R.J. Askew's Blog: Indie tester

November 28, 2014

The Wrong Shade of Yellow by Margaret Eleanor Leigh The Wrong Shade of Yellow by Margaret Eleanor Leigh The Wrong Shade of Yellow by Margaret Eleanor Leigh
I want to escape, I need to escape, but it is always easy to defer the actual moment – there’s a drainpipe to fix, and the kids still need a bit of watching. And so we read-escape.

I started reading Margaret Leigh’s The Wrong Shade of Yellow on a grey Monday morning in November. I had the makings of a cold at the time. Not ideal. I knew nothing of the author and nothing about the story, other than I liked the title and rather liked the splash of yellow on the cover. And I like bikes. And there’s a bike on the cover.

Here’s to serendipity, I thought. Here’s to escaping the known knowns in my life.
THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW is delightful reading journey about an actual journey at a mid-point in the author’s life journey. It’s the sort of journey many of us would love to make if only we.. The drainpipe, right? We are too busy, too settled, to dull to get off our comfy backsides to do it.

The fact is probably a little less palatable to us, actually. We are probably too fearful to do it. We have too many possessions, too much to do, too much to lose. Too, too, too, too.

Not Margaret Leigh. To be fair though, she has the right background for a cycle ride from London to Greece in search of a personal utopia. She’d already moved around a bit in her life – from three continents – and avoided the usual middle-class career rut, basically by not having a career. A doctorate in church doctrine tells us she was never cut out to sky-rocket through the glass ceiling to prominence in some serious busy-ness. She is the sort of person who prefers to plough their own furrow, or, more aptly, peddle their own bike. We need such people. Their vague impracticability is a sort of repository of useful genes, in a world where the quest for efficiency kills individuality. Our hopes for a better future are kept alive by such people because they are not afraid to take a risk, to get out there on a totally silly jaunt and just do it – damn it!

Margaret Leigh’s big bike ride is not what you would call a model of hyper-organised efficiency. She hasn’t ridden a bike for decades and she is lugging all kinds of stuff she will never use, but can’t bring herself to ditch. And guess what she does ditch. Her maps. Yes, the maps are gone before she’s got out of Holland.

The great thing about meeting new people, and we do meet Margaret Leigh through her charming little work, is that we learn their little ways. The author has very definite views about Belgium, Italy and dogs, for example. And she is not a purist about her journey. When she feels the need to is ready to resort to the odd train, though this causes her all sorts of problems, principally getting up and down stairs.

So how does she fare? Brilliantly and terrible, in equal measure. She suffers a sinister pursuit by a small black car, a rib-cracking injury, gratuitous insults on the open road, increasing worries over money, 40-degree heat, the threat of savage dogs – especially as she gets closer to her dreamed of utopia. But it is the annoying people she encounters who seem to drain her the most: surly ticket clerks, moronic bank staff back home, insane camp site owners, German tourists who’ve brought everything with them. Then there’s the snakes, spiders, flies and a pan-handling dog.

That said, she meets some beautiful people, especially when she reaches Greece. She catches their moments of pure joy in their company. Indeed, this is was the key characteristic of THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW for me, the joy the author conveys to us. It starts in Holland, once she’s plucked up courage to pedal forth after being stuck on a pink gin palace with a lugubrious Brit.

She experiences, ‘a growing sense of freedom and joy’ and ‘days of pure joy’ as she warms to being out on the road and alone in her tent at night, close to nature. The rhythm of the journey makes her philosophical, too. ‘There’s something to be said for illusions,’ she says, ‘They protect us for unpleasant realities to come.’ And this on reaching Nice, ‘There’s something unspeakably lonely about cycling in the city. I never once felt lonely in the countryside.’
Her internal compass directs her ever southwards until she reaches Greece, where a native say as she looks out over an idyllic bay, ‘see, even the fish are happy here.’ By the time she reaches Greece she is at times blissfully happy as she peddled among lonely mountains where her only companions ‘were eagles.’

Yet not everything is perfect. She records the ugly blistering that tourism causes. And there are those damned Greek dogs – definitely not pets – vicious farm dogs. But even one of her worst encounters produces a moment of ‘quite extraordinary grace, of providence.’
And then this, as some instinct draws her ever on to her utopia, ‘There was no feeling quite like the one that came from free-wheeling down a gentle slope, wind in my hair, and not a care in the world.’ Marvellous! If we close our eyes and concentrate for a moment, we can feel it, too, if we have it in us to.

And so to gorgeous Methoni – utopia – a place without even an artichoke festival to roll one’s socks up and down. And a camp site ‘unhygienic enough to deter Germans.’ Sauce! But we know what she means. You can be toooooo hygienic.
The author is in ‘the land of doves cooing’ – even if she can barely afford to eat and she’s its furnace hot. Sparrows feed from her hand.

But this is Greece, land of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, tragedy and there is a minor tragedy in THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW. Perhaps it is the nature of all utopias, all escapes to a better place and a better time. Ach, the human condition!

You will have to read THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW to learn the significance of its winning title – a title which sort of put its arm around my shoulder and whispered ‘read me’ into my ear. May it do the same for you.
The Wrong Shade of Yellow by Margaret Eleanor Leigh The Wrong Shade of Yellow by Margaret Eleanor Leigh The Wrong Shade of Yellow by Margaret Eleanor Leigh
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Published on November 28, 2014 15:02 • 557 views

November 11, 2014

Time to focus on marketing. Three years after putting a story on amazon this might seem a little late. Add on the 18-mo I wasted on Harper Collins' authonomy.com and I'm 4-1/2 years out of pocket. I now wonder if a story which has been out and about for a while, but not caught a breeze can redeem itself? Or is such a story like one of those houses you see in the house ads that never sells, month after month because the owners had just got it all wrong time and price wise?

I don't think so. Give an ebook a new title and a new cover and off we go! Bang out a few thou copies via a freebie and... Then what? I know, give that zombie of a website the kiss of life! Ever kissed a zombie website before? Thought not. I have two of them actually rjaskew.com and iTweetYouNot.com - the second of which probably tells you all you need to know about my social media skills. I watch others here there and everywhere who are like social media gymnasts the way they do the biz, all slinky tweets n sexy facebooks. Alas, my electronic smile is as left-handed as my real one. So social media will never get me that thousandth sale.

How about a bit of old fashion rsss licking on a local level? St Albans has just hosted its first ever literary festival. Whoop! Whoop! Tezza Wogan was the headline act, it was that classy. Squirts n swoons.

Anyway, I pulls my black-faded-to-rust hoodie hood up and slinks into Waterstones on the high street last Thursday night, like a fox in the waste bins. Of the 40 or so peeps there, about 23 read their stuff. This was good. Far better than tapping one's life away, ineffectually trying to ingratiate oneself to other newbie wannabes. I am animated. A couple of the readers are stoked. And, luckily, none of them stinks the place out. I don't like to witness abject jabbering in public. It bothers me. There but for.. y'know.

Anyway, come half time, I close in on one of said readers and start to give it large. The full praise and curiosity attack. The poor guy had probably never been more bigged up in all his life. And I was genuine about it. I loved his stuff. My hand was shaking, such was my enthusiasm.

Fact is, it was great to meet real authors, reading their stuff to real people. I mean it was, erm, - real, I suppose is the only word for it.

I latch onto a woman who wants to know if anyone has published an ebook. You may well imagine my sharky smile as I reach for my handly little silver case packed with biz cards of my new front cover. Damn, did you see that sly glint on my front tooth as I deploy my TV-teeth smile. Not that I actually have TV-teeth, but we can all dream.

Anyway, she hangs on my every word - I cld see her turning puce and choking. I can't believe anyone knows less than me about the ebook biz, but they do. I get home and I sell a tranch of war loan to buy her book. 77p. My review is live by noon the next day. I actually loved the book. Genuinly. No seriously, I loved the book. It is a masterly piece of satire. But the author does not even own a kindle and hasn't a scooby about how to catch the breeze for her story. I cld weep. Esp as she also can't actually buy yours truly's rebranded n relaunched product, as Harper Collins might refer to a book. Da Product. Da Branding. Da Da. Time to relaunch DaDaism Da maybe Da?

Anyway, that was the end of my BIG marketing push. The book signing I planned to go to, and the Sat afternoon seminar, and the local poet's gig on Sunday in some half-baked-potato bar were all sadly missed. But hell, I did manage to hand out that one biz card, so I'm still in with a shout.

Meanwhile, here I am, tap, tap, tapping, rap, tap, tapping my life away from by amply proportioned kitchen - seats eight - in he heart of St Albans, Deadrie the dishwasher churning away happily to my right. Nice dishy-wishy-washer - writing an ebook are we for NoNov, are we? I wonder how Tezza Wogan's marketing push went. I believe he has a book to sell right now, too. Don't we all. Ahm only buy'en 'is if he's buy'en mahn, like. Cue 'Wonderwall - Oasis', ah kid.

p.s. this is my offering One Swift Summer by R.J. Askew One Swift Summer by R.J. Askew One Swift Summer by R.J. Askew myBook.to/OneSwiftSummer myBook.to/OneSwiftSummer myBook.to/OneSwiftSummer
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Published on November 11, 2014 10:54 • 307 views

September 22, 2014

It's my birthday today.

But that's not why I'll be celebrating this week - with a glass of that which cheers.

September First - Indie's story - rocked forth on Tuesday.

A shard of soul ripped out n hurtling your way with a snarl.

Grappling hooks with jagged n pointed barbs dig into your eyes. Gotcha!

38,000 words swarm up n in. http://amzn.to/1msR5FD

A mean n ripped novella. Berserker writing to die for.

Straight down your optic nerve, surfing your sheerest perception. Right in. Bang. Synapses fused. Smoke on the brain.

September First is not safe writing. The opposite. Risk, high risk, danger! Beware!

Indie is a curs'ed genius. A brilliant scrap of mad talent.

September First is her story. http://amzn.to/1msR5FD

A story of mad jealousy, impossible love, furnace hot sex, dreams of peace and calm, berserker violence - and a swirl of the sweetest creativity.

Read it if you dare. http://amzn.to/1msR5FD

Don't forget this. There be monsters in September First. Monsters of the mind tormented.

Anyone who knows anything about what it is to live with certain states of mind will not find September First an easy read. It's too vivid.

Indie is told she is bi-polar. Just a label. Her reality is wilder than any label. Risk factor 10.

It's all about Jack. Her hunk of a man, a very famous man, a man for all women. A problematically perfect man. Her man.

Indie makes Jack the success he is. But this in turn brings him to the attention of even more women.

Poor Indie. Far too alive to live at ease.

September First is the prequel to the best-selling literary romance, September Ends. See the reviews - 100 of them - on Amazon.

Another hit production from the London-Atlanta collaboration.

Catch September First at http://amzn.to/1msR5FD
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Published on September 22, 2014 03:19 • 330 views

September 21, 2014

Now that I am dead.

Don't look so shocked. You always knew there was no escape. Always said I'd be back for you.

Well, here I am, a-pageanting through your helpless perception. Two poems a-straining on their leashes. Down, you two! Behave.

No point, Jack. Absolutely no point looking around. Not where I am, silly! I'm here. Yes. Behind .. your eyes.

Now that I am dead.

I've taken to it, Jack love. No surprise there, my life being what it was. But this! O this! The opportunities for mischief! Beyond measure, I can tell you.

I tried out my powers on a taxi driver. He crashed. I was shocked, the thought, shocked. I didn't mean him to. But he did. Seeing my pale face in his rear view.

The power is tremendous. Feel it coursing through me now? So dead, I'm electric!

He didn't die, the driver. I didn't set out to kill him. Though I must admit the thought of expediting another's passage does have a certain novelty appeal. 'Take me to Death, my good man. I tip well, damned well.'

The places I've been to, Jack. Wherever I please. Windsor Castle. The old lady. Because she's there. Curiosity. She sensed I was there, quiet though I was. I think she thought I was death come for her at last. I kept very quiet. I didn't move. I just stood there in the back of her mind, watching. The view through her Britannic majesty's eyes. She knew I was there, alright.

I wander minds. Tis my way. I wouldn't exactly say I haunt them. Do you feel haunted now, love? No, thought not. How could you? I love you, Jack. Still do. Said I would and I still .. do. Love you.
So here I am. Loving you from the great beyond, behind your eyes.

Relax. I said I'd be back. Your pulse is going faster than that..

Sorry, Jack. I know how you felt when I passed. I watched how you were. I realise now you meant all those lovely things you said to me. You know, chickens and children.

If only I hadn't been so stupidly jealous. Things would have been so much easier between us. But then would you have wanted them to be? Honestly now, would you?

I excited you, didn't I? In a dull and disappointing world, your Indie gave you a reason to shave. I'm rather proud of that, actually. Slip of a woman like me with a man like you you! God, I loved you. Yes, I was more intelligent than you. Yes, I was ten times more lucky in my creativity than you.

I always used to think it would end, that my luck would pitter-patter out on me. That's what made me so desperate for another bite of you and another and another. The fear of losing you. How wrong I was!

But then how do and of us ever know? Perhaps it was my crazy fear of losing you, my desperate love that did it for you.

Would you have loved me as you did if I'd been Belgium's number one quilting queen, as calm as a crocheted cloud? Methinks not.

Feeling a little better now? Good boy. I do believe you are. You knew I'd be back. You knew your Indie wouldn't just lie down and die like a loser.

We were winners, Jack. Everything we touched, apart from ourselves. But then the love we made. More than most people make in ten lifetimes. God, we were hot.

Now that I'm dead, I've been wondering how we'd have been had we still been an 'us' at ninety. I think you'd have killed me actually. Or my manic upswings might have driven you over the edge. And that now it would be you ghosting around in my lost mind. Doctor I have a deceased poet's being behind mine eyes. The look on their faces.

Speaking of which, I've been fine since I've been dead. No more annoying cerebral oscillations, existential tipping points. No more of anything actually, but I have to say there is a certain joy in not being all over the place. And, another thing, you notice how delightfully quiet it is once you go ex-body. The gratuitous noise in life is truly awful. Oh yes, death is much less raucous than life's monstrous gannet colony. Pecketty-peck. Heed me, read me.

How do I look, Jack? Come on, in your mind's eye. Focus! How do I look in death? I think my hair suits me longer, don't you? If you like it, I think I'll keep it long. What do you say? Tell me.

Jack, I'm going to do something now. Get ready. I'm going to straddle this synapse. Something tells me..

There. How does that feel?

Something tells me that I can still turn you on, even from the great beyond.

How does this feel? Tell me. It's me Jack Savage, your Indie. Still hot for you, hotter actually. There's been no one else Jack, not before and not since, my death that is. Only you. Can you feel how I am for you, rocking back and forth on this synapse of bliss.

That's it, let me feel you still love me Jack. It's been a while. I've been through a lot. I need you more in death than I ever did in life. Can you cope? I know you found it hard to cope with me in life. Can you cope with me in death? I hope you can because I need you Jack. Kiss me Jack. Kiss me sepulchrally.

That's it my Jack. Sort yourself out for me. I need you too, need to know my womanly power over you lives within you. Do it for me, just do it. I want you to. Go on, your Indie loves you so.

The things they wrote about us, about me, about you. Little did they know! Imagine if they could see us now, engaged in this act of haunting love. Not that I want them to. I know you would, you shameless showman you! But then my body is, ach was, not as drop-dead as yours. You might not be be able to write as good a line as I, but the lines of your ribs! I always loved your ribs the most. My butcher's model you. Even now! Even now, you work me up.

Goooooooood boy, Jack, good boy you, o you.

I confess I've thought of borrowing another's body, taking them over, possessing them for a season, coming to you, Indie re-incarnated, taking you. Some beautiful body, stunning you. Would you like that? And then I'd speak to you through her and you would know it was me, come to you. I'd unleash these two poems into your being. You could write them down, be my amanuensis. You are a man, aren't you?

Save here I am, as I am, your Indie. I wouldn't want you wanting another's body, even with me inside it.

Jaaaaaaack! O Jack. Don't look so sad. There's no need to cry. Don't cry. Please don't cry. You don't want the tears of ghost staining the cushions of your soul. Come on Jack.

Oh no. I'm sorry, I'm really sorry Jack. I've upset you. It's all been too much for you. You're still far too alive to cope with my death. I see it. I see it now. I have to go. But I'll be back. Perhaps it will be easier next time. Promise me you won't block me. Promise. Don't block me like some potentially unwanted programme.

The thought of not being able to visit you...


Promise Jack! Or this will not end at all well for you - now that one is dead.
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Published on September 21, 2014 02:56 • 61 views

May 13, 2014

When I got to the end of A Light in the Cane Fields I felt sad - sad that the read was over, that I'd finished the book.

The book put it's arm round my shoulder from the outset and made me its friend.

We can't stay with a book forever, but a book can stay in us forever. And A Light in the Cane Fields will always be in me from now on.


Because it is a moving story expertly and at times beautifully written.

Set in the Philippines during a violent time in the its history, the story is as much set in the heart and soul of the country as in its villages and mountains, drawing as it does on the country's historic struggles against the Spanish and then the Americans and the Japanese.

But perhaps the worst struggle of all is the civil war between the exploitative and politically-powerful rich and the repressed poor - a universal and timeless theme. Strongman Ferdinand Marcos presides over a state based on despotic nepotism.

Jando is a young boy who gets caught up in the mounting terror of the moment and whose life as the son of a small landowner is throw up in the air as revolutionary rebels battle it out with big landlords, local militia and bandits.

His story is that of all the millions of children whose innocence has been stripped from them.

A Light in the Cane Fields gives us an insight into Jando's place in his rural backwater, where life has a traditional feel to it, with everything and everyone is more or less in their place. Yes, there are stresses, but people seem to get along for the most part. There is a beauty in the setting, too, and the people are close to it.

But events are afoot and the story gradually gathers pace as everything is turned on its head during an escalating cycle of violence, blood and death.

There is great cruelty and great tenderness. Hatreds and friendships are deep and strong, as is the pervading sense of futility.

The second half of the book is a fast-paced series of increasingly violent events which produce some surprising shifts of loyalty as Jando, a bright and charming boy, finds a new family.

Above all, the story's boy soldiers are a tragic indictment of the way adults can foul things up, through selfishness and doctrine. On an individual level though, not all is lost, quite the opposite as you will see when you get to the end of Enrico Antiporda's compellingly woven story.

The language bossed my eye also. To quote a callous character about to watch a ritual crucifiction, 'This is the best part.' The author's prose paints some vivid characters, beautiful, if at times harsh, settings, with a natural poetry, zipping along like a dragonfly, its 'transparent wings throwing prisms in the sun.' Magical stuff.

Above all though, I got a sense of being from Jando, who likened the fragmenting of a guerilla band to the 'breaking up of a family', and whose dream was to be, 'living a normal life with a normal family.'
A Light in the Cane Fields reminded me of two other great reads: Lord of the Flies because of the way humans tend to split into warring tribes; and Vasily Grossman's majestic Life and Fate because of this quote, which seemed to direct the reader's eye back into the lighter side of the human spirit, 'But I could not help myself. I felt so hopeful.'

And it doesn't half have a cracking front
A Light in the Cane Fields by Enrico Antiporda
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Published on May 13, 2014 06:56 • 79 views • Tags: review-ebook

May 6, 2014

It's a modest vegetable with a fine pedigree is Hampshire watercress.

You just have to look at it to know it will do you the power of good, packed as it is with a dizzying array of GOOD STUFF.

You just eat it. That's what you do. And it does you good.

It has a characterful taste and people swear by it for all manner of reasons.

And so do I, so much so that I've put it - along with a swarm of nightingales - at the very heart of my new novella, IN THE ROOM WITH THREE DOORS

Three kids in a, ahem, menage a trois, quit the super-acidic success-driven lifestyle of London for a gentler, alkaline way of being, in lovely Hampshire - which actually offers them far more than all the material success of any career in the me-me-me fast lane.

So, we are talking coming of age, breaking away, and better living.

Rhiannon Smith has a vision of a greener way to be, with watercress at heart of her outrageous dream and her machinations to make it a reality.

You all know of the legend of the Green Man of yore, much loved of medieval craftsmen as evidenced by the wood and stone carvings they left behind them in the fabric of some of our most venerable buildings.

Well, Rhiannon Smith is a Green Woman for out times, a reworking of an old and worthy idea at the core of England's spiritual and cultural life.

The Green Man reflected our pagan past and our relationship with nature. Perhaps we are gradually reverting to some aspects of ancient ways. Most of us - the wiser ones that is - like to think of ourselves as green in principle, if not entirely so in practice. We do our best. We recycle diligently and eat our greens.

It is no accident that the cover of IN THE ROOM WITH THREE DOORS is a lovely shade of watercress green because the story could not be greener in its underlying philosophy. I am a Green Man. So there.

I believe we all need to at least think about stepping back from the barbarism of our success-driven materialism. It is difficult for us to change our ways, to abandon destructive habits. But it is possible. The first step is to open our minds to why we need to do it.

Green is good. It is healthy. If you look at a food chart you will see that all the acidic foods tend to be red in hue, while the alkaline foods - like watercress - are a rich shade of green. The acidic foods tend to shorten our lives. And it is not just about eating green, but thinking living green, too.

So IN THE ROOM WITH THREE DOORS is a rebellious little rascal of a read. Though it is also a gentle read with absolutely N O car chases, meth labs, gang rapes, BDSM fire and ice play, guns, aliens, vampires, zombies, war, intellectual weirdness, or other overworked devices in its pages.

You will, however, find a thread inspired by John Keats' ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE. His poem is actually more about the human condition than our place in broader nature. Just a little teaser for you. By the way, John Keats was the same age when he died as Rhi and her guys are, just 25.

Back to the watercress. It's the Arlesford watercress festival in 12 days time, on May the 18th. Arlesford is a small town in rural Hampshire, England. There are many prosperous watercress farms in the region, formerly a part of Wessex in Anglo-Saxon times. And before that there were Roman villas dotted around the place. And before that Celtic shrines. IN THE ROOM WITH THREE DOORS is set on the waters of a little known tributary of the River Itchen, which runs through the heart of watercress country.

Some of the water irrigating today's watercress had already been in the chalky ground gathering nutrients way before all those time which seem so ancient to us.

Such is the timeless nature of watercress. And such is the nature of the philosopy behind IN THE ROOM WITH THREE DOORS Perhaps it's been marinating in the chalky parts of my soul for an aeon or two.

The Tyranny of Fact Based Reality does not have all the answers for us. We need dreams and romance and we need to treasure our connections with Nature. I capitalise the word deliberately. I'm not saying we should worship it, merely that we are a small part of it and that it deserves to be capitalised.

And so to Avalon.

Our human soul still craves the state of heart that was and is Avalon - a dreamy notion of something better than our actualities. Tales of fantasy have an enduring popularity, much to the chagrin of many a swivel-eyed intellectual with a low IQ - Imagination Quotient.

That is one reason we read, I believe. We are all looking for a brief mental flight to Avalon in one or other of its many guises. We read to, 'Open wide the mind's cage door.' So, yes, Rhi Smith was looking for her own personal Avalon when she persuaded her two fellas to throw up their jobs, turn their backs on London, and chase a dream with her.

How could they resist? They couldn't, as you will read anon.

In Stevie Nicks' haunting song, Rhiannon, the lyric goes 'Rhi-an-on, Rhi-an-on, will you ever win?'

I hope you will find that the question is artfully answered in the pages of IN THE ROOM WITH THREE DOORS

I commend my story to your eyes and hope you will find nourishment in the reading of it. It's reet peppery, as we say in Lancashire.

Your author *bows*
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Published on May 06, 2014 06:15 • 607 views

April 28, 2014

A.A. Abbott's thriller Up in Smoke lifts the stone on the tobacco business. It is a fast and sexy read that drew me in and held me with its clever blend of of moral outrage versus hedonism.

I don't read a lot of thrillers, but this one certainly bossed my eyes from start to finish because of its subject matter.

The story is believable. Big tobacco is still out there. There is still money to be made aplenty. Its markets may have shrunk in the West, but it is a clever and cunning business. And there are fat profits to be made, especially in Asia.

Yes, there is something for everyone in A.A. Abbott's story.

Some 5 million people die each year because of smoking. My father was one of them some years ago. Kids still smoke. It's cool to too many. Sickening, literally.

Up in Smoke ticks this box in a big way by setting up a group of activist against Albion, a tobacco giant.

A part of me was definitely rooting for the activists. I wanted Albion to go down. I wanted its business to fold and I wanted all those working for it to lose their jobs.

But, but, but .. And this is where, A.A. Abbott's book is very clever, I got to like some of the players at Albion. They were very human, doing very human things in their personal lives. The sorts of things people do everywhere. They were no different from the rest of us in many ways.

I almost forgot what they were responsible for actually producing.

This trip was enhanced by the excitement and skullduggery of a takeover battle and a lot of lavish expense-account living in the fast lane, where skirts are high and necklines low and Charlie is not the name of your doddery old uncle. Nod nod.

Oh yes, Up in Smoke is definitely all about seduction. One flash of Joe, the marketing director's baby blues, provides an excellent couple of twists to the story. There is more than just smoke in the air. Lives are at stake.

I actually grew to like Tony, Albion's alpha male boss. Yes, he is a first class rascal however you view him. But.. Was it the way he lived life without a care?

"..Tony put a cigar to his lips. Lighting it at last, he drew comfort and courage from its perfumed smoke."

By contrast, the activists pitted against him seem mean-spirited and violent. The lengths they are prepared to go to taint them. But, of course, they can wrap the flag of greater moral good around themselves. They know that their aims are right. They know they are right in the long run and that they have to do what others cannot or don't have the courage to do. Big Tobacco must be stopped at all costs. And I agree with them.

Tony and those like him in the walking around world are directly, directly, responsible for the deaths of 5 million people a year.

Now how great a biz is that to be in guys?


There is also great wit in Up in Smoke, some of it arch. The evil candyman marketing director who will not sell to African children - far too poor to buy ciggies. And the drugs dealer whose body is a temple. And "Not my orchids," shouts one villain during a ruck. And "You can redecorate when I'm dead," quips one of the tobacco industry's victims.

Yes, I can recommend Up in Smoke. It's been carefully rolled to curl from the page and up into your eyes in the most pleasing of ways imaginable. And it is all eminently believable.
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Published on April 28, 2014 04:37 • 590 views • Tags: fiction, goodread, review, smoking, thriller

April 17, 2014

Yes, I am Dead, sans body. And yet, voila, here we are, Jack O. Savage – still, and forever, at your service.

At which point one would reverentially genuflect to your good self. Tis how I am, or, rather, was. Still, one knows one may rely upon your extraordinary fancy to envision one sweeping one’s medium-brimmed Tilley flax hat in tasteful mocha from one’s head, and tracing a baroque swirl of cartouches in the swooning air before your very eyes. I digress.

Yes! One of the many advantages to being, as one is, Dead – the ultimate out of body experience, most liberating! One of the many advantages to being Dead is that one needs neither screen nor keyboard to string a swag or two of verse together. I swear to you, being Dead is a dream for one such as I, for whom the daily chore or tap-tap-tapping one’s life away at a keybored was a wolverine nightmare of rabid torments. Have you ever seen a rabid torment foam at the fangs? Not a pretty sight. And you have my assurance on that, if, that is you will take the word of a black-belt snake oil huckster-in-chief. Genuflect, genuflect.

Folks, since I’ve been Dead I’ve been bouncing, never felt better! I get to perform to the best of audiences and, I tweet you not, I have never been more inspired.

You could say I’m in heaven, except of course I’m not. Not that this means I’m kippering gently down with the horned fella in the smoky house either. No, you can forget all that antediluvian superstition. God – and I have met her – is more your bored chief operating officer type.

In truth, I can report to you that life as a Dead person is not dissimilar to Death as a live person. To be honest with you, a great many of the Dead people I’ve met recently are far more alive than many of those allegedly alive. I am sure you know a good few in that latter category. Golf clubs are stuffed with their like. Oh yes, the possession of a body and a full set of titanium golf sticks does not mean that its occupant is actually alive in any meaningful way. No, there is far more to being alive than drawing a lengthy sequence of breaths into a badly designed frame of flesh and bone. The human body is, I have come to learn since I left mine, somewhat akin to one of those concept cars you see at those ridiculous car shows. I mean, hello humanity: global warming, car shows? What’s all that about, people? I assure you the word in the great beyond here is that the organisation i.e. Nature is less than enamoured with how the human concept is working out, or not, actually. The initial trial was for a couple of dozen human beings only, but… Well, there was an accident, a spillage, if you will. And now here we are – some 10 billion walking around concepts. You might argue that this is evidence of said concept’s exceptional versatility and vigour. But you would be wrong. The human concept is merely exceptionally greedy to be, a state which in itself is evidence of no other worth than an exceptional greed to be. Nature, let me tell you, is not amused.

So is Nature God? No, categorically not. Nature is Nature. There is nothing god-like about her whatsoever. She’s quite the tortured poet type, actually. No, God is, I am able to inform you, being as I am absolutely Dead and know about things on this side of the great divide, a shallow human construct – a semantically limited stop-gap explanation in a rather unsatisfactory state of being.

My advice to you, from the metaphysical side of things is to focus more on the notion of primal states. Forget about Ferrari’s and Ray Banns, think outside the limitations of your corporeality. Think Death. Death, you see, has had a terrible press for far too long. Rather than the Grim Reaper, dear old Death is more the Great Liberator. Of course I know you will find it difficult to get your material mind around this, but that is merely because you are trapped within a doomed body and know no better. You fear your own decline and demise. Ha! Tis tragic. See how I am. Do I sound at all down about being Dead. No. Bouncing! I swear to you I’m bouncing.

To start with – sorry about this Liz, I’m sure you’re listening – a certain exceptionally talented lady poet was waiting for me when I finally escaped my rotting body. Yes, dearest Indie Shadwick was here for me when I broke on through to the other side, if I may borrow from Jimbo Morrison. He says, hi by the way. He’s having the very best of Deaths. Same old Jimbo – always on his way to the next whiskey bar somewhere or other. Hey ho, some things never change, fortunately.

Back to Indie.

She’s lost her stammer. Zero stammer. Death has cured her of that, totally. And she is far more relaxed. Is she still multi-polar? Yes, no change there, but she is more, how can I put this, more biddable. Marriage, she tells me, is dissolved by Death and so I am – sorry about this Liz – free and available to her, Indie. She then proceeds to give yours truly a good shellacking over that little misunderstanding over that awful publishing woman. And then, and then…gives me a ten minute super snog. If this is Death, I thinks to myself, bring it on! But of course it was Death and I was up to my neck in it.

Indie it seems had been watching me during the final weeks of my illness and was absolutely determined not to let any other Dead lady get her hands on my personage, metaphysically speaking, of course.

Between you me and the gatepost, she looks drop-dead gorgeous in her new state. You would never think she was atomised by a speeding train. Not a bit of it.

So we get to chatting. We have a bit of catching up to do. That said she seems to know everything I’ve been up to, even stuff that I’ve forgotten.

We are to write again it seems. The opportunities for Dead poets far outstrip those for live poets. People are more elevated in their tastes once Death frees them from all the petty madness of living. You know how it is. All those things you never quite get round to in life. Voila, Death gives you all the time in the universe. Bouncing, I tell you, bouncing.

Now then. There is a point to all this. Indie informs me to inform you that you are to do her a favour. You are to download a copy of a certain Hunter S. Jones entitled September Again because, again Indie is most insistent on this point, there are some verses of mine in there that – for some reason known only to her – she wants you to familiarise yourself with.

Now who am I to gainsay Indie. You know how she can be. I obey. So dearest you, I beseech you to oblige your poet in this small matter and do Indie’s bidding. Fire up your kindle and download September Again this very minute, nay this very nano-second – faster than a frog’s tongue! Else my Death with not be worth living, so to speak.

Jack O. Savage *bows*
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Published on April 17, 2014 05:46 • 819 views

October 12, 2013

It's the storytelling, stupid.

Some writers like stitching quilts with pretty pretty words, others spin killing stories which consume us.

Lucy Pireel's A Menu of Death is definitely a killing spin of visceral storytelling power on the prowl.

And we are its willing prey.

MoD is the third of LP's published books that I've read.

It comprises eight commute-size short stories with otherly darkness as a unifying theme.

I read them or rather was consumed by them in about three days, during my journeys into and out of London.

I found intelligence, urgency and joy in the writing, although joy might be a strange word to describe stories which revel in the macabre and chilling death.
But there is a joy in LP's writing. I sense she enjoys being in the story, racing along with it, enjoying the hunt as the words do her bidding and form its lithe and active shape. And so it is a pleasure to experience the outcome.

The stance of her stories often challenge the conventional, morally and physically. The variety in her theme is pleasing and you never quiet know what's coming next. You don't learn to write like this on a course. It is in you or it is not.

So MoD?

I was won by an opening poem - by Andy Szpuk - a line of which to me perfectly captures LP's writerly DNA: 'The thorn of a thought delivers poisonous surprises'.
I was in ecstasy when I read that line and in absolutely the right mental state to read MoD.

All eight stories take you outside the norm in some way. You will have to read them to find out how. No spoilers here, my friend.

My personal faves among the stories are CRAVING which I found reminded me in part of Steven Kings way of story writing. Can I say better of that? CRAVING consumes you. And makes you think how we are in our greed for more of everything.

I was also rocked by the chilling logic of BLOODWORK.

And the nightmare hallucinogenic visions in SHORTCUT will disturb anyone who is in training for any kind of running event.

LP does not waste words. All the stories are lean and lithe. And I found myself purring over her opening lines. I suppose opening lines of short stories are very important.

Here are some of the ones that caught my eye and drew me in with their curiosity-igniting immediacy:

-- I've denied it as long as I could
-- When I woke up that last normal morning
-- I stepped out of the doctor's office
-- In her flight from the cruel reality of her life
-- Time. A thing Amy never had enough of

I swear to you it is worth taking time to have a read of LP's shorts. The intelligent reader with a taste for the dark is sure to find something to please in MoD, dripping as it is with phantom maggots of Baudelarian doom.

Ron Askew
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Published on October 12, 2013 03:17 • 150 views

August 31, 2013

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Published on August 31, 2013 04:48 • 8,311 views