Too Much Murder?

On my goodreads author page I just wrote this little piece to kick things off.

Why is it that so many books and TV shows centre on murder? In fact, one ordinary murder is not enough these days – for success in the crime/thriller genre you seem to need a serial killer, and often one who is twisted and brutal. Each new story has to raise the stakes and present us with more gore and evil than the last, doesn’t it?
Maybe this is overstating the case, but I just don’t feel that a good, thrilling book should have to escalate the violence to be successful. Surely it is the characters, the plot and the quality of the writing that satisfy the reader, not the volume of blood or the number of body parts flung about?
Now I enjoy a good murder mystery, and I read every new Peter Robinson and Jim Kelly that comes out, but I also enjoy Alexander McCall Smith’s gentler stories, which can generate tension and pace too. Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie books combine a great literary style with a little violence and mystery in a very satisfying way.
So I am not planning to write a serial murderer story anytime soon. There is death and violence in my book Taken In but not overkill, in my humble opinion. Does this make the book boring? Let me know…

 

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Taken In, available now

Here is the link to the Kindle version of my book:

It is also available as a paperback. The preview (or Look Inside feature) allows you to read the first few chapters for free, so you can see if it engages your interest.

Please write me a review on Amazon, Goodreads or elsewhere.

Publication soon

My first published novel, now titled Taken In, will be available in November. I am currently checking proofs and making minor adjustments.

It is an adventure and crime story set on a large cruise ship traveling from Malaysia and Singapore towards Australia, and relates the trials of  an accidental stowaway and the friends he makes among the staff and crew. I will post links to the book once it is available.

A shorter story set on a cruise ship:

The Flash Fiction piece below (300 words) did well in a competition. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Some Enchanted Evening

My left hand stretched to the closing lift doors, Nancy’s evening bag glittering in my right. Fat, bile green fingers shot out, gripped my cuff-linked wrist and pulled me in through converging panels. I gazed up at the rotund, tunic-clad ogre, unsure whether to thank him. Shrek’s trumpet ears brushed the recessed lights.

            ‘You’re welcome,’ he boomed, Scottish accent just as expected, and the irony.

            ‘Yeah, thanks,’ I muttered, ‘Had to go back for this.’ Instead of descending towards the cocktail lounge, where Nancy waited in diminutive plan view through the glass walls, we rose towards deck ten. I pulled out my phone to text her.

            ‘Wifi. Could I borrow that?’ I didn’t see how those fat fingers could work the keys, but he was pulling off his broad spongy headpiece with an exposed pale hand, copper hair plastered to a sweaty pink head. He pressed a combination of lift buttons and we stopped between decks. ‘My girlfriend’s pregnant, back in Glasgow, started to bleed yesterday. Can’t get on the staff internet tonight. Need to check if she’s okay.’

            Scotland from the Caribbean. ‘Phone call?’

            ‘Nah. Facebook’d do.’ He was twitching inside the foam suit, eyes urgent, watery.

            ‘Of course.’ I passed him the phone, ‘Early hours, there.’

            ‘She’ll not be sleeping much. She’ll check.’

            He worked at the phone, leant against the chromed rail. I couldn’t see Nancy’s head now, just other tuxedos, evening dresses. I recalled another February miscarriage. The message on a slip of paper, running for a payphone, the trembling fear. Grandchildren anchor our lives.

            ‘Hang on to it for the reply. We’re on table four – the waiter can bring it back.’

            He nodded thanks, delivered me to deck five.

            With the gateau Vladimir brought my phone. It radiated a screenful of beaming smileys.

Will Ingrams, 9th October 2017

Summer Progress

Since December all my creative effort has gone into writing a novel, but it’s about time I updated this site and recorded some progress.

I recently heard why last year’s Poetic Republic competition for short stories and poems vanished without trace. The organiser, Peter Hartey, unfortunately died last Summer. This left the competition outcome on hold, but his friends and family are now planning to publish the story and poetry volumes resulting from the contest. As I enthused last year, this unique, participant-judged competition was enjoyable to take part in, and I now hope to see my shortlisted work published soon. I plan to post more work and comment here relating to this.

My novel is now in readable form. It took me from December to June to write the first draft, and I have just completed the revisions to produce the second draft. This is now out with a few readers for comment and review before I improve it further and decide what to do with it. The book’s current title is An Accidental Cruise, and it is a kind of literary thriller, set on a cruise ship in the South China sea. More about this to come.

Last year I wrote a poem called Rooftop Pool, and the Everglades Hotel section of this site provides background information. The poem was entered in the Poetic Republic competition, and is soon to be published in a new volume of work from BigSky Writers. More on this soon too.

Christmas Reading

If you like a seasonal story or poem to read in December, while you’re getting into that festive mood, or you want a ghost story to add a chill to a night that’s just too mild, then you are in luck.

My local writing group, called Big Sky Writers, has just released a thin volume of ten Christmas pieces, and it’s free to download now. You can get it in pdf, mobi or ePub format, to suit your eReading device.

BSXmas_360All you have to do is go to the Noisetrade site by clicking on the cover image or using the link below. You have to sign up with your email address, but the download is free, and once you sign up you can access lots of other free books and music too. Some of the music is really good, and you can pick up a couple of Christmas albums to refresh your turkey-stuffing playlist.

The principle of Noisetrade is that people give away free stuff to attract new listeners and readers, and I think it works.

Go to:

http://books.noisetrade.com/bigskywriters/bright-stars-in-a-big-sky

 

Story Draft – Somebody’s Birthday

This is the second draft of my story written for the FutureLearn Fiction Course (Warning – contains offensive language):

Somebodys Birthday

The ship docked in Sydney eight hours ago and disgorged all its guests and their bags before midday. Some left gratuities. Philo has now changed and cleaned all of his twenty four staterooms. His section of deck nine includes two superior, ten seaview and twelve inside cabins, and all are ready for the new guests arriving tomorrow for their fourteen Western Pacific cruise nights. Philo locks away his cleaning cart, changes into jeans and a tee-shirt, and descends to the gangway on deck three.

The second thing people notice about Philo is his warmth – he seems to understand moods and needs almost immediately, responding with sympathy and whatever help he can offer. The first thing they notice is how big and ugly he is. Philo is over six feet tall, but it is the wide shoulders and oversized head that make him stand out. The dark skin of his face seems to have difficulty containing the lumps of his cheekbones and his battered forehead, and it seems unlikely that lips could ever close over those splayed and mismatched teeth, but they do. The fact is that Philo’s smiling mouth drives you away, but his dark, understanding eyes, draw you back. You just have to overcome the immediate flash of fear as this monster of a man grins at you, and then you will feel his empathy.

The security guys at the foot of the gangway scan his pass, confirming his return time, and the Australians wave him past the immigration desk. One of officials makes a small gesture of jokey submission, swaying back with hands slightly raised as he passes.

Philo’s physical strength is manifest – he is a big guy with huge shoulders and hands that can hold basketballs, but there is no swagger or threat in his movements. He doesn’t seem to crowd you, even in the smaller cabins on the ship, because he occupies space almost apologetically, ready to withdraw at the first sign of alarm or discomfort. You wouldn’t want to make him angry, though, so that one eyebrow lifts and he starts to look at you with his head slightly tilted. His anger is truly fearsome, but is only ever kindled by insult or scorn. Philo knows he is unprepossessing in appearance, but he is also sensitive, kind and inoffensive; he will not accept being laughed at or ridiculed.

Philo couldn’t help but look out as he was servicing the balconied staterooms – this must be the most spectacular berth in the world. From deck nine he could see the huge Harbour Bridge arcing out to his right, and on the other side of the ship spring the white and cream shells of the Opera House. These famous landmarks are linked by the ferry terminal at Circular Quay, and that’s where Philo is headed now, to buy a postcard and stamp for his Mum in Corinth, and maybe to take a trip round the harbour,

Beneath the long point of the ship’s bow, the Opera House flashes sun sparks from the zig-zags of its roof, and Philo decides to sit on one of the stone benches and admire the view. The afternoon sun warms the left side of his face and he feels content. His eyes have been closed for a short while when he hears muttering.

‘Nah, don’t say it. Offside mate, Keep quiet, Kev.’

Beside Philo is a twitching shambles of a man, sandy hair thinning on a scab-spattered head bowed over a phone. The guy keeps glancing sideways at Philo, up at the ferries and then down at his phone, muttering and sniffling. Philo thinks he is drunk.

‘Big ugly sod though, ha! Zip it up Kev. Don’t get offside.’ He looks at Philo again and laughs, tossing his head back, ‘Gawd. Big black bastard.’

Philo turns to face Kev, head slightly cocked and one dark eyebrow calmly raised, fingers flexing, and waits for a fidget to bring their eyes together. Kev fiddles with his phone, twitches his head away, up, down again, and finally his eye catches Philo’s.

‘Were you referring to me?’ Philo asks in his slow, growly voice, holding Kev’s eyes locked tight despite that restless body.

Kev’s head shakes but his mouth says, ‘Yeah. Fucking madman, I am. Offside, eh?’

Philo stands, looking like one of the vast stone towers of the Harbour Bridge looming over a shack on The Rocks, and reaches out a huge hand towards the lippy drunk. Kev jerks back and his phone chooses that moment to leap out of his hand and land with a clatter on the stone slabs, bursting into three separate pieces. The battery skids past Kev’s foot, under the end of the bench where there is a narrow gap.

‘Aw shit. Me fucking phone. I got to call her. Me daughter. It’s ‘er fuckin’ birthday. She’ll kill me.’ Kev falls clumsily to his knees, gathering the front and back of his phone and scrabbling hopelessly at the gap under the stone bench end.

Philo feels all his anger drain away. This pitiful drunk needs help, there, sobbing quietly on the flagstones.

Bending down, Philo gently pulls Kev back and grips the bench with both hands. The thing must weigh half a ton, but Philo bends his knees, straightens his back and lifts the bench end a foot into the air. He is straining, certainly, but he holds it up calmly while Kev grabs the battery and sinks back, clutching it tightly.

Once Philo has reassembled the phone, sat beside Kev on the resettled bench, he turns it on, checks it and holds Kev’s erratic arm steady as he puts it in his hand. Kev glances up at him and his head shakes as he starts poking at buttons. He mutters something that could be thanks.

‘Just wish her a happy birthday, man,’ Philo says, resting his big hand lightly on Kev’s shoulder as he stands and heads off for Circular Quay.