The usual opening credits:
I’m giving away my Kindle books for free this week for a summer promo, yak, yak, you’ve got until Friday 1st June to get your free downloads, and so on, I’ll be writing a piece about each book on the blog, etc.
Today, Day Three, it’s the turn of ‘Beaten to a Pulp 2: Fresh Blood Orange’.
This is a continuation of my first book, a collection of genre short stories in the pulp paperback tradition. With the second in the series I tried to diversify my cast of characters further, a decision which I think has led to it being a better, more interesting collection than its predecessor.
It opens with what I still think is one of my strongest short stories to date, ‘Queen of Junkyard Dogs’. This story first appeared in an anthology called ‘Hardboiled: Dames and Sin’ by Dead Guns Press and I wrote it specifically to submit to them. I had the basic idea for the story in mind already but thought, What if I change my cranky old man dog breeder into a cranky middle-aged woman? I doubted many of the ‘dames’ and ‘femme fatales’ DGP would be reading about in their slush pile would be in their forties, and so Clem was born, and the story is all the better for it.
I wanted her to be hard to like, but I also wanted the reader to want her to live when it came down to it. I hope that’s how people feel.
Another previously published story in this collection is ‘The Sixpence in the Pudding’, a Gothic Christmas ghost story that appeared in an anthology by FunDead Publications, one of my favourite indie publishers. They operate out of Salem, Massachusetts, and it’s well worth checking out their catalogue of classic horror books.
‘Paradise, CA’ I wrote to send to a magazine looking for occult detective stories with non-traditional characters. It got rejected at the shortlist stage because the editor was worried that a story about a gay man being punished in the Catholic afterlife might offend gay people and maybe religious people too. (They weren’t bothered that he was also being punished for committing suicide.)
The first charge here was ridiculous. The reader’s empathy stays with main character Mateo throughout – we see that what is happening to him is an injustice, and in the end he is let go by his captor, who comes to agree with him, and the reader. Really, anyone who read this and thought the publication was supporting homophobia would have to be a moron. I think the publication was ultimately looking for characters who were gay but whose sexuality had no impact on their life and played no part in the story. Like, “Dumbledore is gay… it’s all in the subtext, somewhere…”
As for the second charge, well, most religions have a long, proud history of oppression when it comes to homosexuals, women, and anyone who disagrees with them, so if they feel criticised, so be it.
Why do these things always end up so cheery?
P.S. The cover for ‘Fresh Blood Orange’ was created by my good friend, illustrator/graphic designer David Fleck. (His artwork is sick, check out this album cover he made.)
Queen of Junkyard Dogs
Clem hadn’t thought about the junkyard in years. Not since Bobby phoned her up long-distance to tell her Paw was dead. She wasn’t surprised; nobody was. He’d been turning yellow with tobacco and whisky twenty years ago when she first packed up and moved to the desert. And now, five years after they put him in the fallow ground, Bobby was on the phone again to tell her they were selling up.
“That’s good, Bobby,” she said. “I mean, I think it’s a good thing.” She could hear Bobby breathing over the line.
“Right, sure,” said Bobby. “We won’t get much but you’re entitled to your share.”
“No, that’s all right. It wouldn’t be fair.”
“No, I guess it wouldn’t, but Tilly wanted me to call anyway.”
That’s right, Tilly was Bobby’s wife. Clem could never remember who belonged to who and how many kids they all had, who was getting hitched and who was in school. “How is she?” She asked.
Bobby and Clem had been the eldest of ten kids. Twins. Clem split for Nevada not long after their twenty-first birthday. She had already waited too long. Bobby stayed and inherited the Astor family business.
“Right. Is there anything you need me to do, or sign, or…”
“No. Paperwork is all in my name.”
Clem’s place was never quiet. The dogs made sure of that. But over the phone there was a silence, empty and still. It was the quiet of the junkyard on a spring evening, just before the rain started pattering on the steel roofs of a thousand scrap metal cars. “How are the kids?” she asked.
“…I’ll let you know when it’s gone through. Bye.”