extract

#Prologue Dying Truth by Angela Marsons #DyingTruth @WriteAngie @bookouture #KimStone

bookouturepro

How exciting is this?!!! I know that many of you will be fans of Angela Marsons DI Kim Stone series and if you aren’t then why not?!!! So you will be as excited as I am about this prologue for the new Kim Stone book, Dying Truth, that is out on 18th May 2018.

If you have yet to discover DI Kim Stone then I suggest that you start at the beginning with the amazing Silent Scream. Dying Truth is the eighths book in the series but each one is so good.

So I won’t keep you waiting any longer, enjoy!!

Blurb:

dyingtruthHow far would you go to protect your darkest secrets?

When teenager Sadie Winter jumps from the roof of her school, her death is ruled as suicide – a final devastating act from a troubled girl. But then the broken body of a young boy is discovered at the same school and it’s clear to Detective Kim Stone that these deaths are not tragic accidents.

As Kim and her team begin to unravel a dark web of secrets, one of the teachers could hold the key to the truth. Yet just as she is about to break her silence, she is found dead.

With more children’s lives at risk, Kim has to consider the unthinkable – whether a fellow pupil could be responsible for the murders. Investigating the psychology of children that kill brings the detective into contact with her former adversary, Dr Alex Thorne – the sociopath who has made it her life’s work to destroy Kim.

Desperate to catch the killer, Kim finds a link between the recent murders and an initiation prank that happened at the school decades earlier. But saving these innocent lives comes at a cost – and one of Kim’s own might pay the ultimate price.

The utterly addictive new crime thriller from the Number One bestselling author – you will be gripped until the final shocking twist.

Prologue of Dying Truth by Angela Marsons:

Saturday 7.52 p.m.

Kim knew that her left leg was broken.

She pulled herself along the path on her hands as the stone bit into her palms, shards of gravel embedding beneath her fingernails.

A cry escaped her lips as her ankle turned and pain shot around her body.

Sweat beads were forming on her forehead as the agony intensified.

Finally, she saw the light from the building as three familiar shapes hurtled out of the doorway.

All three of them headed towards the bell tower.

‘Nooo…’ she cried, as loudly as she could.

No one turned.

Don’t go up there, she willed silently, trying to pull herself towards them.

‘Stop,’ she shouted out as they entered the metal doorway at the base of the tower.

Kim tried to still the panic as they disappeared from view.

‘Damn it,’ she screamed with frustration, unable to reach them in time.

She gathered all her strength and pushed herself up to a standing position, trying to drag her broken leg behind her as though it didn’t exist.

Two steps forward and the pain radiated through her body like a tidal wave and brought her back down to the ground. She gagged as the nausea rose from her stomach and her head began to swim.

She shouted again but the figures had disappeared from view and were now in the belly of the tower, behind solid brick, mounting the stone steps to the top.

‘Please, someone help,’ she screamed, but there was no one to hear. She was a good eighty metres away from the school, and she had never felt so helpless in her life.

She glanced at her wrist and saw that it was three minutes to eight.

The bell was due to be rung bang on the hour.

The fear started in the pit of her stomach and grew like a cloud to fill her entire body.

She struggled forward another agonising step, dragging her useless leg behind her.

Torchlight illuminated the top of the tower.

Damn it, they were already there.

‘Stop,’ she cried again, praying that one of them would hear her even though she knew her voice wouldn’t carry that distance.

The shafts of light moved furtively around the tower balcony ninety feet up in the air.

She saw a fourth figure amongst the three that were familiar to her.

The watch on her wrist vibrated the top of the hour. The bell didn’t ring.

Please God, let them get down.

Her prayer was cut off as she heard a loud scream.

Two people were hanging from the bell rope, swinging back and forth, in and out of the torchlight that darted around the small space.

Kim squinted, trying to identify the two silhouettes, but they were too far away.

She tried to regulate her breathing in order to shout again, even though she knew no kind of warning would help them now.

Her worst fears had been realised.

‘Please, please…’ Kim whispered as she saw the bell rope swing back and forth once more.

One figure was snatched from the bell rope as the second continued to swing.

‘No,’ Kim screamed, trying to carry herself forward towards them.

The fear inside had turned ice cold, freezing her solid.

For a few seconds time stood still. The saliva in her mouth had gone leaving her unable to speak or shout.

Kim felt the ache that started in her heart when the remaining figure and the swinging bell rope disappeared from view.

Her ears suddenly filled with a blood-curdling, tortured scream.

But no one else was around.

The scream came from her.

Dying Truth by Angela Marsons is out on 18th May 2018 and is available to pre-order now from here.

guest author, short story

#ShortStory Time Served by Jaime Raven author of The Rebel. @Sabah_K @AvonBooksUK

 

therebel
The Rebel by Jaime Raven.

Today I have a great short story written by Jaime Raven, author of The Rebel which is published by Avon Books. I love a good short story and I’m sure that you’re going to enjoy this one!

 

Blurb:

Jaime Raven

The Rebel

From the author of The Madam and The Mother comes a gripping new thriller that will have everyone talking!

Sometimes you have to take the law into your own hands…

 DI Laura Jefferson will do whatever it takes to bring down London’s most notorious crime boss. When her team receive a deadly threat – stop their investigation or the police and their families will be targeted – but they aren’t willing to back down…

Then the killings begin.

A new body is turns up every day, and with no leads, Laura knows she has to take action. Her family is innocent and she’ll stop at nothing to protect them.

When someone close to her is hurt, she’ll break every rule in the book to get vengeance.

Short Story:

TIME SERVED

BY JAIME RAVEN

Author of THE REBEL

The day has finally arrived and it’s been a long time coming. Fifteen years, seven months and three weeks to be precise.

But having served my time I’m now going to walk out of those prison gates never to return. Sure, I face an uncertain future, but then so does everyone.

At least I’ll no longer have to endure daily threats and taunts and the endless cycle of violence.

I can still remember that bitterly cold December morning when I arrived. It was such a shock to the system that I didn’t think I’d be able to cope.

There were those awful smells that were impossible to identify and the cacophony of noise that gave me headaches.

I found everything about the place intimidating, especially the cold grey eyes of the man who for no particular reason took and instant dislike to me.

Tommy Butcher had already been banged up for five years of a ten year sentence for armed robbery. And he had a fearsome reputation as an uncompromising thug.

‘So what’s your name then?’ he asked me when I encountered him that first day in the prison canteen.

‘Samuels,’ I told him. ‘John Samuels.’

He gave me that creepy, gold-toothed grin that became so familiar, and said, ‘Well I’m gonna call you redtop on account of your ginger hair.’

Much to my dismay the name stuck.

‘Count yourself lucky,’ Bill Simpson said to me more than once. ‘They call me Homer and I hate it with a vengeance.’

Bill has been my best pal throughout. I’ll miss him, and I know he’ll miss having me around.

‘It’ll be my turn to get out next year,’ he tells me as we have our last conversation in the prison’s high-security wing. ‘And I really can’t wait.’

‘I don’t suppose you’ll be as nervous as I am right now,’ I tell him.

He laughs. ‘Try to relax, mate. You’ll be fine. You’ve so much to look forward to.’

I shrug. ‘It doesn’t seem like it. But then I’ve only got myself to blame. I messed up big time.’

We both fall silent and it gives me time to reflect on my mistakes and how much my life has changed since that day fifteen years, seven months and three weeks ago.

Susan divorced me, my only son got married, his wife gave birth to my grandchild and my ginger hair turned grey.

And so much around me changed as well in that time. Conditions inside the prison deteriorated as a result of overcrowding and underfunding. Violence reached an all-time high, and now it seems like every day is a riot waiting to happen.

I’ve managed to survive, though, despite everything that was thrown at me. And that’s no mean feat.

‘You’re still young enough to make every moment count from now on,’ Bill says, but I find that hard to believe.

And yet I know I’m incredibly lucky to have reached this point. Not everyone who’s in for the long haul comes out relatively unscathed.

Jaime Raven

About The Author:

James_RavenJaime Raven is a full-time author living in Southampton UK. Jaime spends some of his time writing at his second home on Spain’s Costa Calida. He has three daughters. He was born in London and grew up in the gritty streets of Peckham where his family were well known street traders.

 

 

The Rebel by Jaime Raven is out now in the UK and available from Amazon UK, you can pre-order The Rebel from Amazon US now.

 

 

 

3.5*, blog tours, book review, debut author

#BlogTour #Review Too Close To Breathe by Olivia Kiernan @LivKiernan #TooCloseToBreathe @riverrunbooks

tooclosetobreathe

My Review:

I love the cover for Too Close To Breathe, just looking at it made me want to read the book and I don’t think that I even read the blurb. So that meant that when I started the book I had absolutely no idea what to expect, which is how I like it when I read a book.

Too Close To Breathe is the first book in a new series, but I did have to double check that when reading it as I felt as though I was missing something, but nope, it is definitely the first book. It is also quite a slow burner, most detective series takes place over a few days or maybe weeks, but this book takes place over months, but it is an intriguing story that keeps the reader wondering as the story twists and turns and many different suspects come under suspicion.

There were a few instances where plotlines seemed to be forgotten halfway through or character traits. A heavy cold suddenly disappearing, or characters that started off swearing colourfully and then suddenly stopping and not swearing again for the rest of the book.

Many of the characters are pretty unlikeable, even the victims, which is unusual but I quite like. I did want to find out more about Baz, the sidekick detective. There is the promise of a good series and it will be interesting to see where the characters go next.

Too Close To Breathe is an original book and is definitely not your standard detective book which can only be a good thing.

Blurb:

9781786489869 (1)Perfect for fans of Tana French, Jane Casey and Gillian Flynn

TOO SOON TO SEE

Polished. Professional. Perfect. Dead. Respected scientist Dr Eleanor Costello is found hanging in her immaculate home: the scene the very picture of a suicide.

TOO LATE TO HIDE

DCS Frankie Sheehan is handed the case, and almost immediately spots foul play. Sheehan, a trained profiler, is seeking a murderer with a talent for death.

TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE

As Frankie strives to paint a picture of the killer, and their victim, she starts to sense they are part of a larger, darker canvas, on which the lines between the two blur.

Olivia Kiernan’s debut is a bold, brilliant thriller that will keep you guessing and leave you breathless.

About The Author:

7128026Olivia Kiernan is the author of TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE, a crime thriller where DCS Frankie Sheehan investigates the murder of Dr Eleanor Costello. At first glance the murder appears uncomplicated but soon spills out onto a dark canvas of fear, lies and murder.

Olivia Kiernan grew up in the Irish countryside, a background which left her with a great appreciation of storytelling. Being almost sensible she shelved aspirations of becoming a writer and embarked on a career in science, spending six years in university studying anatomy and physiology before receiving a BSc in Chiropractic in 2003. She worked in this vein for over a decade, always writing in the evenings after work and completing an MA in Creative Writing through part-time study in 2012.
In 2015, she began writing TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE as part of National Novel Writing Month, polishing off half the first draft by the end of the month-long writing marathon. After hiding the manuscript on her hard drive for close to a year, revisiting it from time to time to add a scene or remove one, she sent it out to agents. Within a month she had signed with a literary agent and in 2017 a dream was realised when TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE sold.

Follow on Twitter: @LivKiernan 
On Facebook: Olivia Kiernan Author

Too Close To Breathe by Olivia Kiernan is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

blog tours, guest author, guest post, how to

#BlogTour #Content Tips for writing about the past by Tiit Alexsejev #LBFBALTICS #BALTICBOOKS @midaspr

From today in London there’s a very big event happening for the book world, it’s the London Book Fair. They’re focusing on celebrating literature from the Baltic Countries and I have a guest post by Tiit Aleksejev talking about writing historical fiction. Enjoy!

Baltic Books Blog Tour

Guest Post: Tips for writing about the past – lessons from a historical fiction writer.

Tiit Aleksejev (1968) is historical fiction writer and playwright. He won the European Union Prize for Literature for his novel The Pilgrimage, which accounts the First Crusade. Since April 2016, Aleksejev has also been the chairman of the Estonian Writers´ Union. Estonia and the Baltic Countries are the Market Focus at this year’s The London Book Fair.

Aleksejev provides some tips on approaching the difficult historical subject matter and turning it into accessible fiction.

  • Do your own research into the period you are writing about. Then forget most of what you have learnt, the reader is not interested in your knowledge; but he or she cares about authenticity. Small errors kill the credibility, an accurate detail can be a cornerstone. Check the details but don’t overload your writing with them
  • Read as many resources as you can: chronicles, accounts, battle reports, songs, poems etc. Most will be inclined or distorted, they are written in favour of someone or something. For example the medieval conception of truth and veracity is completely different from ours. But you may find authentic fragments and voices; it is all about voices.
  • We don’t know how the ancients spoke, we know how they wrote, but this writing was done by a limited social group. So, you have to reconstruct – to invent in most cases – spoken language. Avoid anachronistic speech. It was probably not “O thou noble boy, hand me over this golden chalice!”. Distinguish everyday talk and ceremonial talk. Do your characters speak like priests or beggars? Or do they speak like people who surround you? If you are not sure how they really spoke, go for the brevity and laconic dialogues.
  • Find original names for your characters which suddenly sound right to you. Chronicles is a possibility. Or tomb stones if you are not afraid of the dead.
  • Visualize space: a room, a house, a street, a city. You need to see what is in the room. Pieces of furniture may be unaccustomed to us e.g. shelves for the scrolls. Maybe the room is empty. Then you have to see it empty.

The Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – will be the Market Focus for the London Book Fair 2018 (10th – 12th April).

About The Author:

Tiit Aleksejev

Tiit Aleksejev in 2011

Tiit Aleksejev (born 6 July 1968) is an Estonian novelist and playwright.

Aleksejev was born in Kohtla-Järve. He studied history at the University of Tartu, and served as a diplomat in France and Belgium.

His debut novel was a thriller called Valge kuningriik (The White Kingdom, 2006). It won the Betti Alver Prize for best first novel. His second novel was a work of historical fiction, set in the time of the First Crusade. This novel called Palveränd (The Pilgrimage, 2008) won the EU Prize for Literature and was translated into several languages subsequently (e.g. Italian, Hungarian, and Finnish). In 2011, he published a third novel Kindel linn (Stronghold). Palveränd and Kindel linn are the first and second part of what is to become a trilogy.

His first play Leegionärid (Legionaries), about the fallen soldiers of the Estonian Legion, appeared in 2010 and premiered in 2013 in Rakvere. It received the Virumaa Literary Award in 2011. Another historical play, Kuningad(Kings) was published in 2014 and is about the murder of the four Estonian kings during the St. George’s Night Uprising (1343).

Aleksejev lives in Tallinn.

blog tours, guest author, guest post

#BlogTour #Content 88 North by J.F. Kirwan. @kirwanjf @RaRaResources #thriller #spythriller @HQDigitalUK

 88 North Full Banner
Today I am delighted and excited to be part of the blog tour for 88 North by J.F. Kirwan. Readers of my little blog will have seen my reviews for the first two books in this series, 66 Metres and 37 Hours, both of which were very enjoyable, fast-paced, thrilling reads. I agreed to take part in the blog tour for all three of the books without having read any of them, something that is quite a big commitment for any book blogger that is inundated with requests to read and review books. I was relieved when I read the first one and really enjoyed it and when I finished the second one I asked whether I could have a copy of 88 North so that I could also read and review it, along with the guest post that I’d agreed to post. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to fit in reading 88 North yet, but I absolutely and most definitely will. This is a good series!
And I love this guest post where the author talks about his writing and how he gets his ideas. I like it because he is like me and doesn’t plan much, that he knows the beginning and the end but has no idea about the middle, just as I do and it seems that he does his best thinking in the bath, which is almost the same as me, because I hate baths and shower instead. Perhaps I’m not doing it all wrong then?!!

Guest Post:

Writing and Russian Roulette

by J F Kirwan

People always ask me if I know the end of my next book. I always reply yes, because I do, and that I also know the beginning. However, the middle 300 or so pages are a different matter. It’s like being able to see a house on a faraway mountain, but the valley before it is shrouded in mist. As a writer, having promised a book to a deadline, it kind of feels like Russian Roulette, because there’s a chance that the inspiration simply never comes… I believe this tension travels down through my fingertips into my laptop. I also believe it’s essential, at least for me. If I had it all plotted out, I’d get bored and my writing would be flat. Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of writers turn out fab thrillers and plot everything out meticulously beforehand, but it just wouldn’t work for me.

After 66 Metres and 37 hours, which have the same protagonist (Nadia) but are slightly different books in style, I wanted the third one also to be different still. For about a month I was keen to start the next book, but after writing the Prologue I stopped, because I couldn’t see the twists and turns I would need to make this one stand-alone from the others and not simply be ‘more of the same’. Mostly, I couldn’t see the overall arc of the protagonist. If you’ve made it to the end of 37 hours, you pretty much know what Nadia needs to do. But what challenges would she have this time, possibly her last? It had to be something new. Luckily for me, my Sony laptop broke (the keyboard – I get carried away and sometimes I can’t type fast enough) – and I had to wait 10 days for a replacement (a Mac – 10 days? I live in France – just don’t ask).

And then, following in the great footsteps of Archimedes, I was sitting in the bath one evening thinking about nothing in particular, and the plot came to me. Just like that. Like it was hiding in plain sight and I’d missed it all this time. I got out, vaguely dried myself and began scribbling notes. This went on for 10 minutes, then I sat back. It would work. Already the shape of the book started to form, the clouds lifted from the valleys, and I could see the road, the places Nadia would travel, the obstacles in her way, and how it would change her. I didn’t go any further, because I still needed that uncertainty to drive me forward.

I also play Russian Roulette with my characters. Quite a few of them die in my books. One in particular, a real innocent, is someone Nadia saves in 88 North. In the initial draft she lived, and my fellow writers applauded. But the more I thought about it, it lessened the dramatic tension, and I knew Nadia’s nemesis, Salamander, would do everything he could to put Nadia off her game. So I killed the innocent. This led to one of the most dramatic scenes in the book, in Sudan, where Nadia finds out, and goes on a killing spree fuelled by revenge. One reader told me she punched the air while reading that scene. Had I planned it all out, and stuck to the plan, it never would have happened.

The ending was also re-written several times, as was the epilogue. I don’t mean edited, where the basic frame stays the same, I’m talking about major-rewrites here (even if the same characters remain standing at the end). But you can’t rewrite too much. Russian Roulette is a good analogy. Six chambers, one bullet. After three pulls of the trigger, you are really pushing your luck…

Blurb:

88 North

The deadliest kind of assassin is one who is already dying…

As the radiation poisoning that Nadia Laksheva was exposed to in Chernobyl takes hold of her body, she knows she has mere weeks to live. But Salamander, the terrorist who murdered her father and sister has a deadly new plan to ‘make the sky bleed’. Nadia is determined to stop him again, even if it is the last thing she ever does.

The only clue she has are the coordinates 88˚ North, a ridge in the Arctic right above one of the largest oil fields in the world, three thousand metres below the ice. If Salamander takes hold of the oil field, he could change the climate of the whole planet for generations to come…

But can Nadia stop him before her own time runs out?

The gripping third and final novel in J.F. Kirwan’s brilliant spy thriller series. Perfect for fans of Charles Cumming, Mark Dawson and Adam Brookes.

About the Author:

KIRWAN Barry 01 ret 6x8J.F. Kirwan is the author of the Nadia Laksheva thriller series for HarperCollins. Having worked in accident investigation and prevention in nuclear, offshore oil and gas and aviation sectors, he uses his experience of how accidents initially build slowly, then race towards a climax, to plot his novels. An instructor in both scuba diving and martial arts, he travels extensively all over the world, and loves to set his novels in exotic locations. He is also an insomniac who writes in the dead of night. His favourite authors include Lee Child, David Baldacci and Andy McNab.

Website: www.jfkirwan.com 

Blog: www.jfkirwan.com/blog 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/kirwanjf/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/kirwanjf

88 North by J.F. Kirwan is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

 

 

 

blog tours, extract, giveaway

#BlogTour #Extract #Giveaway The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby. @legend_press #win #book #competition

zeroandtheone

I’ve got an extract of The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby and published by Legend Press today and a giveaway of the book too! How very exciting.

Extract:

REPETITION.—

If something happens once, it may as well have never happened at all. Unfortunately,
nothing ever happens only once. Everything is repeated, even nothing.
A British Airways jet, high above the coast of New England. The captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign, but mine remains strapped tightly across my waist. My fingers clutch the armrests, knuckles white. The air hostess evens her trolley with our row and bestows a sympathetic elevation of her eyebrows on me as she clears minibottles, plastic cups, crumpled napkins off my tray table. The other passengers regard me with caution. When I stumbled back from the toilet, I found that the young mother in my row had exchanged places with her tow-headed, round-faced toddler, who now stares obliviously at the white fields outside the window, in order to provide him with a buffer zone in case I were to do something erratic. Perhaps I’d been mumbling to myself again: a dangerous perhaps.

I tried to apologise to her, to explain that I rarely drink so much, it’s only on planes that… but no luck. She doesn’t speak English.

It’s true, flying terrifies me. I can count the number of times I’ve done it on one hand. Twice with my parents. Once with school. Most recently, to Berlin with Zach during the
Easter holiday. None of which has remotely prepared me to endure this seven-hour trans-Atlantic torture. Nothing —not a book or an inflight movie or even three minibottles of whisky — helps me to relax. The least bit of turbulence,
every unexpected dip in altitude, signals The Beginning of a Crash.

On the flight to Berlin, Zach noticed my anxiety and argued that this was precisely what was so interesting about air travel. It was to be regarded, he said, as an exercise in amor fati. As soon as you stepped through the doors, you were forced to resign yourself to the possibility that your conveyance will turn into your coffin. Your fate was no longer in your hands, no longer under your control. In fact life was always like this, but only in special circumstances were we made aware of it. If to philosophize was to prepare for death he could think of no better place to practice philosophy than on an airplane.

His words were no comfort to me then. They’re even less of one now. The last thing I want to think about are preparations for death. And coffins. How does one transport
a body across the ocean? On a ship? Down in the hold with the rest of the luggage? Maybe on every flight there’s a coffin going somewhere. At this very moment my t shirts and toiletries could be nestling up with the dead.

When it is time, the air hostess helps me firmly lock my tray table and return my seat to its upright position. We’re beginning our final descent into New York, she explains.
No Miss, I am tempted to reply. Not our final descent.

The customs officer is a candle stub of a man with a damp, fleshy face that seems to have melted from the dark hairline of his crew cut into the wide, unbuttoned collar of his uniform. He flips through every page of my mostly blank passport, looks from me to my photo and back again. The photo, I remember, was taken at a booth in the Galleries, three or four years ago, in the thick of my rather dubious battle with puberty, right after one of those visits to the hairdresser, which, because I no longer live with my parents, I am no  longer obliged to make. I neutralise my expression and remove my glasses, as I had been instructed to do then, but it is only when my left eye, which has astigmatism, wanders toward my nose that the resemblance finally becomes clear to him. He asks me to confirm the information I had written on my declaration form.
Student. One week. 232 West 113th Street.
Business or pleasure?
Funeral.
The stamp falls with a dull, bureaucratic thump: Welcome to the United States.

I know what New York looks like from the establishing shots of countless films and television shows. But there the city is only as large as the screen you watch it on. A safe size. Contained. Manageable. Odourless. Two-dimensional. With clearly marked exit signs, if you’re watching at the cinema. With a volume dial and an off button, if you’re watching from the comfort of your living room.

These taxi windows offer no such protection. On the motorway, my driver slices through traffic, steering with one hand on the indicator and the other on the horn. When a removal van tries to pass us, he closes the distance at the last moment. The driver leans out the window of the van, his face
red, spit flying from his mouth as he tries to shout over the siren of the ambulance behind us. Not one to allow an insult to go unanswered, my driver rolls down the passenger-side window, letting in the foul breath of late afternoon. I probably
shouldn’t have pushed my luck by getting off the plane.

Can you believe this shit! he bellows a few minutes later. He’s been trying to engage me in conversation since he first pulled me from the middle of the taxi queue at the airport, not sensing from my mumbled one-word answers that I’d prefer to be left alone. Our eyes meet in the rearview mirror, which is wrapped in the black beads of a rosary; the silver crucifix dangling from the end bobs and sways as he speeds round a double-parked car. Can I believe what, then?

What this world is coming to! It’s been all over the radio this week. This brawd in Texas drowned her five kids in the tub.

I sigh with resignation and ask why a person would do such a thing.

Because she’s crazy, that’s why! Post-pardon depression or some shit. Said God told her to do it. God of all people! Now you tell me, boss — would God ever tell somebody to kill their own child?

If I’m not mistaken, I say, clearing my throat, God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. And the Father himself offered up his only begotten son to —

What? What was that you said? he yells, although he’s heard me perfectly well. The taxi screeches to a halt. This is your stop, buddy.

At the airport, I changed all the money I’ll have to live on for the week. It was the first time I’d ever held dollars in my hand. Green-and-black pieces of paper, no nonsense
notes, dour expressions on the portraits of men called Grant, Jackson, Hamilton — presidents presumably. I take a Grant and a Hamilton from my wallet and press them through the square opening in the plastic screen that separates me from
the driver. Plus tip, buddy, he says. I hand him another ten dollars.

He remains seated as I take my luggage out of the boot. As soon as he hears the door shut, he speeds off again, leaving me, I soon realise, far from the address I’d given him. Not an hour in New York and already I’ve been ripped off.

My hostel is located opposite a primary school in the middle of a short, derelict street in Harlem. I’d spent most of my savings on the flight and this one was the cheapest I could find at short notice. On my walk here, three different beggars asked for money in tones ranging from supplicant to menacing. I dropped the two quid I happened to have in my pocket,  shrapnel from the carton of cigarettes I bought at the dutyfree shop, into the outstretched cup of the one I passed as I turned onto 113th Street. I moved on, head down, hoping he wouldn’t notice until I was well out of shouting range.

I ring the doorbell. Open the door. Approach the large desk in the lobby and say, My name is Owen Whiting, I have a reservation. At the other end of the room, an elderly couple is sitting on an exhausted brown couch, watching a game show on the telly. Another guest is typing an email at the ancient computer in the corner. Next to him, there is a plastic display for tourist brochures and pamphlets and a table whose dusty surface supports a metallic coffee dispenser, a stack of paper cups, and a basket filled with pink sachets of sugar, plastic stirrers, and jigger pots of milk and cream. Framed photographs of the Manhattan skyline have been hung unevenly and seemingly at random on the beige walls.

My room, up three flights of stairs, proves to be equally spartan. A pair of bunk beds. A bank of lockers for valuables. A grated window that looks out onto a fire escape and down into a dark alley, which is separated from the road by a barbed wire fence. The ceiling fan spins slowly, straining to circulate a dainty handkerchief of tepid air on the slab of dusk that has also taken up residence here.

My bed must be the one on the top left — at least that’s the only one that’s been made. I strip down to my underwear, stuff my clothes into my rucksack, and place it into the locker with the key still in the hole. Book in hand, I climb up to my berth and lie down on the thin pillow and starchy sheets. The reading lamp clipped to the metal bedpost splutters a few flashes of yellow light before it shines a paltry neon cone on the cover of Zach’s copy of The Zero and the One.

On the black background, the white circle of the titular Zero intersects the white circle of the titular One, forming an eye-shaped zone the jacket designer coloured red. Beneath the title, also in red, the name of the author: Hans Abendroth.

From the earliest days of our friendship, Zach and I sought out philosophers whose names would never have appeared on the reading lists we received before the beginning of each term. To our tutors, such thinkers did not merit serious consideration. Our tutors were training us to weigh evidence, parse logic, and refute counter-examples; they encouraged us to put more stock in the rule than the exception and to put our trust in modest truths that could be easily verified and plainly expressed. Whereas the philosophers who interested us were the ones who would step right to the edge of the abyss — and jump to conclusions; the ones who wagered their sanity when they spun the wheel of thought; the ones, in short, who wrote in blood. In counter-intuitiveness we saw profundity and in obfuscation, poetry. With wide eyes, we plucked paperback after paperback from the shelves at Reservoir, the used bookshop opposite the entrance to Christ Church Meadow, our own personal Nag Hammadi, hunting for insights into the
hermetic nature of the universe and ourselves.

Zach had seen an aphorism from The Zero and the One cited in Lacan’s seminar on Poe, a reappraisal of which had appeared in Theory, a London-based journal of continental philosophy whose back issues Reservoir kept in stock. Subtitled “an essay in speculative arithmetic,” The Zero and the One (Null und Eins in the original German) is Abendroth’s only book to have been translated into English. For a whole month we searched every bookshop we passed and came up empty-handed — not a negligible failure in a city that must be one of the world’s largest markets for used and rare books. Even Dr. Inwit had never heard of Abendroth. The Bodleian had two copies, naturally, but the one that was permitted to circulate was on loan that term. Zach placed a hold on it, only to be told, when he returned to the Philosophy and Theology Faculty to collect it, that it had been reported missing. Despite his insistent pleading, the librarian, citing a recent act of Parliament, refused to divulge the identity of the borrower. When he finally found it, on Niall Graves’ shelves at the Theory launch party, he yelped, alarming some of the other partygoers, who must have thought he had just done himself some serious injury.

Though he was quite generous with his money — he picked up the tab wherever we went and never once turned a beggar away — Zach wouldn’t let me borrow the book. It was, you might say, his prized possession. He quoted from it often and sometimes read whole passages aloud when he wanted to prove some point. The first time I held it in my hands was four days ago, when his father and I were cleaning out his rooms. Save for the travel guide I bought at Blackwell’s, it is the only reading I’ve brought with me to New York.

I flip through the collection of aphorisms, looking for one in particular. The book shows all the signs of intense study: broken spine, wrinkled edges, dog-eared pages, creased jacket. Inside, the margins are heavily annotated in black pen. The underlining consists of lines so perfectly straight they must have been traced there with a ruler or with the edge of a bookmark.

On my first search, skimming all the dog-eared pages, I fail to find the passage I’m looking for. It was something about The Possessed he read to me that night. Something about Kirillov. Kirillov’s suicide. The aphorisms all have titles, but there’s no table of contents; nor is there an index of names in the back. I’ll have to be more meticulous, examine every sentence Zach found worthy of comment. I turn back to the beginning, but I’m only able to read a few pages before the light bulb splutters again, this time fatally, and the room goes dark. I flick the switch once, twice: the light isn’t coming back. I take off my glasses and slip the book under my pillow, giving what remains of my waking attention to the vague, slow circles of the fan and the dim lattice of orange and black the streetlamp has cast on the ceiling.

I’ve just begun to fall asleep, for the first time in a week, when I hear someone, one of the other guests, struggling with the door lock. Two shadows, one male and one female,
stumble into the dark room. From how loudly they whisper to each other not to make any noise, it’s clear they’re both totally pissed. They fall into the bunk beneath mine; the
bedsprings shriek under their combined weight. I cough into my fist, to let them know someone else is in the room, but they remain oblivious or indifferent to my presence. Rather than embarrassed silence, the rustle of fabric. Lips on bare skin. A moan — hers — escapes the fingers of a muffling hand as the bedframe begins to sway. Beneath the small of my back, my mattress elevates slightly. The palms of her hands or the balls of her feet, I wonder.

Outside the window, there is a dull pop. Then another three, in rapid succession. The bedsprings stop contracting abruptly beneath me.

What was that? the woman whispers, petrified.

What was what? Her lover sounds deflated. He knows exactly what she’s referring to, and can already tell that he’s lost her attention.
That sound.

Nothing, baby, he says. It was nothing. Just a car backfiring.

I never learnt where Zach found those pistols. Where does one buy a handgun anyway? Estate sale? Antique shop? The black market? I hadn’t asked, and if I hadn’t asked it is because I’d rather not know. When Bernard told me that the Inspector from the Thames Valley Police had managed to trace the pistol (he said pistol, singular, and I certainly wasn’t about to correct him), I let it be understood with a wave of my hand that I preferred to be kept in the dark about certain aspects of the case. Still, this hasn’t prevented me from speculating. Whoever sold the firearms to Zach would surely have told the Inspector about the second pistol. Unless he bought them from two different people. Unless: he stole them. It wouldn’t have been the first time, after all.

The pistols were small and old. Their black barrels were no longer than my outstretched index finger, the sort of weapon my grandfather might have stripped off the corpse of some Nazi officer during the war. They looked ridiculous to me, but Zach was quite serious about them, as he was about any technology the rest of us considered antiquated. When I asked him if they even worked, his expression soured. Of course they do! He’d tested them to make sure. Yanks and their bloody guns. Whatever else they may feel about them, they’re all obsessed by them. Even Zach, the latchkey kid born and bred in downtown Manhattan. When he collected me from Prelims, one pistol weighing down each pocket of his dinner jacket, he must have been the most heavily armed person in all of Oxfordshire.

Giveaway:

Click here to enter to win a paperback copy of The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby thanks to Legend Press. UK addresses only.

Blurb:

zero_one_high resA bookish scholarship student, Owen Whiting has high hopes of Oxford, only to find himself immediately out of place. Then he meets Zachary Foedern from New York. Rich and charismatic, Zach takes Owen under his wing, introducing him to a world Owen has only ever read about.
From Oxford to the seedy underbelly of Berlin, they dare each other to transgress the boundaries of convention and morality, until Zach proposes the greatest transgression of all: a suicide pact. But when Zach’s plans go horribly awry, Owen is left to pick up the pieces and navigate the boundaries between illusion and reality to preserve a hold on his once bright future.

About the Author:

Ryan RubyRyan Ruby was born in Los Angeles in 1983. He has written for The BafflerConjunctionsLapham’s Quarterlyn+1, and the Paris Review Daily among other publications, and has translated two novellas from the French for Readux Books. He lives in Berlin.

 

The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.