The Switched by Ryan Bracha – Review

27 05 2015

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I wouldn’t want to be Bracha. Not for anything. I feel sorry for him in the most profound way.
It’s not the vacant expression sketched permanently on his face that elicits my sympathy for him. Nor the sagging, sweat-stained moob impression on his sad oasis-esque polo shirt.

It’s not even the resigned way he carries himself, like only the most wretched shit-stain of a man who’s accepted his slide into deep ugliness can affect.
Not even the rancid, gamey oily pungent Stench of his grimy Breath elicits my Pity. None of those are a patch on Bracha’s one true inescapable obstacle.
The sad fact is that Bracha has written his finest novel to date and will most likely never scratch at those heights again let alone improve on it.

That’s what I’m telling myself at any rate, but the truth is that Bracha will do what he always does and go on developing his skills and pushing himself further from any comfort zone he could slip into.
Ryan Bracha is that sort of cheeky wide-o who asks for a blowy straight after he’s been knocked back for a tit squeeze. He has no shame and no sense of limitations.

Unwilling to restrain himself to a single comfortable genre or writing style, Bracha has shoved all desire to settle into a formulaic groove aside and elevated his writing one more time. In The Switched, Bracha ‘switches’ effortlessly but never gratuitously between first and third person and present and past tense, as the story demands.

Many writers would struggle to maintain consistency with such changes, or overuse the mechanism, Ryan effortlessly (it’s not but it reads like it is) employs the shifting narrative and perspective to add urgency, humour and purpose to each scene.

Taking  all the creativeness of Strangers are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet and follow-up Tomorrow’s Chip Paper, Bracha throws in a hefty helping of technical skill- earned by hundreds of hours writing The Dead Man Series- to temper his surging imagination and desire to put his characters through the wringer for your entertainment.

What we have in The Switched is the perfect blend of creative flair with technical skill from a writer who is at the peak of his powers…so far.

The biggest development, for me, in Ryan’s writing with The Switched is that Relationships are now front and centre and the driving force for the novel. Where in previous books, the story was the driving force for his characters, in The Switched, Bracha’s characters drive the story. The characterisation and development is exceptionally good in this novel.

 

That the sweetest, most compelling and real relationship in the book is between two men, one of whom is a woman inhabiting her partner’s former body, is a testament to the author’s new-found ability to expose the tender weakness of the true individual rather than the shell of the person.

 

Reading The Switched holds all the manky, unsettling, thrilling insidiousness of playing a game of ‘just the tip’ and leaves the reader wondering just how much more Ryan Bracha is still capable of.”

The Switched is available for pre-order at Amazon UK and US now.





Twelve Mad Men – Mary Magdalene

11 05 2015

I’m not sure how Bracha talks me into these things. When he proposed the Mad Men project I rolled my eyes and thought, ‘that’s an impossible project’ luckily for me I’d had beer, lots of beer and my mouth ignored my brain, telling him, “sounds magic, I’m in.” I’m fairly certain he times his approach deliberately.

Taking twelve very different writer’s stories and merging them into a coherent narrative is an immensely difficult task and one that most writers wouldn’t consider approaching.

Ryan Bracha, in Twelve Mad Men, has taken the differing personalities, voices, morals, madness and writing styles and formed not only a coherent novel from them but an utterly original and compelling piece of fiction.

Without a doubt the maddest of the twelve, Bracha (the bastard), took each of us involved out of our comfort zone and gave us permission to indulge ourselves in a way we wouldn’t normally do in our own books. He brought the worst and the best out in my writing and pulled off his ridiculous project with gusto. Dick.

Here’s my contribution:

Suggested for over 18s only. Contains very strong language and very graphic violence.

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Mary Magdalene

By Mark Wilson

“Hello? I’m here to fix the lights. Can you get in the corner, please?” I press my ear up against the door, listening for shuffling to confirm that he’s done as I asked. All I hear is a rhythmic slurping, slap sound. I listen a little closer. The meaty slurp sounds like it’s coming from a distance away so I slip my key in the door, turn and push gently, keeping a firm hold of the handle, in case I have to slam it closed again.

Peeking my face through the grate, I see Wilson in the corner. More precisely, I see the back of him. He’s sitting in the corner like I asked, but I get the distinct impression that he was already there before I came knocking. He’s not that tall, and only lightly built but even from behind it’s clear that he’s powerful. He has that wiry, coiled spring musculature, I can see it in the movement of his shoulder. I can see his body quite clearly as there’s nothing covering it.

His right arm is moving with some force, repeatedly hammering away at something as he sits. He’s talking to himself, but I can’t quite make out what he’s saying. It’s not the accent, it’s his voice, so gentle. Like he’s talking to a lover. He’s facing the wall to his right, staring at a photograph. I move a little closer, just close enough to hear better and get a look at the image. It’s a tattered photo from some sort of boarding school. There are about a hundred kids, half a dozen nuns and maybe twenty priests, all standing in rows posing for the camera. I peer in a little closer and start counting.

Fourteen of the priests and two nuns have a very thick, very bold tick made with a red marker on their faces.

I cock my ear to the left and hold my breath. Wilson hasn’t made a move, just that piston he has for a right arm pumping up and down in a decidedly masturbatory manner. So long as he’s happy. I take another step closer, finally I can hear that gentle voice.

“Cotter, Docherty, McNally, O’Donnell, McGuire…”

He lists surnames, maybe ten, maybe twenty and starts again, tugging at his cock with each name whispered. I’ve somehow forgotten why I’m here or the danger present and lean in for a closer look.

Wilson stands and turns quite gracefully as my foot scuffs the stone floor a little louder than intended. The cock-bashing hasn’t stopped, or even slowed, it hasn’t changed pace, I’m suddenly very grateful that it hasn’t sped up. He tilts his head very slightly. His shaved head glints in the moonlight and his eyes widen as he takes me in. There are scars on his chest, low down just above the abdomen. They look nasty.

“Lalley, O’Malley, Foley..” His head straightens and the chanting stops, although the arm keeps perfect time.

“Are you fixing the lights or not,” he asks, never missing a stroke. His voice is softer than any man’s, he sounds like a woman, a pretty woman. I search for words, but my capacity to speak has been taken away by the sight of this very slight man with a cock like two cans of Red Bull stacked on end, wanking at me.

His arm starts to slow, so I start talking. “Yes, sorry Mr Wilson, if you could just stay in the corner, I’ll..”

“What’s your name?” He asks gently. His eyes are curious, but something else, there’s excitement there, and maybe fear as well.

I tell him my name.

His face softened, and he tilts his head again, throwing me a seductive look.

“Are you a religious man?” he asks, with a giggle.

Involuntarily, my eyes dart to the faded image on the wall and back to his quickly. Not quick enough though, he saw it. His eyes narrow, all friendliness gone.

“My sister asked you a fuckin’ question, cunt!” he roars at me in a booming baritone.

The change in him is staggering. The softness is gone, so has the curiosity. His whole posture has changed, all playfulness and grace has vanished and pure predatory aggression glares from him.

Fuck knows what the right answer to his question is but his arm has started pulling at that two-can cock with such ferocity that I’m genuinely frightened for its well-being despite the danger I’m in.

I blurt out, “No, I’m not. Used to be, but..”

“Shut the fuck up, ya dick.” He spits at me.

I do. I watch him transform again in front of me. The face softens, the eyes widen and the body becomes a graceful swan in movement once again as she returns.

Something’s changed in her though, she’s no longer throwing me admiring, curious looks. She’s looks friendly enough, and her wanking has returned to normal pace, but something’s shifted.

She moves beside me to get a good look at my face. I use my peripheral vision to make sure that I have an egress.

“I’m sorry about my brother. He’s a little overprotective,” she says gently. “I’m glad you’re not religious, I like the religious type, but Paul, my brother, does not.”

“Okay,” I sing, with false cheeriness as the lean man with the woman’s demeanour and voice wanks serenely in my direction. “Best get on then. Would you mind going back to the corner, don’t let me interrupt…” I nod down at her… his reddened cock.

“I’d like you to stay for a few minutes. I so rarely get to talk to anyone.” Her face darkened a little, the threat of Paul behind her eyes. “Paul gets angry if I’m not happy. Let’s talk, just for a little while.” I nod and watch her walk back to her corner and resume her previous position, only this time she’s facing me.

I sit a few metres away and ask. “So what’s a nice girl like you doing here?”

Her face drops. “I’m not a nice girl,” she says.

“I’m sorry,” I blurt out, it was just a joke, y’know, cos that’s what people say.”

She nods, but I can tell that I hurt her feelings because her cock twitched at me in response.

“Why don’t you tell me how you came to be here, you and your brother,” I suggest. “if you don’t mind, that is….” I suddenly feel ridiculous, but have to ask.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

The wiry little, very scary man with the huge dick, blushes, he actually blushes and pauses his wankery for a second in surprise.

“Nobody ever asks me that, not in all my time here. They just call us both Wilson.” She smiles with genuine warmth before resuming her stroking at a more leisurely pace than I’d seen her do so far.

“My name’s Mary. Pleased to meet you.”

“And you,” I say with a ridiculous little bow that makes me feel stupid, but it makes her laugh and the cell lights up when she laughs.

“Would you like to hear about how I came here? She asks

I shrug, “Only if you’re happy to tell me.”

She gives me a little bow of her own, mirroring mine in a gentle mock, making me laugh. Her eyes dance with light and she drinks in my happiness as she starts to tell her story. I sit and stare into the face of the scariest, most beautiful man I’ve ever seen as he-she, as Paul-Mary speaks.

***

My sibling and I had been in St Margaret Mary’s for around six months. We’d been to other schools, loads actually. We were good kids, but dad moved around a lot. Army officer. Came from money and gentry, couldn’t be bothered being a parent after Mum died. It was an alright school and was close to Edinburgh city centre which was awesome for a couple of fourteen year olds with time to kill and no parents around.

On our first day, the head teacher, Father Connelly, introduced us to our peers at the house assembly. He made a big deal of us being twins, we were the first twins to attend St Mags’. Father Connelly was a lovely man, I really looked up to him, to all of the staff, to be honest. That’s probably why I have a thing for the religious type, especially Catholics. Never works out though.

Paul played rugby, Mary studied hard. Friends were difficult to come by, most of the kids our age seemed withdrawn, sullen. We didn’t particularly care, we had each other after all, but it would’ve been nice to have some more friends.

Eventually we were invited along to one of Fr Connelly’s private dinners. He’d been telling us for months how special being twins was. He really liked that about us.

Mary wore a very white dress, one that father Connelly had remarked on at an assembly some months before. Paul looked as scruffy as always, but at least he’d had a shower. When we entered Fr Connelly’s quarters, a huge table filled the room. On it was a large white sheet, covering the food and around it sat sixteen of the school’s priests and four nuns. I remember our eyes fixing on the sheet. Paul took Mary’s hand and began to drag her back towards the oak doors we’d entered by, but Mary pulled free of his grasp. This was Mary’s big night, and Paul wasn’t going to spoil it.

I remember rushing to Fr Connelly and apologising. He smelled strongly of wine, they all looked a little drunk, even the nuns. Paul grabbed Mary from out of Fr Connelly’s hands, she let him this time. The elderly priest we had so admired smiled at us as we backed up to the doors. Doors that had already been locked.

Paul rushed at Father Connelly and rugby tackled the head teacher to the floor, clattering the old man’s head against a strong wooden chair leg as they fell. The room erupted, in laughter. Strong hands grabbed at Paul, grabbed at Mary also. Strong hands tore off our clothes and bound us and violated our bodies.

They passed us round. The tore our bodies as well as our clothes. They fucked the nuns, they pulled the sheet from the table and fucked each other with the implements of sex that lay there. They pushed them into us as well, those toys.

Hours passed I came and went. Some minutes passed torturously as years of pain and humiliation. Some hours passed in seconds of unconsciousness when I blacked out. Mary, Mary Magdalene. Fuck Mary Magdalene, they chanted as they passed us around.

I woke many miles from St Mags on a rocky shore of the Firth of Forth. I’d been tied in a mail sack, along with my sibling. I’d freed my head and breathed. My sibling had not. It was a mercy. I climbed out of the sack and onto the smooth, cold pebbles of North Queensferry, a wretched creature. I kicked the body of my twin, still inside the sack back into the water and blew it a kiss.

I didn’t go back to Edinburgh, instead I went home to Dundee and emptied my father’s safe at home. I went online with the black book full of passwords I found in his safe and emptied every one of his accounts too. The bastard deserved us for putting us in St Mags’.

I disappeared. I got a new identity, I travelled, I grew up. I came back to Edinburgh, but I’d changed. I’d grown, become a man. A strong man, younger and more capable than the elderly, filthy men who’d violated Mary and Paul. The first one, I took whilst he crossed Charlotte Square. It was pathetic how old he had become. The hands I remembered clawing at my thighs and pants, were sparrow’s claws, ineffectually pulling at my grip as I dragged the old cunt into the back of my van. I bestowed upon him every torture my sibling and I had suffered at his hands and the hands of his brethren.

I went so much further with him than even they had with Paul and Mary. I cut his eyelids and placed him in a room full of mirrors to watch as I sliced and pierced and fucked and ripped and gouged every ounce of fucking pain I could drag from the evil bastard. I did things to that creature that some would say makes me worse than all of them. It doesn’t though, because he wasn’t a child. That’s the bare truth of it. He and his brothers of the cloth, men of God, betrayed children. I tortured and fucked an evil old man into a bloody puddle, then I hunted some of his fellow holy men. I still have some to find, to punish. For me and for my brother.

***

My eyes are stinging and I become aware that I hadn’t blinked the entire time Wilson had been speaking. He’s still sitting in Buddha position wanking away in the corner.

“Your brother?” I ask.

“Yes, Paul, my brother.” She makes a sort of ‘duh’ face at me. Standing, she continues tugging on her cock and extends a hand for me.

“Thanks for listening. You should go now, Paul will be back soon. He doesn’t like you much. Go.”

I reach out and give the offered hand a little squeeze, similar to the one Benny had offered me earlier. As I let go my eyes go for a wander to Wilson’s feet. They are small, maybe a size four or five. The legs are lean and strong but long and slender also. Whilst Wilson’s torso is scarred the scars screamed a familiarity. I’ve seen scars like those on she wears on his-her chest somewhere else before. Maybe a TV show.

Wilson catches me scanning his body. That smile lights up the room again.

“You like it?” She asks. “I paid a fortune for it. Tits out and sewed up, vagina closed and this,” She jerks that cock. “This I’m delighted with. Nice and big, plenty of damage done tae a hole wi’ this big bastard, I can tell ye. Three piece titanium rod inside, hard whenever I want for however long I need it.”

I gape at the scars.

“Only problem is that I’m a dry-shagger. They cannae give ye baws, well wee rubber wans, but not working ones full of spunk.” Her eyes mist for a second as she loses herself in a rapey-reverie. “Och I’d have loved it if I could’ve had spunk tae splash over thae bastards,” she says, wistfully.

Suddenly her face begins to darken once more and her voice deepens. Half way between Paul and Mary he-she roars. “Get fuckin’ oot!”

She doesn’t have to tell me twice. I rocket through the door and lock it shut behind me. Peering in through the little trap, I watch Mary kneel back into the corner and her back straighten. Paul’s voice comes.

“Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene. She’s fuckin’ coming fur ye, ya basturts.”

End of Excerpt

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Twelve Mad Men features contributions from:

Paul D Brazill (Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir)
Gerard Brennan (Fireproof, Wee Rockets)
Les Edgerton (The Bitch, The Rapist)
Craig Furchtenicht (Dimebag Bandits, Night Speed Zero)
Richard Godwin (Mr Glamour, One Lost Summer, Apostle Rising)
Allen Miles (18 Days, This is How You Disappear)
Keith Nixon (The Fix, The Eagle’s Shadow)
Darren Sant (Tales From The Longcroft, The Bank Manager and The Bum)
Gareth Spark (Black Rain, Shotgun Honey)
Martin Stanley (The Gamblers, The Hunters)
Mark Wilson (dEaDINBURGH, Head Boy)

and is on free promo now at Amazon US and Amazon UK.

 





The Corpse Role by Keith Nixon – Review

9 05 2015

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Keith Nixon is a writer’s writer. Reading his work is an absolute joy and always a lesson in how to take your writing to another level. The Corpse role is a grand addition to Nixon’s increasingly impressive, cross-genre back catalogue.

Tense, intriguing and pacey as a starved greyhound, Nixon’s latest offering, billed as a police-procedural, but really just a very, very good crime-thriller from my POV, is a showcase for the experience Nixon has gained from writing tirelessly and being a genre-hoor.

The narrative changes and time-shifts are lovely, skilful and effective, never gratuities or for effect, they propel the story. This is something only seasoned, passionate writers like Nixon accomplish.

Throughout the novel the reader is given very few clues about the narrator in the past, adding to the pull of the story and veiling the person’s identity throughout. Having said that, Nixon is not a ‘pull it out the rabbit hat’ guy. The clues are all there. Upon the reveal a second reading is demanded. This is true of very few stories, and comparable to The Sixth Sense in that regard, only much more intelligent and engaging.

Wonderful.

Keith writes crime and historical fiction novels.

His crime novels are published by UK-based indie house Caffeine Nights. Keith’s highly regarded black comedy crime debut, The Fix, has already garnered much critical acclaim. In November 2014 Russian Roulette is to be published. The enigmatic, ex-KGB tramp, Konstantin Boryakov gets his own platform to cause trouble and mayhem again. The follow up to The Fix will be published in March 2015.

You can find Keith at Amazon US and UK

Twitter: @knntom
Facebook: Keithnixonauthor
Blog: keithnixonauthor.blogspot.com.





Book Review-Life is Local by Des McAnulty

5 05 2015

Originally posted on Mark Wilson Books:

It’s not often I finish one book from an author and delve straight into another ( the last time I did so was with Jonathan Mayberry’s wonderful Rot & Ruin books)’ but as I enjoyed Des’s Novella “STRAIGHT” so much, don’t mind risking being labelled a fanboy when the writing is this good, and had time on my hands I went in with hungry eyes (not the Patrck Swayze sort). .
Now I’m not suggesting that McAnulty is anywhere near as accomplished as Mayberry, but in formulating flawed, weak very human characters whom he allows to grow, fail and shine throughout the book, Des shares some of Mayberry’s skill.
Presenting us with complex (in other words true to life) characters whom we like, dislike, love, hate and pity; Des skillfully peels away at his characters, exposing unsuspected depths in each one. He gives each characters motives without judgement, merely explanation…

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Interview – Keith Nixon: Author of The Fix

5 05 2015

Originally posted on Mark Wilson Books:

I reviewed Keith Nixon’s wonderful novel, The Fix a week or so and at the risk of becoming his own personal Cathy Bates, I invited Keith along for an interview:

What inspired you to write your first book?

Fundamentally I’ve always wanted to write, it’s one of my earliest memories. However in the case of The Fix I was made redundant in 2009, the run up to the event wasn’t the greatest of experiences. I’ve (perhaps!) included some of the people and extrapolated some of events that occurred during that time. So, a negative turned into a positive.

How did you come up with the title?

I’m awful at thinking up titles, I usually ask opinions of beta readers, which occurred this time around as well!

Are characters and plots based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

All of the characters are borrowed to a lesser…

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Strangers are Just Friends you Haven’t Killed Yet by Ryan Bracha – Review

5 05 2015

Originally posted on Mark Wilson Books:

Strangers are Just Friends you Haven’t Killed Yet by Ryan Bracha is one hell of a book to review.

At some points this book had me frustrated, at others delighted. Ryan has a unique ‘voice’ and utilises the written words with bravery, imagination, originality and barely any regard for the conventional techniques for forming a compelling narrative, and it doesn’t half work for him.

Mixing narrative styles and using a variety of methods to show, rather than tell, Bracha picks away at the world he’s created, gradually exposing the reader to a piece at a time. Whilst Ryan’s book is not perfect, it meanders a bit too much for me at times and could do with a little editorial tightening up throughout, his enthusiasm, insightful characterisation and understanding of what motivates flawed people drives his story forward with force and pulls you into his world. And what a world it…

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Tomorrow’s Chip Paper by Ryan Bracha – Review

5 05 2015

Originally posted on Mark Wilson Books:

Yet another Bracha book and yet more evidence that this is a writer to watch. Ryan is a perfect example of why the indie-publishing route is so valuable. A writer like Ryan needs time to experiment, express themselves and to develop. Traditionally, in the world of publishing (essentially the music biz with posh accents) predominantly only those projects deemed commercial or marketable rather than genuinely quality stories are given a whirl in the machine, with this sort of development time rarely being offered.

In Ryan’s debut, Strangers are Friends you haven’t killed yet, we saw a fearless and enthusiastic Bracha, publicly popping his writing cherry, making mistakes, taking chances and ultimately producing a flawed but utterly brilliant novel which whilst in need of a tighter flow, demonstrated creativity and characterisation of the sort that makes other writers up their game in response.

With Tomorrow’s Chip Paper, Bracha has become a…

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