Monty and the getaway

A short piece of fiction for your entertainment featuring Monty, gentleman thief, and his long-suffering PA, Molly.

~~~

The wind whistled over the damp cobbles, adding to the icy chill in the air. Molly picked her way between the frost-rimmed puddles reflecting the dingy sodium light of the street lamps. She shivered and pulled her long black coat tighter around herself. What was a nice girl like her doing out on a night like this, she mused to herself, checking her watch. Wrong side of midnight too. Closer to dawn really. A girl really needed her beauty sleep rather than being out in the cold.

Her cellphone buzzed in her coat pocket, breaking her reverie. She pulled out a bluetooth earbud, popped it in place and answered the call she’d been expecting.

“Ah, boss. I’ve got a little problem.” She turned at the street corner, scanning left and right. “It’s about the car.”

“It got towed.”

She pulled the earbud out as Monty unleashed a tirade of invective, gave her employer a moment to finish then replaced the tiny transmitter. “I know, I know. Looking for a replacement now.” She’d spotted a car a hundred yards down the street, parked in a dark spot between two lamp posts. She hurried towards it. Not ideal, and she could imagine what Monty would think of it, but needs must.

“Wait, got one. What’s your ETA?” A staccato burst of gunfire from above answered her question. She killed the connection and delved into her handbag, fishing out the lockpick set that Monty had made for her. He’d been giving her lessons on how to deal with the basics. She hoped that she remembered what he’d taught her. The freezing night air didn’t help and she had to stop to blow on her hands to warm them up as she fumbled with the slim metal tools. That one went in *there* and this one like *that*. She twiddled them experimentally.

The cellphone buzzed again. Monty announced that he’d need a car by the front entrance in, oh, about twenty seconds or so, preferably moving, preferably very fast. Ideally something in the bulletproof line, but he realised that beggars couldn’t be choosers but could she please hurry up, thankyouverymuch. Molly hung up and returned her attention to the lock. Another fumble and she’d dropped the tension pick. In the manner of all things dropped near parked cars, it helpfully bounced underneath the vehicle, just out of reach.

Molly swore loudly, kicked the car and examined her options. Monty needed a car, now. She’d lost her means of getting into this car. Any car, for that matter. Another burst of gunfire focussed her mind and a solution popped up.

The brick made a satisfying crunch as it went through the passenger window, spraying the interior with tiny shards of glass. Brilliant. One car. Hotwiring, she was good at, taught at a very early age by her elder brother, Charlie. Three seconds later and the car was laying down streaks of rubber. It hurtled towards the junction and she threw it into a handbrake turn, tyres protesting loudly. She grinned. This was fun.

Monty exited the building via the large glass front doors. She was not surprised to notice that he hadn’t bothered to open them first. Stylish. He was being pursued by two security guards bearing semi-automatics, firing wildly at their quarry. He bounded down the steps five at a time and dived through the newly removed passenger window. Molly, at his request, floored it.

It took him a second or two to recover his composure and dust himself off before he took in his method of escape.

“What on…”

Molly cut him off. “I know, I know. I was kind of stuck for choice.”

“It’s a…”

She gave him one of her trademark Looks. “Would you rather walk?”

He returned the Look. “Quite frankly, yes. I mean, there are cars and there are cars, and then there’s… this?”

She screeched the custom-built, neon-paint jobbed, darkened windowed, rear-spoilered boy racer to a halt. Two large fluffy dice bumped on the windshield.

“Out you get then.”

A bullet took out the rear window, destroying the elaborate flaming skull decoration. He sighed and waved her on. Molly smiled sweetly and put her foot down again.

“You’re actually sulking, aren’t you?” she said, glancing over at him, sat there with his arms folded and the beginnings of a pout on his lips.

“I don’t like these cars. Remember what happened to the last one? It was rubbish. It very nearly blew us up.”

Molly thought for a second. “No, the rocket-propelled grenade nearly blew us up. It was hardly the car’s fault. And it was either this or one of those tiny French cars. This one at least looked like it might get us out of here in a hurry.” She looked in the rear-view mirror. “Hold on…”

The car slid around the corner sideways, engine screaming in protest. Unfortunately for her, the guards seemed to have a very nice, very fast looking black SUV which took the corner almost as well as she did.

She looked down at the speedometer as it crept up past sixty, seventy, seventy five. There was no way they’d get away from these goons, not in this, not now they’d reached the main road. “Running out of ideas, boss.”

Monty delved into his backpack for a moment, and came out with a small package. “Lucky for us I didn’t need this to get into the safe. Those old Dortmunder & Fforde 900 models are too much fun to crack…”

He flicked a switch, grinned then leaned out of the window before lobbing the explosive charge in a carefully timed arc.

The resulting explosion was small, but enough. Especially as he’d thrown it at the lorry they’d been passing. A lorry containing a load of scaffolding poles, which rather helpfully strew themselves in the path of the SUV.

Monty leaned back in his seat. “Brilliant. Despite your appalling taste in cars, a job well done.” He delved into his backpack again. “Want to see it?”

Molly nodded, and whistled softly as he unwrapped the black velvet from his newly acquired prize. “That’s possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

Monty grinned. “Isn’t it just? Zenn is going to be *so* mad. I wish I could see his face when he finds out it’s gone” He scratched his ear, thoughtfully. “Do you have…”

“In my bag.”

He retrieved the small laptop and powered it up. “Where..?”

“Third one down. It’s the one which says ‘monitor'”

Monty clicked the icon and a window opened onscreen. It was dark. “Come on, Zenn. You must be there by now. Don’t you want to even check… ahhh. There we go.”

A man’s face appeared in the window, a slim face framed by silver hair and a neat goatee beard. It looked annoyed. Very annoyed. Monty grinned and waved as his nemesis picked up the tiny remote camera he’d left in the safe.

“Gotcha…”

Lindsey Davis: Veni Vidi Vici – the editorial process

9781473613362

I’m taking part in a week-long flurry (can a flurry be that long?) of posts celebrating Lindsey Davis, bestselling author of the Falco (and now Flavia) series of historical crime stories set in ancient Rome. Lindsey’s latest novel, The Graveyard of the Hesperides, the 4th book in the Flavia Alba series, is published by Hodder and Stoughton on 14 April 2016.

So, on Monday Christine from Northern Crime Review hosted a post by Lindsey looking at longevity. On Tuesday Lisa from Reading Room with a View looked at characterisation, with an introduction to Marcus Didio Falco. And yesterday, with Victoria from Off The Shelf Book Reviews, Lindsey talked about dialogue in historical fiction.

Today I’m delighted to welcome Lindsey and her editor Oliver Johnson to discuss the editorial process.

Firstly, some questions for Oliver

You have had the same editor – faithful throughout – like a 27-year-old marriage. Is it still easy to work closely after all these years?

It may have been 27 years, but it doesn’t SEEM like 27 years. There are any number of reasons for this, the two most important being Lindsey’s work, which is always fresh, pacy and leavened with humour and, secondly, though our editor-writer relationship is necessarily a business-like one, we still have fun and by now have a huge amount of war stories to reminisce and chuckle over.

How do you get on and work together? How has your working relationship changed over the years?
I don’t think much has changed, to be honest. In the old days I used to print out Lindsey’s manuscript and then write my editorial comments on it. As my handwriting is illegible she had to guess what I had written and this meant she never had to actually adopt any of my suggestions. Nowadays I edit digitally so it’s easier to see what Lindsey DOES change. I discover Lindsey does pay attention when there is a comment, but finds her own way of fixing things, which is just as it should be. We still have the odd tussle over jackets and titles (see below)

Do you still surprise each other with opinions – or are you at a stage where they know what the other one is thinking?
There is an element of second guessing, for sure. But there is always something to discuss. I will always call for more plot points, and, as these books are essentially murder mysteries, for more bodies. Lindsey is amazingly inventive with language and will always put in some words I’ve never come across before

Are there any difficult areas (e.g. jackets, subject matter)?
Jackets have been a lively topic of conversation. In the early days I mistakenly wanted to convey the humour of the books on the covers but this is absolutely impossible without becoming naff. These days we stick to simpler, iconic designs.

Thanks Oliver! Over to Lindsey…

We are talking about traditional publishing here. Oliver and I are both traditionalists, and I suppose we would say that means we do it properly.
An editor doesn’t just look at the manuscript. He (assume I mean or she) first buys the book, convincing his colleagues that they will agree to have it on their list.

He see it through all the production stages. Yes this means the jacket, which is always a bone of contention. Also the title on which we have generally had a tussle. I don’t think we have ever had problems with content. I did have to convince him that if a lion was killed (Leonidas the public servant lion in Two for the Lions, whose death is very thoroughly investigated by Falco) we would not have mad people writing A cat is killed in this book! And I would never write about a torturing, child-killing serial murderer because Oliver is a loving father and anyway I would hate it myself. A little boy is in fact killed at the start of The Ides of April, but Oliver must have been snoring when he read that part of the manuscript (it’s only to show how dangerous life was for Roman children normally, and it happens ‘off-stage’ and quickly).

I don’t believe our working relationship has ever changed, except that of course I have become mellow and tolerant…We have seen each other through some dark times, but also had a wonderful experience bringing these books to the world. It is extremely unusual to have the same editor for 30 years, but I have just been incredibly lucky to have that privilege.

Did you get grief from your publisher over Falcio becoming Flavia?
Grief over Albia? Of course not. It was Roman. The poor bloke was scared to death that I’d ask if I could now do a series about accountants in Penge. (of course that’s what I really am planning, but I haven’t quite finished the research). This is the man who recoiled when I said I wanted to do Rebels and Traitors, crying ‘Lindsey, I don’t think I can sell a historical novel about Birmingham!’ – only to cheer up when I mentioned death, pillage, arson and rape were a feature. I know what he wants in a book (‘More bodies!’)

Many thanks to Lindsey and Oliver for taking the time to do the Q&A. Look out for more posts celebrating The Graveyard of the Hesperides and Lindsey over the week.

author photo 2012

A fishy tale

Or: He Took A Bite Of His Sandwich: You Won’t BELIEVE What Happened Next.

This morning, as I was making my daughter’s packed lunch, I realised with some joy that there was sufficient leftover tuna mayo for a whole other sandwich. That’s lunch sorted I thought. Two slices of bread, scrape of butter (not too much), dollop the rest of the tuna on, chop it in half, boom. Done.

Casting around for something to put the sandwich in, I found a tupperware[1] box about the right shape and size. Sandwich in, sorted.

Pleased with myself, I finished loading up LB’s lunchbox with her tuna wrap, popped my plastic box into my bag and set off for work.

At lunchtime I retrieved the box from the fridge, eager to munch on my delicious tuna sandwich.

I took the first half of the sandwich. Hmm, I thought. That’s got more tuna in than I remember. Munch munch, yum.

Still peckish, I took a bite of the other half.

Something was amiss. Awry, even.

There was something fishy about this tuna sandwich…

Actually, there wasn’t.

I opened the two slices of bread. Small flecks of tuna lay nestled on their buttery bed, forlorn.

ALL THE TUNA HAD SLID DOWN INTO THE FIRST HALF.

This was like[2] the WORST TUNA SANDWICH EVER.

Worse even than when you go to a sandwich shop and they’ve helpfully cut the sandwich diagonally[3] so you can see all the delicious filling and it looks really nice and then you buy it but it turns out the filling is all actally up against the visible edge so you’re left with a huge bready margin to your sandwich.

The first half was awesome though.

[1] not *actual* Tupperware. Other plastic containers are available.
[2] actually, I’m sure it *was* the worst tuna sandwich ever.
[3] diagonally-cut sandwiches taste better. True fact.

A Time of Torment – John Connolly: Charlie Parker’s world

This week Liz Barnsley from Liz Loves Books has been taking us on a reader’s journey through the world of Charlie Parker from the books of John Connolly. John’s latest book, A Time of Torment is published today.


On Monday she started the tour by looking at the mythology of Charlie Parker.

On Tuesday she talked about Louis and Angel – the anti-heroes of Charlie Parker’s world .

Wednesday found her talking about the Travelling Man and beyond.

Thanks to @Lizzy11268 for taking us on this literary road trip, and to @northernlass73 and @grabthisbook for being such gracious hosts.

Today I’d like to welcome Liz to *my* little blog (hi Liz!) where she’s going to talk about Charlie Parker’s world. Without further ado, over to Liz…

Welcome to Maine
Photo by aresauburnphotos | Flickr

Like Stephen King, John Connolly sets a lot of his action (although not all of it) in Maine – a place of beauty and atmosphere, described so wonderfully at times within the stories that it comes to life around you – as a reader it is a perfect setting for Charlie, it informs the character almost as much as the events do.

Photo by rghoel
Photo by rghoel | Pixabay

Whilst Portland is a mainstay, the atmospheric and deep seated imagery comes when Charlie moves away from the wider communities into the small, more insular and less well known spots – the country and those hidden spaces, the places where it is easy to imagine evil might lurk, biding its time, waiting for a moment IN time.

Looking back over my experience with the settings within the books, the sense of place and the haunting feel that comes with some of the scenery was especially unforgettable in book two. In “Dark Hollow” the hunt for Caleb Kyle, who may be man or myth, takes Charlie back to the places of his childhood and out into the wilderness, a stark and unforgiving place that is a character in its own right. In this novel the shivery feeling that the atmospheric sense of place John Connolly creates every time brings becomes tenfold – you feel the chill, you see the landscape, you are right there in that place and time.

Spooky Woods
Photo by lightsoutfilms | Flickr

Again with book eleven the setting comes into its own. “The Wrath of Angels” finds us deep in the woods in more ways than one as certain things come to a head and the hunt for the site of a crash is on – Charlie up against some terrifying rivals in his attempt to track down a very important list that may change everything. The backdrop to this tale is so visceral, so real in its description that you are again transported into that world, the events unfolding with intense and simply stunning surrounding imagery that is a thing of beauty. And of terror.

146. where's Elm-o? Hurricane Valley
Photo by nhoulihan | Flickr

These are just two examples of many of how the places inform the story, add an extra and extraordinary level to an ongoing series that is full of them. Who knows where Charlie will go next – but wherever it is we will be right there with him.

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John Connolly’s A Time of Torment, the 14th book in his Charlie Parker series is published by Hodder & Stoughton on April 7th in the UK and Ireland, and by Emily Bestler Books/Atria August 2nd in the US.

Jerome Burnel was once a hero. He took action to save lives, never imagining how that might put his own at risk. Unknown forces humiliated him and stripped him of everything, sending him to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He believes it’s only a matter of time before these forces kill him—but before he dies, he wants answers. Burnel turns to Charlie Parker: who are the people who ruined his life? What happened to the young woman he saved? And what is the secret concealed in a small town in West Virginia, where an ancient power rests?
Charlie Parker, reborn from death, is finding new ways to do battle with old evil. He and his longtime allies, Louis and Angel, descend on a strange, isolated community called The Cut, whose leaders serve only the Dead King.

john and dog 2011

In Her Wake, by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake HBcover copy 4

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own
A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life. Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family –and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home

What if someone told you that you’re not who you think you are? Who you’ve been brought up and lived your whole life as?

That’s the central premise behind Amanda Jennings’ In Her Wake.

The story starts, in a way, with a ending. Bella Campbell is an only child, brought up by her doting mother Elaine and her father Henry in an old vicarage in Oxfordshire, barely seeing the outside world except for their annual holiday to the Cotswolds.

Bella’s mother has passed away, and Bella returns home for the funeral. Her father has a secret, but can’t seem to find the words to admit to it. Then, tragedy follows tragedy and soon Bella is left questioning her entire life…

So. At the most basic level, this is a story of family dynamics, secrets and relationships. The fears that face parents when something endangers the safely and wellbeing of their children. The catastrophic sense of loss and sadness when someone is taken from us.

But it’s so much more than that. In Her Wake is a complex, layered tale of identity and control – husbands controlling wives, wives controlling husbands, and how it feels to break those shackles, to become your own person and not who everyone else is insisting that you are.

At the beginning you wonder what Bella sees in her controlling, older husband David. He’s genuinely awful to her (I got very cross with him from very early on in the book), but it seems that she just can’t see it. He clearly feels he’s doing the Right Thing, and has an absolute, unshakeable conviction that he knows best. Similarly with Elaine and Henry, Bella’s parents. Each feels they do what they have to do, with us the audience on the outside wondering why they can’t see what we can. It can be all too easy to write people off as bad, but things are never black or white.

Amanda Jennings has a phenomenal gift for story, layering real depth onto each and every character in the book. She also has a wonderful ability to bring you into a place – I’ve been to Cornwall many times over the years and could almost feel myself back there with Bella, with the sand between my toes on the beach and the waves crashing nearby.

It’s hard not to say too much and spoil the story. You really need to go on the journey with Bella to find out who she is, who she was, and who she ultimately wants to be.

It’s quite a trip. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

In Her Wake is published by Orenda Books and is available now in paperback.

GIVEAWAY!

And what’s more, I have a copy to give away! Tell me about your favourite beach, either in the comments below or on twitter. Use the hashtag #InHerWake and don’t forget to tag me (@dakegra). I’ll pick a winner this Friday (8th April 2016). Good luck!

Many thanks to Karen (@OrendaBooks) for the review copy, and to Amanda Jennings (@MandaJJennings) for writing it! As ever, the opinions are entirely my own. The blog tour continues tomorrow with Wendy at Little Bookness Lane with @BooknessLane.

In Her Wake Blog tour

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

Something a little different on the blog today. I’m delighted to reveal the cover for Laini Taylor’s upcoming Strange the Dreamer.

Strange the Dreamer is the story of:
the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperilled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

It’s not out until September, but here’s a sneak peek!

UK Jacket - Strange the Dreamer HB

Isn’t it splendid?

Here’s the UK cover and the US one – which do you prefer?
strangethedreamer-fb-reveal-uk-us

And that’s not all – here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite

Prologue

On the second sabbat of Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky.

Her skin was blue, her blood was red.

She broke over an iron gate, crimping it on impact, and there she hung, impossibly arched, graceful as a temple dancer swooning on a lover’s arm. One slick finial anchored her in place. Its point, protruding from her sternum, glittered like a brooch. She fluttered briefly as her ghost shook loose, and then her hands relaxed, shedding fistfuls of freshly picked torch ginger buds.

Later, they would say these had been hummingbird hearts and not blossoms at all.
They would say she hadn’t shed blood but wept it. That she was lewd, tonguing her teeth at them, upside down and dying, that she vomited a serpent that turned to smoke when it hit the ground. They would say a flock of moths had come, frantic, and tried to lift her away.

That was true. Only that.

They hadn’t a prayer, though. The moths were no bigger than the startled mouths of children, and even dozens together could only pluck at the strands of her darkening hair until their wings sagged, sodden with her blood. They were purled away with the blossoms as a grit-choked gust came blasting down the street. The earth heaved underfoot. The sky spun on its axis. A queer brilliance lanced through billowing smoke, and the people of Weep had to squint against it. Blowing grit and hot light and the stink of saltpeter. There had been an explosion. They might have died, all and easily, but only this girl had, shaken from some pocket of the sky.

Her feet were bare, her mouth stained damson. Her pockets were all full of plums. She was young and lovely and surprised and dead.

She was also blue.

Blue as opals, pale blue. Blue as cornflowers, or dragonfly wings, or a spring—not summer—sky.
Someone screamed. The scream drew others. The others screamed, too, not because a girl was dead, but because the girl was blue, and this meant something in the city of Weep. Even after the sky stopped reeling, and the earth settled, and the last fume spluttered from the blast site and dispersed, the screams went on, feeding themselves from voice to voice, a virus of the air.

The blue girl’s ghost gathered itself and perched, bereft, upon the spearpoint-tip of the projecting finial, just an inch above her own still chest. Gasping in shock, she tilted back her invisible head and gazed, mournfully, up.

The screams went on and on.

And across the city, atop a monolithic wedge of seamless, mirror-smooth metal, a statue stirred, as though awakened by the tumult, and slowly lifted its great horned head.

Strange the Dreamer is published by Hodder & Stoughton in September 2016. You can find out more about Laini Taylor her and her international bestselling series DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE here: http://www.lainitaylor.com/

Thanks to Hodderscape for the sneak peek:-)

Laini Taylor © Jim DiBartolo