Nightingale by Ellie Raine – A New Book Review

 

Nightingale – Ellie Raine

Pro Se Productions

Nightingale

One of my favorite parts of any workday is my lunch time. It’s not the food, it’s a solid block of time I can count on for one my favorite past times. Reading. This past week lunch has been really pleasurable as I devoured the most recent offering from Ellie Raine, Nightingale.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ellie Raine at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention in November 2017. Her energy and smile were infectious. I picked up her first book, Willow of Ashes, and I immediately became an Ellie Raine fan.
Ellie Raine is a very talented author, bringing a distinct vision and fresh voice to her stories. I am glad to have an autographed copy of her first book. I will be getting her autograph for this one as well. She is an author in whom I believe will be a constant delight as she matures in her art.
When the chance came up to read and review Ellie Raine’s current offering from Pro Se Productions – Nightingale, I leaped at the chance. All I knew about it was from the promo tease, “A New Take on the Private Eye tale…and Death as well.” I already knew Ellie has a talent for writing fantasy that absorbs you into the story. Could she do it with a Detective Story?
Ellie’s main character Alastor Deus, P.I. seems to be the archetype of a man seeking vengeance for the murder of his father. Nightingale properly opens straight into the action. While “discussing” a lead to his father’s murderer, the interrogation is rudely interrupted by the murder of the informant. This is the last “normal” scene. From here on out, we are on the rollercoaster with Alastor as he finds his true family…even meeting Death. Just when you think you have a handle on the plot twists, Ellie finds a monkey wrench. But she doesn’t hit you over the head with it. Most of the plot twists came with a subtle lagniappe, a little extra. As a veteran reader of detective stories, it was quite refreshing. Imagine, reading a story that is almost predictable, but not completely.
The world of Nightingale is a very different, yet familiar reflection of our own. The twists in mythologies are highly creative and well imagined. The marriage of Private Eye story and the mythologies invoked is just shy of brilliant. Her prose is clever and evocative in the best tradition of Pulp detectives. The characters begin a little flat but each page reveals more of their past, adding shades of depth and grey motivations. There is not quite enough growth for them to become fully 3D but enough I wanted to see more of them. What else is waiting to be told? Between the pace of the story with new questions and revelations constantly expanding the backgrounds of the characters, Nightingale was very difficult to put it down.
As a pulp story, this tale really sings.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.

Fairy Tale Noir

Sharing an excerpt from one of the stores from an anthology I am writing.  This is raw draft, no edits yet, hoping it polishes up well.

 

“My family and I arrived on the shores of Draisia in the dead of night. Life seemed simple to me then, life through the eyes of a child always does. Complexity is for the adults who knew this was a calm before the storm.  The eerie darkness of the night we landed will never escape my memory. The milky speckles twirled and danced along the river in various patterns, tugging at the corners of my lips in a way that almost made me smile.

 

The Canso was a veteran of the brine. The old planks retained the fetid odor of fish, though leaky had been seaworthy enough. Her nets had been removed to allow every inch of room and we filled it, many sitting with knees tucked to their chests. When her hull crunched into the mud of the river’s edge, one leg of our trek was complete.

 

Everyone awake. Everyone asleep. Many eyes were bleary, reactions slow, tiredness running in their veins just the same as their blood. Everyone who survived the crossing climbed up the grassy embankment in a mix of emotions. For some relief, some fear, some grieving for the place they left. Ahead is unknown, all we can do is pray for things to be better where they are heading for they cannot know what awaits them.

 

At the top of the embankment we all huddled into the shed. This is where we had been told to wait. On the floor near the front wall sits a woman and child, the kid relaxed into her arms so fully it was like they were one organism, melted together. He has a look of contentment on his face. Now that her son is drifting into sleep her face becomes grave. Without his timid gaze she has no reason to feign a confidence she may not have felt.

 

The tiny window in the shed has its view obscured behind swirls of dried mud. The dawn came with a musical silence. The soul hearing a melody ears could not. A new day had come, new possibilities, a fresh page yet to be written.

 

With it a funny feeling comes, not excitement, though at first it appears that way. Some cry, some look grim, and the children are held close and loved with all the strength they have left in their bodies. My parents gathered myself along with all my brothers and sisters into a circle, hugging us as the first rose tinted rays of dawn glowed through the dried mud of the window.

 

Soon, the sound of a coughing diesel engine came from beyond the levee. A pair of the braver ones peered out. Excitedly they tell the rest of us the bus is coming. We all pour out of the shed, waiting as the old bus trundles up the road, its grumbling old engine spitting smoke like a trail of breadcrumbs.

 

It rumbles to a stop just above us, on top of the levee. An older alligator in a vest and a beret wearing weasel climbed out and motions to us to board.

 

“C’mon, we ain’t got all day.” The weasel called as he pulled the ladder down to throw cargo on top of the bus.

 

“Youse three, help people load their gear. You climb up and move things forward, you get to the top of the ladder and hand stuff ovah, while you, my you are a tall one, hand things to the guy on ladder. You heard Cavan, now get a move on.” The alligator hissed at an Orangutan, a Mountain Goat and a black bear, who took the positions indicated. So we loaded the few belongings while the old diesel pinged and creaked as it cooled. The process did not take long. There were not many belongings among those who made the journey.

 

Soon, we were all aboard the old bus. Rusted and dirty it was but to our eyes, it was a chariot to our hopes and dreams for a better life. The seats were full and those of us who were too big to sit in the laps of others lined up along the floor. After a couple of sputtering failed attempts the old engine roared into life with a mighty belch of exhaust. The decrepit bus lurched forward along the levee road pitted and bumpy with rocks soon to kiss the smooth asphalt to their destination.

 

From my vantage point on the floor I began to see the roofs of houses. Vaughan drove while Cavan stood on a rail at the front. Sometimes staring back at us, sometimes punching the alligator pointing directions.  Then other taller buildings appeared as we passed through a city. The buildings gave way to houses and as two hours passed the houses gave way to barren road.

 

The squeal of brakes signaled our journeys end. In front of us a building stood with a curved roof and corrugated metal walls. There were other similar buildings in the area but the road we had traveled was littered with old machinery covered in dirt and long since scavenged into skeletons of whatever they once were, indicated this place was long abandoned.

 

Cavan had run to the top of the bus while were taking in our surroundings. He began throwing our belongings down.

 

“This is where we part company. Your future lies in there.”

 

As soon as the bus top was emptied Cavan swung inside where Vaughan had kept the temperamental engine idling. We picked up our belongings and shuffled into the structure.”

 

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

 

The Sleeping Hare

This is a rough opening for a work in progress. A short story set in the world of The Three Billy Goats Gruff for an anthology. I think it’s off to a good start. Perspective needs to shift slightly but a good start.

*****

Don’t expect to find dignity in an old bar. Not here. Not at “The Sleeping Hare.”
The sallow light of street-lamps trickled into the darkened room through diamonds of lead panes. The smoke twisted in an artistic way, forming curls in the gloom, illuminated only by the age-speckled bar lights.
The smell has changed over the years. Once it was of cigarette smoke only, the bouquet clung to clothing, skin and furniture alike. Now it is joined by the miasma of stale beer, cheap hooch, body odor and cheaper perfume from the quiff trying to make a buck.
“The Sleeping Hare” was always a den of debauchery, alcoholism and the great unwashed of the town. It still is. No-one comes here with anything wholesome in mind. Probably why the small mountain of a goat sat on the stool by the door. Black, with tufts of grey in his beard, a tight T-shirt highlighted bulging muscles. If he did not look menacing enough, flexing those muscles was often deterrent enough for the occasional trouble maker.
Once upon a time, the place might have had a classy, old world feel. Now nicotine-stained walls, which might have been white, the darkened wood and stained reddish carpet only hinted at what might have been. There are establishments that are more like restaurants now – all clean with waiting staff. Not at “The Sleeping Hare.” Here, you still bellied up to the bar, where along the wall was every hue of amber liquid in their inverted bottles, and caught the barkeeps eye to place your order. Bring your patience though, tortoises are not known for their speed and Tabor is not as fast as he used to be, but he will take care of you.
The thunk of darts and clack of pool balls came from the back of the joint. An addition to the old building the plaster and wood gave way to cinder block walls painted black. Four red felt pool tables commanded the center of the room. They and the dart board lanes in the back of the room brought in almost as the cheap hooch Tabor stocked.
Only one table was in use tonight, a young brown goat crisp white shirt with sleeve holders, thin black tie tossed over his shoulder as he lined up a shot while nearby a ferret in a beret watched, anxiously hoping for a scratch.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

Book Review: Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Friction: Anthology

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Craving adventure? Pulse Friction has all you could want. This anthology will take you on a whirlwind tour of pulp stories. The collection does a good job of presenting various archetypes from Masked heroes, Mercenaries, Cat Burglars, Westerns and Hard boiled detectives and all undeniably Pulp.
Pulse Friction is a great buffet of authors. I am familiar with and have enjoyed three of the authors in both other anthologies and their own work, D. Alan Lewis, Barry Reese and Tommy Hancock are all favorites sitting on my shelves and they do not disappoint. I enjoyed the sampling the works of Eric Beetner, James Hopwood and Brian Drake and will be looking for more of their work. Each author brings their own flavor and the result is a series with a good rhythm. Each story has a plot with memorable characters which drive you forward in the action. A complaint I sometimes have with anthologies is a tendency for the stories to feel the same. Not to worry about Pulse Friction, the variation in protagonists and settings means you will not be reading the same story over and over.
The narration by Chase Johnson is solid. There are no background noises to distract from the narration. He enunciates clearly and is well spoken. In listening to the different stories Chase was at his best tone and style in the hard-boiled detective stories such as “Never Enough Corpses” or “Cry Blood”. This is personal taste but he did not feel quite right to me in “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Worst Friend”. Overall, the listening experience was enjoyable and I would listen to more books narrated by Chase Johnson.

Bishop & Hancock’s Pulse Friction: Anthology   

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

The Billy Goats Gruff – A Crime Noir Fairy Tale – Part 1

Orland squinted as he tilted the bottle. Disappointed with how little remained, he downed it in a swallow; then held it upside down. Where were the answers that were supposed to hide at the bottom?
He knew why there were no answers. He already had them.
It was late and the office echoed. Still, he looked over his shoulder. Billy needed the new medastinum surgery to fix his lungs. Orland had lost his wife. He was not going to lose his son.
Before his last swallow of liquid nerve waned, he made a few quick pen strokes. There! It was finished. Tomorrow, as part of routine processing, a clerk would set up an ongoing transfer of funds to his secret account. He was an honest sort, but the company had refused to help. His salary was just not enough. The evidence was well-hidden and another clerk processing it was the final shield. Even the best auditors would be hard-pressed to track this back to him.
*****
Across town, splinters and dust flew as a stool attacked the wall. The wall won.
Detective Mikk Raud, enforcement services, had felt lucky his station was near home. He often stopped in for lunch. How could she? He never saw it coming. Knew she and the stoat had been friends. But he had been too trusting; it was a total shock coming home for lunch, maybe a little hanky-panky with the wife. Then he found all of her and their daughter’s things gone.
Numb from shock, he had gone on a toot. A few bottles of Ol’ Swamp Piss later and he’d woken to the landlord banging on the door. Stumbling over pieces of broken furniture, rubbing his sloped forehead, he’d answered the door. His landlord took a step back. “There’ve been complaints about the noise last night. I’m a nice guy, rented to you even though you’re trolls. Hope I don’t have cause to regret it.”
Mikk promised it would not happen again and shut the door. Then he’d crawled back into a bottle until, still on edge and hung over, he reported for his shift. He had thought routine might help. First call was a stupid teen goat. Had the kid just come peacefully he would have gotten a slap on the wrist. But no, he’d attacked and Mikk reacted. His natural trollish strength amplified by red rage, he let fly with all the pent anger at his wife. The kid was flung into a wall. With the crack of a homerun, his neck snapped, killing him.
Now, family gone, career ruined, Mikk perched on the skeleton of a chair, surveying the damage to his home.
Head falling into his hands, he wept.

Excerpt from WIP

“It felt good to lie down. Martin admitted frustration not to be going to the museum, he enjoyed the peace and quiet. Captain Hazzard checked in during his inspection of the Silver Bullet II. Though he designed the fuselage and its armor, he marveled at the engines Captain Hazzard built.
He was glad the frustration passed before Captain reached out. This mind-talking still unnerved him a little. The Captain would have worried if the irritation had shown in his thoughts.
When the hangar alarm blared next to his bed, he would sworn he just laid down. A quick glance at his wristwatch belied that. It was 1 a.m. In short order, Martin dressed quickly and pedaling the bicycle purchased for him. The guard at the gate was suspicious of him. Disheveled with the speed of dressing in the dark, and the exertion of a hard ride to the gate, Martin admitted he would be suspicious too. Anxiety mounted as he waited for the guard to decide he had clearance to proceed to the hangar.
His escort, required by Major Svetkov, panted behind him by time they reached the hangar. Martin motioned his escort to ready his rifle, then flung open the access door. He followed the soldier through, but saw nothing. The hangar had no electricity, and in his haste Martin forgot to grab his bag with one of the flashlights. By the ambient light, he located the lantern on the hook near the door.
The lantern held high, he began the search the hangar. Followed by the soldier, he felt foolish. No tampering of the Silver Bullet could be discerned as he performed a walk around. The craft nearly filled the small hangar. Truth be told, it took long enough to get here any panels opened could be easily closed at leisure. A rustling under one of the windows caused both he and his escort to jump slightly. His tension appeared to cross the language barrier with no problem.
Beady red eyes shone from under one of the windows. A rat. Breathing a sigh of relief, Martin began checking the magnetic security locks. The wires from one to its radio transmitter had been chewed. The effect was the same as if the magnets had been separated by opening the window. The circuit opened and set off the alarm. Martin pointed at the broken wire and the rat. It took a moment, but the nickel finally dropped and his guard laughed. A shake his head, Martin made short work repairing the broken wire.”

Novel update!

Wow, that was close. No one knew if that plane could survive that dive including the designer. With a layover in London while the plane is checked for damage and needed repairs, I hope everyone gets a good night’s sleep. If they can stop wondering who was shooting at them.

Today was kind of unfocused, writing in bits and spurts. Still got 2000 words in and 4400 for Saturday and Sunday. Past the 10000 word mark and all of the main characters have been introduced. Hmm, are you wondering what will happen next intrepid reader? That’s ok. So am I.

Hi-Ho to meet this deadline I have to go

Morning tasks and routine done. Time to crank out some words. When last we left our stalwart hero he was investigating a fire at the library. The same library he had sought information from earlier. Could there be a connection or is this just 5th column anarchy? Stayed tuned intrepid reader.

Update to follow???

Thanks for reading!

Ernest

 

Update:

2500 words today. The hero is hot on the trail of the mysterious McGuffin, but he is not the only one. Others have contacted the museum as well. Is this a race to a fabulous treasure or a rescue on the nick of time?

Stay tuned Intrepid readers, the adventure is building as we approach the one third point of the novel.

a productive day

1500 words on the pulp novel so far this afternoon. That’s 5000 total so far. Thought I earned a break and took a walk to clear the cobwebs.

A little concerned about the story pacing, but I am used to writing 10-16k. I’d be almost halfway through, I just let it go where it needs and deal with pacing issues in rewrite.

At least I feel I have passed my hesitation about not knowing the character in his original story. Everything I know is from just a few sketchy blog reviews. The good thing is in losing the hesitancy he is really coming to life for me.

***

Update:

Only another 600 words this evening. Heading to bed now. the story is flowing but the fingers are not, neither are the eyelids. Target later today is another 1500-2000 words.

Thanks for reading,

Ernest