protagonist (Sarah) evolve. His attitude also changes and adjusts to the horrors and tragedies he uncovers through his research and travelling. Thanks to Sarah the reader will discover a new more polished side to Gerry's persona as he gradually shifts to becoming loyal, altruistic and devoted: a better man. Breaking away from the writing routine also allowed me to consider an alternative conclusion and a different plot twist for the end. This new idea has germinated and grown on me, and I can't wait to write it all down in detail.

I'm liking the shape my new book is taking and I am already impatient to move onto the post-writing phase and try my luck again with literary agents (Having self-published 'Out of Bounds', they will be able to check my work and more easily figure out what I'm capable of. It will serve as proof that I'm able to carry a project from A to Z and that 'Out of Bounds' was not just a one-off book by someone who has no intention to write again).

'Out of Bounds' is still pretty much an ongoing marketing project. I'm happy to report that the feedback I am getting is very positive, and that is not just friends and family, but from people who don't know me too. My blog statistics indicate decent following from the U.S. where I hope to gain a fanbase. I'm also fortunate to have visits from many countries around the world. How does that translate into book sales? It's hard to say, but I'm happy that the word is spreading.

I've geared my marketing efforts to trying to secure book reviews by bloggers and newspapers. It may take time before a review of 'Out of Bounds' is published, but I am confident that a few good reviews on popular crime fiction review blogs will do me a world of good and help spread the word even further. In May-June, I had the privilege to receive feedback on 'Out of Bounds' by a published author and crime thriller reviewer who works for the Daily Mail. He told me he enjoyed the book (needless to say that my heart missed a beat when I read that). However, he will not be writing a review for a few reasons. I was fantasising about a column in the Daily Mail. Never mind. What a push that would have been! Anyhow, I will keep trying, and as the future becomes clearer, I will generate time to explore more alleys to promote the book. Why not a local book signing event, or intruding a crime fiction conference? There are possibilities, so it's important to never give up.

It's summer time and summer time means summer sales. Smashwords is asking authors if they want to participate in their own summer sale offer. I agreed, and for the whole month of July the 'Out of Bounds' ebook is available at half-price (half of $3.99 - so that's only $2 - what a bargain!). This can only encourage more people to check me out. If you wish to benefit from the discount, buy the ebook at this link:
and make sure to use the coupon code SC92J.

I hope to post more news soon.
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." - Thomas A. Edison.

Friday, 6 June 2014

The Power of Words

A few nights ago I stumbled on a movie called 'The Words'. I'd never heard of it before and wondered why because the cast includes Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons and Dennis Quaid. I assumed the theatrical release was a short-lived and hardly-publicized experience. Besides the promising cast, my browsing eye lingered on an enigmatic summary my VOD system was displaying: "A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man's work." This theme has often caught my eye in the past, but somehow everything I have read (Jesse Kellerman's 'Potboiler') or watched ('A Murder of Crows', a 1998 film starring Cuba Gooding Jr.) failed to deliver on the potential. 'The Words', as far as I can remember, is the closest attempt yet.

Author Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid) gives a public reading of his new book, 'The Words'. Clayton begins reading from his book which focuses on a fictional character named Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), an aspiring writer who lives in New York City with his girlfriend, Dora (Zoe Saldana). Rory and Dora marry and, during their honeymoon in Paris, Dora buys Rory an old briefcase from an antiques store he was admiring. After returning to America and having his book rejected again, Rory finds an old but masterfully written manuscript in the briefcase with a central character named Jack. Rory types the manuscript into his laptop. Later, while using the laptop, Dora happens upon the novel and reads it. She mistakenly assumes that Rory wrote the novel and convinces him to give it to a publisher. The book is a hit and Rory becomes famous. Later, Rory meets the "Old Man" (Jeremy Irons), who reveals himself as the true author of the manuscript and that it was based on his life in Paris during WWII. That’s when the twists and turns really kick in.

Rotten Tomatoes describes the movie as an "overly complex, dramatically inert literary thriller that's ultimately a poor substitute for a good book". Although quite complex, I believe 'The Words' can be interpreted in many ways. It's kept me thinking about the character depth and the messages it wanted to convey. It is a decent movie on many levels and I recommend it those of you who like reading books/watching movies about aspiring writers.

But the one question I'd like to ask (and that I have asked myself) is: what would you do if you were Rory Jansen and if you came across such a manuscript? It's my dream to encounter literary success, but at what price? Even if I could get away with it, I'm not sure, I'd steal. Writing is so personal. How can one dare turn another's work into his/her own? Let me know what your thoughts are.

By the way, on the subject of idea sharing, I have finally gotten around to creating a discussion page on for 'Out of Bounds'. I have listed a few questions already. By all means, please join me there and we can get the ball rolling. For those of you who have read 'Out of Bounds', I'll be able to answer questions. What's also great about Goodreads is that you can rate and review books, keep a bookshelf, and share with your other contacts. I realized that my blog can be quite limited in that respect and it's not always easy to have these discussions on Facebook. So if you feel like joining a book club, I'd be delighted to hear from you.

Just scroll to the bottom of this page and make sure you set up a free Goodreads account:

Friday, 16 May 2014

Dom Perignon or Cheap Cocktails?

'Out of Bounds' was released two months ago. Naturally since then I have been frequently monitoring its circulation and have been collecting precious feedback from those who have already read the book and wanted to tell me what they thought about it. The comments have been extremely rewarding and heart-warming. And I now know for a fact that I have readers worldwide. Contacts I have in the U.S., the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK, India, etc are currently reading 'Out of Bounds'. Thank you everyone.

'Out of Bounds' also passed a recent critical test. My father mailed a copy of the book to an old friend of ours in South Carolina. My brother and I spent two wonderful weeks in his company in South Carolina and Georgia back in 97. Needless to say that 'Out of Bounds' is set in an area very familiar to him. So I was nervous to find out what his impressions would be. He sent me an email shortly after having received the parcel and said he'd start reading that evening. Two days later he'd finished the book and loved it. He told me it was a real page-turner and great story. My local settings were spot on (he even mentioned that he was familiar with the Charleston restaurant where Detective Bornholm meets a DEA friend) and that my use of American-English seemed genuine. He also rooted for Kyle all through the story and saw in him elements of the young Simon he knew in 1997. So thank you Jim and thanks for awarding me that rubber stamp of authenticity. My relief is huge. 

As I write this blog entry, 'Out of Bounds' ranks #2,560,447 in Amazon's Best Seller Books list (out of an estimated 8 million or more). Not quite the top 10 or 100 yet, but there is still a lot of room for progression. I got my first Amazon user review earlier this month (thank you again to the person who is concerned). Apparently reviews - in addition to sales - help with my Amazon rankings. So if you have read the book, I would be very happy to see what you have to say, and you'd be doing me a great favour by contributing your reviews.

A bit of history now. This time last year I was writing the final words of 'Out of Bounds' and was beginning to research literary agents in the UK. It seems like such a long time ago as many events have unfolded since. I remember toasting the occasion at a Chinese food dive near where I live. It was the worst Chinese food I'd ever tasted and the cocktail drinks weren't as exotic-looking as they looked on the greasy menu. The retching and stomach aches were only minor disruptions to an otherwise very pleasant evening. Some authors indulge in Dom Perignon when they finish a book - I guess I'm not quite there yet. 

I am still chugging along with novel n°2, feeling like a real diesel engine, spurting out seven hundred words here and nine hundred there when I get time to myself in front of the computer. Today I'm more or less at the half-way mark, but still ironing out secondary plot issues as I go along. The backbone of my story though is solid and chapter progression is working well, so these plot issues shouldn't be too much of a hassle to rectify. (I invite you, if you haven't, to check my March 29th blog entry - the Smashwords interview - I discuss my writing process).

Slowly but surely I'm making my way. It's too early to even contemplate the day I'll complete the manuscript, but I'll also aim to raise a celebratory glass of champagne to mark the event. Maybe I could raise several in your company?

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

An Evening with Walter

Below is my entry for the Writers' & Artists' Short Story Competition 2014: 'An Evening with Walter'. I wrote this short story in July 2013. You'll see that I already had the serial killer idea at the time.

An Evening with Walter
It was the summer of 1977. At long last night had fallen, bringing an end to another day of scorching heat. I opened the bedroom window of my tiny first storey apartment on the corner of 127th Street and Jamaica Avenue in Queens. I remember enjoying that pleasant yet short-lived moment of cooler air drifting into my bedroom, providing some temporary salvation to my sweaty body. The lingering aroma of cooked seafood coming from the kitchen of Montanes New York Restaurant underneath flirted with me. I could hear distant car traffic and the next train on its way from Jamaica to Elmhurst and Astoria, and beyond, Lower Manhattan. This was only background noise. In fact, the neighborhood was unusually calm for such a night in early-August.
I had spent the day locked up in my apartment, curtains drawn, reading the papers on my bed or simply getting lost in my thoughts. I occasionally broke the routine by raiding the refrigerator for some leftover pizza or a Bud, or by sometimes lighting up a smoke. That made me think I was running low on the Lucky Strikes and I’d have to go out and get some more. Yet, the sole thought of wandering outside my apartment made me shake with fear. I quickly abandoned that idea and lied down on the bed, contemplated the crack in the ceiling and lowered my tired gaze to the holes in wall in front of me.
I shut my eyes. Tried to picture my landlord renovating the goddamn place, enlightening the decaying decor. Sure I would have done it myself, but my extinct career prospects and meager veteran's compensation meant that it would take me a while before getting round to the revamp. Hell, I was struggling to keep the Bud and smokes supplies afloat. Taking care of my surroundings would be a job for another day. Some day when I would actually give a shit.
A police car dashed by, siren screeching through the silent night, projecting hazy blue light onto my bedroom ceiling. It reminded me of the day's feature article in the paper, brought me back to sad reality.
The killer who called himself 'Son of Sam' had shot and critically wounded his 12th and 13th victims, Robert Violante, 20, and Stacy Moscowitz, 20, the previous evening. They had been attacked while making out in Violante’s car parked near the Brooklyn waterfront. According to the paper, ballistics experts confirmed that the bullets were from a .44-caliber gun used by Son of Sam. Police had reportedly intensified patrols in Queens and East Bronx, warned by his latest letter, one in which he exposed his plans to strike again on the anniversary date of his first shooting. Next to this article was a police sketch of Son of Sam.
This plain and simply terrorized me. And it is safe to say that I wasn't the only New Yorker with such feelings. After all, these were harsh times. The city’s economic prospects were bleak and the crime rate had jumped almost seventy-five percent in three years. Not to mention a two-day blackout in mid-July and the mandatory aftermath of looting and vandalism. And on top of that, we had this maniac on the loose, killing folks with his .44-caliber and leaving sordid letters with the police detailing how he was prowling on the streets, hunting, looking for tasty meat right here in Queens. Sure the attacks were random but I had read that they were under the command of Sam, a man who supposedly lived six thousand years ago, now relaying messages to his son. That's why people were indoors. It wasn't due to the sweltering summer. It was more to do with survival instinct.
I rubbed a pillow on my forehead to get rid of a few beads of sweat, tried to think about more positive things, but couldn't. I stripped naked, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and drank water from the tap. It tasted like copper. I returned to bed and closed my eyes, hoping that sleep would come shortly and that my dreaming would be of the pleasant kind.
It may have been minutes or hours later. Suddenly, I was awoken by a noise of shattering glass followed by a deep 'thump'.
I rose from the bed and staggered to the door, my eyes having difficulty adapting to the dark. I knocked my shoulder on the door frame and cursed to myself. I was naked, my prick dangling, defenseless.
 I called out in a deep and virile voice, 'I gotta gun. Get the fuck out'.
I got no reply.
My dark thoughts came back to me at light speed. Shit, what if it were Son of Sam in my apartment? What if I was his next piece of fair game? I was as much a random target as any other poor schmuck in this neighborhood.
After such a realization I stepped backwards into my bedroom, slammed the door and ducked behind the bed. My breathing slowed down. I tried to listen to the sounds of my apartment. It was faint, but I could hear something going on in the kitchen. Someone had definitely broken in. That someone seemed to be rummaging through the cupboards, searching the worktop. Why didn't the intruder react to my warning? What the hell was going on? I was lost and confused. I was scared shitless.
I looked around in a vague attempt to look at the options at my disposal. Exit my bedroom through the window? No, bad idea. Hide under the bed? Surely not. Son of Sam would find me there. And then the solution dawned upon me. It was sitting on the bedside table next to the lamp: the phone. I fumbled around the bed and retrieved the newspaper, began leafing my way through to the page with the latest NYPD update on the Son of Sam slayings, and dialed 9-1-1.
After hearing the connection sounds and first few ringtones, I yanked the phone away from my ear for a few seconds. The noises in the kitchen were ongoing but remained faint.
A female operator answered. '9-1-1, how may I be of assistance?'
Conscious of the noise I would probably make, I took a moment before replying in a voice which I tried to make as soft as possible. 'My name is Walter Slominski.'
'I'm sorry sir. I didn't quite catch your name.'
'Wal-ter Slo-min-ski!' I said louder. 'I live on the corner of 127th Street and Jamaica Avenue. I want to report a home invasion.'
The female voice replied, 'Is this your home or are you reporting a home invasion from another location?'
'My place,' I replied, irritated. 'Please send a patrol quick. I think it might be Son of Sam.'
'Sir, there is no need to panic. A call will be made. You will receive assistance soon.'
I was furious and temporarily forgot that the sonofabitch was in my kitchen.
'Listen, lady. Make it real quick! The patrol might have to report another of the .44-caliber Killer's victims if they don't hurry.'
'Sir, we're getting hundreds of phone calls every day with regard to Son of Sam and we are doing the best we can.'
'You're not the one with a serial killer in his home!' I replied.
I looked at the paper. 'Get Deputy Inspector Timothy Dowd on the line. I know he's investigating the case. He'll understand me,' I said, panicking.
'Mr. Slominski, try to stay calm. Where are you exactly?'
'In my bedroom. Door's closed. I think he's in the kitchen.'
'Do you think he knows you're in?'
'I'm not sure. I warned him that I have a gun, but he didn't react and he hasn't come to check the bedroom yet.'
'Mr. Slominski, do you have this gun with you now?'
'No, I pretended to have one'.
'Okay. The best you can do is push your bed against the door and remain in a corner until the patrol arrives. Can you move the bed easily?'
'I think I can,' I replied, drily.
'Go ahead, do it. I'll remain on the line'.
I put down the phone and did as instructed. The bed made a loud screeching noise as its legs scraped the floor. I finally managed to push it right against the door. Before I picked up the receiver, I listened carefully. The intruder was still silent.
'Sir, sir?' I could hear the operator's voice on the phone enquiring.
I resumed the conversation, 'I'm still here.'
'Good. Did the intruder hear you?'
'I don't think so. He might be gone,' I replied. 'What's happening with my patrol?'
'I told you they're on their way. Hold tight. I'll stay on the line until they arrive.'
And so I did.
I sat on the floor, holding the phone, stroking the cord nervously. I could hear an occasional thump or very quiet footsteps coming from the kitchen. Maybe Son of Sam was feeling hungry tonight and needed a snack before moving on to the next victim of his killing spree? I guessed it was a good thing that only a few slices of pizza were left and that I hadn't gone grocery shopping. Perhaps he would realize that he hadn't chosen the best of pantries.
Tortured by the near absence of noise, I mounted the bed and approached the door. I looked through the keyhole, saw nothing. All I could hear was the sound of my heart’s private rock concert. Maybe he was gone? Maybe I wasn't going to be his next victim after all?
With no imminent police arrival, I reckoned that I could have another go at frightening him off.
'Hey man, get the hell out of my apartment!' I yelled. 'Gun's loaded, you fuckin' scumbag.'
No response.
Confused and angered, I decided to end the absurd situation myself. I yanked the bed back into place and opened the bedroom door loudly, made it smash against the wall.
'I'm comin' to getcha!' I shouted.
I moved stealthily closer to the kitchen at the other end of the short corridor. I suddenly realized in the midst of my gung-ho euphoria that I was still naked and totally vulnerable.
I rested my back and butt against the wall next to the kitchen door. Then I closed my eyes, turned around. I charged clumsily, dick swinging, into the kitchen.
I opened my eyes.
The shattered glass was on the floor, as expected. However, the window wasn't broken. It was slightly ajar, the way I had left it.
I couldn't see Son of Sam. Where the hell was he? Had he really decided to torment someone else?
A few of the kitchen's cupboard doors had been opened. A washing up liquid bottle and some sponges had fallen out and had tumbled to the floor. I guessed the shattered glass could have been the water jug I had left on the worktop, as it was no longer there.
All of a sudden, a flash of pain jolted my body. It came from below and ran upwards, freezing me on the spot. It felt like I had been stabbed in the calf.
But the pain instantly dissipated.
I turned around in surprise, expecting Son of Sam to deliver his final blow. He was not standing behind me. There was no one there.
The stabbing in the calf sensation immediately started again, which forced me to look down.
And there he was the sonofabitch. There he fucking was, hissing at me.
The neighbor's grey tabby cat had stuck his claws into me, surely to avenge himself from an unfruitful search for food.
I stared the slender and demoniac creature in the eye.
He met my gaze, mano-a-mano, and meowed. Goddam heat wave-induced paranoia.