I thought it about time that I showcased my first two self-published novels and gave insights into them, plus three and four in the series. I started Mountain of Death in June 2010 after attending a writing course here in Laidley at Tell Me a Story Books. It burst forth from a tacky little pulp novel I wrote for an exercise (some may say it is still tacky) and landed on my keyboard like a bloody, dismembered digit. Hmm I thought, this could make for an interesting story. I hammered away day and night as the semblance of a story unfolded and like new writers everywhere I burned the midnight oil, or in our case drained the batteries of our solar system, irrelevant Laurie, tell the tale. I typed Chapter Four of this epic at 1.20 a.m. and thought what a clever boy am I, tired, listless I leant over to grab my mug of coffee and hit every key on the left side of the keyboard with my overgrown hand. The screen went funny, word vanished and I was left looking at the desktop. No, where had my baby gone? I'll tell you, it went to where the manuscript should have gone a wormhole somewhere in the vastness.
In my desire to get it all down at once I had forgotten to set automatic saving and also to save to a different location when I had finished writing for the day. Using a program for finding deleted files on the hard drive, I located the first chapter and a half. Sobbing ever so slightly I went to bed where my good wife consoled me, "It'll be fine love, you can rewrite it." So I did and over the following eighteen months I slaved away: learning as I went along, attending classes at the book shop, studying writer's magazines, bashing away at the keyboard. Late at night as I crafted my tale I could feel the lead character standing behind me. The plot flowed. The first draft edit came back with, 'You can do better.' When my dented ego healed I looked at all the red scribbles and thought, 'Yes I can.' Back into it and a couple of months later out it came, bigger, fresher, better. The good wife thought it may be too sexy and violent, then we watched some of the Underbelly series on television, nope it fitted quite well within the norms of what is happening around the place.
For those who have read my blog you would know my background in prisons and police work, the meaty, dirty side of life is no stranger to me and I retained it all in the part of the brain marked: future novels. Well I think there's a part like that. My lead character, Jack Hardy is loosely based on a criminal I knew in jail. This man had an aura of danger and menace about him that made your short hairs stand up, so I used the crime he was in for as the main basis of the story. I changed his ending in life for Jack and away it went. The Jack I created is by no means a nice guy, he's something of a bastard and a petty criminal, (this soon changes) tough, rugged looks, a fighter and most of my female readers find him irresistible. The story is more than sex and violence; it highlights official corruption which I think is one of the top five worst crimes, mainly because it can ruin so many lives. Of course a story is nothing without setting and Kings Cross in the late sixties was a great place to be. It pulsed with a life all of its own: seedy, grimy, dangerous, and exciting you get the idea. Add Surfers Paradise and you have great locations to work with. Mountain is a journey charting Jack's life from fifteen to thirty three, it opens on his last night in jail where he's served a ten year sentence for armed robbery. You will feel every punch when he recalls his second day in Boggo Road. The pain is real, the blood is sticky and Jack's resilience is shown to the fullest. The reminiscences take us through to the morning of his release; this is where the 'fun' begins
For insights into the supporting characters you can visit my archives for April to June 2012, I tried a little guest blogging for them, I don't know if it helped anyone at the time but they are worth a look. The main protagonist, Hans Draheim is the archetypal SS Colonel/torturer. Not a man to be taken lightly he maintains a somewhat odd exterior that is easily removed to bring out the animal below the surface. In Sydney in the early seventies a group of criminals known as the Toe Cutters operated with impunity. They preyed on other criminals who made large heists and cut off their toes until they gave up the money. Roll that evil and sadistic nature up into one man and you have Hans. Some may say that it is somewhat passé to have a Nazi in a book these days. I beg to differ. Geriatric Nazi's, mainly ex camp guards pop up in the news now and then after being rounded up. The documentary series, 'Nazi Hunters' is currently on TV highlighting the work of the Israelis in their hunt for those wanted for crimes against humanity. As a small boy going to the pictures in England I soaked up the Newsreel before Hopalong Cassidy, invariably they consisted of a least one offering on the holocaust and the scenes are still fresh in my mind. So what better representation of evil than my protagonist, and he does it well with no other thought than monetary gain and his needs. Considering what the raison d 'etre of the Third Reich entailed I feel we needed to be reminded now and then of the depths that human beings can descend into.
Every torturer needs a dungeon and Hans has a purpose built one. His sex parties, displays of horror and manipulation of important people all have one goal. Power. There is no greater aphrodisiac than power over others and even in his declining years he slavers over the death and destruction of innocents. The mention of female backpackers in the story are based on real events happening at the time in Queensland, over a dozen young women went missing from highways in south east Queensland in the 70's and 80's, most were last seen on the Gold Coast with only a few bodies being found. When people have power over others with little chance of being caught out then don't be surprised what horror bubbles to the surface.
Why do I have sex scenes in my novels? You can't have strippers, prostitutes, vital young men and women, crime and adventure without showing something we all do. There may be some gratuitous scenes but in the end they add to the plot and give reasons for actions by the characters. Swearing? Yep: they swear and curse, bleed, cum, fight, kill, die, get greedy, hate, get angry the list goes on. Every story is about a journey, whether in the literal or figurative sense. Mountain is not only something of a road journey, (we get around a bit) it follows the characters as they develop personally. Jack finds love and hurt in relationships and the consummate user of women finds out what it's like to be used.
As an author I learned many things about writing: not only from the grammatical point but the discipline of sitting and hammering out what's floating around in your head. How to grow a thick skin and smile when people curl their noses up at your offering, and accept that like your new born baby, who is so beautiful to you a lot of people think it looks like a spider monkey. I did learn how to create an eBook file along with the necessary formatting and how to format for a real book, hint find a book template online. What type of cover to put on the front, it can be expensive if you pick the wrong one. I'm still learning about marketing and promotion and have concluded that word of mouth has sold more books than anything else.
VALLEY OF DEATH
Valley of Death sprang into life before I finished book one, the idea took over late one night and I began writing the first chapter. The lead character, Annie Leeson appeared with her personality, sexuality, demons and needs intact. The supporting cast assembled in the wings and it was a case of roll 'em. I had a strong feeling about who else to bring across from Mountain and Jack Hardy in his new incarnation as Rod Davis was an odds on favourite. He plays a pivotal role and resorts to type when needed. Grace is there, still a strong woman but she has a certain feel about her, quietly dangerous, a little brittle at times. Susie is part of the cast and you will be surprised about her connection. Naturally there are new additions and we catch up with some friends from book one.
Creating new people can be fun, no God complex here, the subconscious mind sifts away through the files marked 'people I knew' (there must be a file there) and it throws up the required mannequin for you to dress. Hmm, that nose, moustache or facial resemblance of your choice. Then so and so's personality, job history, background it's a regular jigsaw. In the end you have your playthings to uplift or destroy at will. There's a definite Zeus like quality happening here, it sounds funny but as a writer you are creating people, hopefully realistic people to populate the pages of your offering. I wanted them to come off the page at a reader and slap them around a bit, and wake them up to what is happening in the world to children and teens.
Annie seems happy, she has more than most and life has blessed her with physical beauty and intelligence, a need to right wrongs and the drive to move forward in her career. What she can't understand are the dreams that have been haunting her for months, we know they are dragging her back to the mansion, to where she was abused. Being bi-sexual, a woman and good looking can cause jealousy and unwarranted attention in any career, when you add suspicions about her adopted father Detective Johnny Leeson then you have one fired up lady. Her determination and sense of justice uncovers an organised paedophile ring with international connections. Determined to see justice done the repercussions are more than she bargained for. She comes up against official corruption, disbelief and personal danger. Determined to get the men responsible she puts her own life in danger.
My chief protagonist is a representation of corruption at its highest level and he plays his part very well. Educated, smooth, refined who would believe it was him. His fingers, tainted with the blood of innocents, are deep in every pie. A sociopath he feels nothing for his victims or those close to him, his main concerns are lust and the accumulation of wealth. I've spent some time in this story showing his background and that of his son to highlight how people can be born and led into this lifestyle. The degradation and death of innocents is not new to the world and I struggled for hours, days on how to portray some events. I didn't have far to look for cases, the newspapers are full of them. I make no excuses for what I've written or for the characters and their desires. Whatever they've learned as a child can be modified when they are capable of reasoning; sadly the imprinting of sexual pleasure on the young leaves a lasting impression on their psyches. There are no overt depictions of child sex in this book, you cannot write about the subject without mentioning it though and I think I've worked around it. (The age of consent in Australia is 16 years) Check out the link next to the book cover, it will take you straight to the Amazon page for the book and you can read the reviews there. I haven't had the local villagers with flaring torches and pitchforks lining up to take me away yet.
People can be destroyed in many ways, sometimes death is easier than reconstructing yourself and this is what Annie must do to survive. I've tried to show the depth of human spirit here, the desires and wants, the strengths and weaknesses. How we cope as people when the going gets tough, how we survive and what we are prepared to do to survive. There are casualties along the way and Death himself doesn't care how old you are, or for that matter who you are. Like Mountain there is sex, violence, murder and lust. I think the interplay between personalities has evolved here as well and I hope that I've presented them better than book one. There are no white hats. Instead they vary from black-as, to a grubby cream colour.
As a post script I must add that the setting for this book is Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, a near city, riverside suburb it is still something of a hotbed of sex and violence. It certainly draws the punters on Friday and Saturday nights. With some real places I've used poetic license to change them slightly, others stand as they are. The outer suburbs and those around Ipswich are real and I've changed the spelling on some streets. It is a case of write what you know and setting a novel in your home state is quite satisfying and easier. Readers have commented on how they can relate much better to the story when they have knowledge of the location. For overseas readers, well we here down under have had to visualise endless locations over the years in a story and just wing it with the description. If you think the subject of the story is out-dated or not relevant the Australian government has only this week begun a Royal Commission into child abuse in institutions, churches, homes etc. I'm sure that many eyes will be opened to what goes and has gone on over the years to those who cannot defend themselves.
RIVER OF DEATH
River of Death, third in the series almost wrote itself, from the opening lines it flowed, pardon the pun. Once again it came to life as I finished the first draft of the preceding book Valley. The characters, new and old blended seamlessly into the story right from the start. Not only were they waiting in the wings I think they put their own resumes in. Of course Annie Leeson is back, fighting fit and not taking crap off anybody. She's had a promotion and after her harrowing experiences in Valley has sworn off men, at least for a while. There is something different about her in this book, she's cynical with a take no prisoner's approach. You can almost feel her sandpaper-like attitude as she is dragged into the story. The glass-ceiling is still a problem for women in the force and she is no exception. Being lumbered with the case of a woman's mutilated body in a shipping container seemed a good way for her Boss to get her out of his hair for a while.
We meet Simon Fynch, ex motorbike cop now a brand new Detective Senior Constable in Fortitude Valley. He has finally found his niche in life; the years of study and his ongoing degree have paid off. An horrendous incident from his childhood spurred him on to become a copper, now he hopes he can make a difference. A family man with something of a studious look about him his career is almost cut short before it begins. He finds Annie's abrasive attitude annoying but has to suck it up and work with her. There's DS Harry Swift the consummate drinking man who rises to the occasion when needed. Inspector Bill Pygram is still with us, along with Detective Stan Grimes. His life has changed but not his attitude to Annie. Annie's daughter Susan plays a big part in this book and she is quite a character. Further in we meet a Detective Michael 'Dunnie' Painter. For my overseas readers, in Australia a toilet is known as a Dunnie. So with the surname of Painter what other nickname could you use? On the surface he is a grizzled bad tempered bastard, a man you don't want to mess with. There is another side to him and it may surprise you.
Some old characters pass on in this book and let me tell you I cried while writing the scenes. Bit players from book two come to the fore and play their parts admirably. I won't say anything about two of the new characters that appear as it would compromise the story. Needless to say they are quite pivotal. To talk at length about the protagonists would give it all away but rest assured they will make you look twice before going out at night. Yes protagonists, three to be exact and they step up to the plate and play their parts admirably. The lead protagonist is a fine example of a killer whose mental faculties are in a state of decline. Highly intelligent with the morals of an alley cat he leads the police on a frantic hunt, leaving a rare coin as a clue. His taste is classical-his methods worthy of Dr Frankenstein.
The story is more than a kill-fest. We have love and sex, heartbreak and loss, bravery and determination and the ongoing endurance of the human spirit. There is cynicism and revenge, jealousy and regret, death and violence, post mortems and porn, in other words something for everyone. Set in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley, where the river of the title snakes around we find ourselves in a Brisbane winter. (Not too cold at all) The river dominates, although Moreton Bay and Bribie Island gain a mention. Ipswich (I’ve lived and worked there for forty years) plays its part again supplying some grim backdrops. August in Brisbane is known for two things, cold westerly winds and the Royal Queensland Show or 'The Ekka,' held at the Exhibition grounds a stone’s throw from the Valley. It plays a pivotal role in the story. So there we have it, River of Death will be released as an eBook towards the end of 2013, with a print version not far behind.
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