A blog by Nikki Dudley about the gaps in everyday life...


Saturday, 8 December 2012


The fantastic Noir Journal are doing a giveaway of my novels, Ellipsis and Semblance. You can read about the giveaway on their site.

All you have to do to get your hands on a copy of BOTH books is email: noir_journal@yahoo.com or RT them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NoirJournal 

Winner random!

Here is a link to Noir Journal's review of Ellipsis on Spinetingler magazine's site. 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

In praise of novels without neat conclusions by Lee Rourke

Endless fascination: in praise of novels without neat conclusions

 (By Lee Rourke)

Tidy narrative closure may be entertaining, but loose ends and ambiguity offer a truer sense of real life

Diverging footprints
 Where will it end? Diverging footprints. Photograph: OJO Images / Rex Features

I read Imogen Russell Williams's recent blogpost (Coming to bad ends: stories that refuse closure) with great interest. I do understand that she isn't proposing that novels without good and proper "endings" are in any way inferior to those that do, but something troubled me deeply about Williams's (and the vast reading public's, I would argue) desire for our narratives to reach closure.

The well-worn formula beginning/middle/end is the default mode for pretty much all of the commercial and "literary" novels that currently jostle for ascendancy on our bookshelves. We like our entertainment to make immediate sense, or if it doesn't at first, it should explain all at the end. Repeat ad infinitum. I would argue there is something crucial lacking in this formula: the power of ambiguity. Closure belittles the complexities of meaning: our meaning, our being here. So what does this desire for closure say about us as readers? Why are we so fearful of ambiguity? Why do we desire novels that, to paraphrase Alain Robbe-Grillet, do the "reading" for us?

Life isn't like the narratives that make up the majority of novels in circulation today, or like the well-rehearsed scenes we enjoy at the theatre, or in the movies. It's more complicated than that: steeped in confusion, dead ends, blank spaces and broken fragments. It's baffling at times, annoying and perpetually open-ended. We have no real way of predicting our future. So why do our novels have to tie all this stuff together, into a neatly packaged bundle of ready-made answers? Something doesn't ring true.

I read a hell of a lot of contemporary fiction, and the majority of these works, good and bad, are riddled with the same conscious/unconscious desire for the narrative to end. I can sense this peculiar event just over halfway into most novels: all those random elements that I ordinarily love suddenly begin to act rather oddly: they stop fizzing, they begin to unify, to all move in the same direction, hurtling towards the same fixed point with great force. This event is the author's doing, of course, forcing chaos towards order and natural events to act unnaturally. The author fears ambiguity, but more importantly the author fears the reader's own fears of ambiguity, and this double-edged event makes for a rather predictable read.

Here's an obvious example to support my argument. Would Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot be made richer if Godot suddenly entered stage right ("Ta-da!") at the end of the play? Of course not. Beckett's theatrical masterpiece is all the more powerful because of Godot's nonsensical absence. Does it even matter if Godot exists? Not really. The play's power stems from this ambiguity; it's this sense of instability that forces us to scrutinise things more closely. So, when I sit down with the text of Waiting for Godot and I sift through the humour, the repetition, the bleakness and acts of nothingness (you know, all that stuff that doesn't make "sense"), and I reach Vladimir's often ignored line: "Was I sleeping, while the others suffered?" the power of ambiguity suddenly hits me. Beckett is presenting to us a perpetual apocalyptic present, a catastrophe already happened/about to happen, in which something as horrific as the holocaust can occur without us noticing. Just like in real life. It's only when we hit oblique junctures such as this that we begin to realise the beginning/middle/end formula doesn't cut it. What gives us the right to such authority?

And it's not just Beckett: let's look at some of our other "great" authors, those who've possibly written works of true timelessness. Kafka, Joyce, Woolf, Gass, David Foster Wallace, Vila-Matas, Pessoa et cetera … Not the biggest fans of endings either, are they? As Viktor Shklovsky has pointed out: "A novel can come to an end, but has no ending […] because finishing [a] novel would mean knowing the future, and we don't know the future." It's the same reason why Thackeray quipped that each time he wrote a novel he wished the man who shined his shoes could write the ending for him.

It's no surprise that most novels are ruined by their forced "endings"; by our collective desire for them to conclude in an orderly fashion, so that we can get on with our lives after we have closed the book (yes, The Road, I'm looking at you). Marx that told us the novel is a bourgeois construct, its very form reflecting the demands of the bourgeoisie who gave it sovereignty. We hold up our novels like vanity mirrors, hoping to reflect our own dreams, conceits, and liberal aspirations. Duly satisfied with our novels' conclusions, we put them back down, happy and content. A week later all is forgotten, the previous novel has disappeared from our lives and we've moved on to another that's hopefully a little bit more entertaining.

But not those novels without end, steeped in ambiguity, those novels stay with us. We can't shake them off, no matter how hard we try. They haunt us, mock us, they hang around waiting for us in the shadows, they disturb our working days, disrupt our sleep, torment us, force us to participate on their own terms. Much like real life does, novels without endings reveal to us the ambiguity that is crucial to our own desire to simply find out things for ourselves. You see, no matter how enjoyable, or how much good old, traditional "common sense" is to be found in our neatly packaged "endings", I would argue there's more reality to be found in a novel as supposedly impenetrable as Finnegans Wake, famous for having no beginning or end, than myriad formulaic novels that overtly yearn to capture what it is to be us in their well-worn beginnings, middles and ends. Viva ambiguity, I say!

SOURCE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2012/nov/23/novels-neat-conclusions

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


Hello everyone!

This is the official announcement that Semblance, the electrifying sequel to my psychological thriller Ellipsis, is now available to purchase!

Below is the information about Semblance:

In this thrilling sequel to Ellipsis, Richard Mansen embarks on a desperate search for his missing cousin, Thom. Whilst Alice attempts to rebuild her life, she is haunted by Richard's suspicion and the secret that Thom has taken with him.

As both Alice and Richard struggle with conflicting emotions of loss, love, and acceptance; they are hurtled towards a dramatic conclusion that neither of them can escape.

The only question left is who will survive when the truth is finally revealed?

From the writer of psychological thriller, Ellipsis, comes its electrifying climax.

You can purchase Semblance in electronic formats at these locations:

For the Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/d6hxqfw (Most Amazon sites will carry it so if you are not from the UK, please search on the relevant site, e.g. Amazon.com, Amzon.fr)

All other electronic formats and file types:

For all other file types (epub, pdf, palm doc, rtf, plain text, and online reading), please visit Smashwords: http://tinyurl.com/c4936vc

Within the next few weeks, you will also be able to buy the ebook from these distributors directly (such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, WH Smiths etc)

Until the 16th of November, use this coupon code at Smashwords for a 15% discount at checkout: LZ32X

For a paperback copy of the book (Amazon), please visit:

http://tinyurl.com/cee7s8q (For UK version. Also available on most Amazon country sites)

Thanks to my friends and family for their amazing support - I couldn't have done it without you! (See acknowledgements for special thanks!)

I hope you all enjoy reading Semblance.

Nikki x

If you are yet to read Ellipsis, you can buy it from all major outlets online and www.sparklingbooks.com

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

SEMBLANCE - The first three chapters


Chapter 1 (0.5 days)


As if losing Daniel wasn’t enough. Yet, we cold’ve could’ve moved on. We could have pretended we were all okay. But now Thom is hurt and he might even die. It feels so wrong to write that.

Although, why am I writing anything at all? That’s why I think things have changed. It’s as though somewhere inside of me, I know I will need to look back at these notes one day and remember the moment when our family changed forever.

The waiting room is cold. The tea in his hands has hardly helped at all. It is tepid at best and stone cold at worst.

22:45. He’s been in and out of this room for three hours, taking time to check on Thom, take a piss and talk to Mum in the corridor.

A stab wound to the stomach – that’s a lot of blood lost. And beyond that, his cousin seems to have suffered something so traumatic that he can’t even begin to understand it. What led Thom to do it? And can they ever bring him back?

It isn’t unexpected, he supposes. When Daniel threw himself in front of that train six weeks ago it shocked them all. Richard hasn’t even had time to think about it properly, and now Thom has hurt himself, leaving him to pick up Mum. How could his family be in such ruins?

Suddenly, Richard is not alone anymore. A man comes in and introduces himself as Michael. He doesn’t even knock. He just walks in as if it’s a decent time to disturb someone’s thoughts. Richard has never met the guy before. He is a sensible looking man with an uncomfortable fuzz of stubble. Richard guesses he hasn’t allowed himself not to shave in a very long time.

He explains he is Alice’s brother. Richard asks him who Alice is and he says, “Sarah”.

So, he has been right not to trust her.

She had been staying in their house for the last four weeks or so, with Thom defending her more and more as time went on. And now he is being told she lied about her name, she has been ill for a long time, she is sorry for lying to them all.

And most of all, Thom is missing.

Who the hell cares about that strange woman or whatever she decides to call herself if Thom is missing? She is only important if she was involved with the stabbing, which isn’t bloody unlikely.

Michael seems genuinely concerned. He says he can’t find Alice either. Maybe they’re together? He asks Richard, as though he might know.

Look, I don’t have a clue. I need to find Thom.” He shrugs off Michael’s questions. What a waste of time it is standing in this dark room with the brother of that liar.

Yet as Richard reaches the door, there’s a knock. He opens it and sees a policeman standing there.

Richard Mansen?” he says, reading from his notepad.

Yes,” he agrees, still pulling his jacket on. It’s cold outside. Richard guesses that if no-one can find the injured Thom in the hospital, he must’ve made a run for it.

I’m sorry. I need to look for Thom,” he pushes past the officer.

Mr Mansen, that’s our job,” the man tells him, almost sulkily.

Richard turns back to him. “Well, you’re not doing that too well, are you?”

He continues down the corridor, wondering where to start.

He supposes he shouldn’t have been so dismissive of the policeman, but since Daniel’s death he’s found himself a little more suspicious of them in general. They’d taken ages to follow-up after his death and even then, they just said something like “open and shut case”. Daniel was just some suicidal loser to them.

Although, it is clear now that it wasn’t ‘open and shut’. There is a reason that Thom decided to turn a knife into himself in that room with Sarah, or Alice, if that’s the name she wants to go by these days. He’d suggested as much to Thom when they’d last seen him and argued about the strange way he was acting. Now he is missing and Richard will never get to apologise for asking him to leave.

Losing his brother and cousin in the space of six weeks – what a pile of shit. And now he has to be some kind of detective, does he?

He looks around the floor that Thom was on but finds nothing. There are a few nurses rushing around, clearly panicked that they have lost one of their patients. Richard ignores them and moves on. He goes downstairs in the lift, which seems to take forever with patients transferring in and out, and finally arrives in the lobby.

Outside, he walks up and down in front of the entrance, pacing. Nothing. He walks around the drop off bays, avoiding the ambulances pulling in. Nothing. He walks between the cars in the car park and only finds Michael again. He is cradling the woman he calls Alice, the one Thom trusted more than he trusted Richard before he disappeared, perhaps.

He wonders if she could’ve tried to kill Thom. Is she crying out of guilt or loss? Whatever happened before, seeing her being heaved upwards by her brother makes him sure that she has no idea where Thom is now. He quickly turns away and pulls his collar up before they can recognise him, walking back towards the hospital.

It is only when he stands in the entrance watching an ambulance pull up without sirens or lights that he realises. In his mind, he believes Thom is already dead.

Chapter 2 (Yellow bruises)

I have no idea about you when I leave the hospital.

Thom is gone and this is all I am thinking about, struggling towards the car, leaning on Michael. I am cold, so cold I can’t feel my fingers anymore. Even the bandages make no difference.

I guess you hardly exist yet. In the days and weeks to come, you will start to grow and I’ll realise that I have to be sane again. It shouldn’t be as easy as that, but when the doctor tells me the news one month later, it feels that easy. Sanity – yes. Madness – no.

In the car driving back from the hospital, Michael asks me whether I love Thom. I look across at him, tears still burning my eyes, whispering, “I never told him.”

It isn’t a yes but it answers the question.

Michael doesn’t ask me about Thom after this journey. He only brings him up when he has too, usually when I do. Generally, he tries to blank out the man who nearly broke his nose, who accused him of being a rapist because of my lie, who was on the verge of killing his sister in that bedsit. He doesn’t think I deserved to die. He’s wrong though. I don’t say it because I never want to tell him about Daniel and how his eyes stared straight through me when I pushed him in front of that train.

Michael, can I stay with you for a while?” I ask him as he stops at the lights.

He smiles, sleepily. “Ali, don’t be stupid,” he scolds me playfully, squeezing my knee. I have an urge to tell him to call me ‘Sarah’ again. However, I realise it will never work. He will always call me Alice or Ali. I can’t reinvent myself, even though I believed I could while I stayed at the Mansen house.

Michael, I’m sorry about everything,” I say quietly.

What are you sorry for?” He glances over but has to look back at the road quickly.

For what happened with Thom. Your nose. The horrible incident today.”

Look, I’m just glad you didn’t get hurt…” Michael’s voice wavers.

I don’t deserve this unconditional love at all. He should feel angry at me, for the past two years – about Mum, the times in the hospital, how I lied to him and ran away from him, how I put my obsessions with Thom and Daniel first.

I should’ve been the one,” I admit, biting my lip.

What?” Michael nearly drops his hands for a moment but remembers he’s supposed to be driving and instantly grabs the wheel tight. “What are you talking about?”

I should’ve gotten hurt, not Thom.” I start sobbing again. I cry myself to sleep for about two weeks after I lose Thom. This is only the beginning.

Michael pulls over to the kerb and stops the car. He turns to me, his features seemingly bursting out of his face as though he no longer has control of them. His eyes are bulging, his mouth hanging open, his cheeks are flushed. The bruises around his face are only slightly yellow now and you can barely see them unless you know what happened. I can still see them though. And maybe I will never be able to see his face without them.

Although, his yellow bruises also remind me of the moment we found each other again. Amidst all the madness and confusion, we were together again, as brother and sister. I think it’s that moment that seals it. My new colour will be yellow. I will try to keep away from red – the colour that made me follow Daniel and push him to his death.

It’s worth a try anyway.

Don’t you ever say that…” he takes my bandaged hands and squeezes them, adding “okay?” I bite my lip at the pain but don’t say anything.

I stare into his face through the blistering of tears and feel myself nodding, although I don’t agree.

You are my sister and I love you, Ali. We can take care of each other now,” he reassures me. He kisses my damaged hands like a rejected suitor. I pull them away from him, clasping them together weakly in my lap.

I don’t know what’s going to happen,” I moan. The windows are misting up from the heat and the tears in this tiny space. What I mean to say is “I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life”. No Mum, no Thom, no memories. I have lost myself in the obsession and madness. How can I build something out of the shards of the person I once was?

We’ll sort something out,” Michael looks towards the windshield as rain starts to plummet onto it, and then faces me again. “Together.”

What a beautiful word. Together. I had believed Thom and I would be together only a short time ago. And now I am alone and Thom is lost in the infinite possibilities of London or maybe the UK, the world, or death even…

Although, I am not alone really. There is Michael. And there is you.

Chapter 3 (1 day)


Thom still missing. Searched the hospital and the local area. No sign. Where is he? Is he dead?

Richard is standing in the afternoon sun by the entrance to the hospital when a hand touches him on the shoulder.

He turns round to see Mum standing there, shivering, despite the growing April sun. It’s far from warm, but he doesn’t think he’s seen her stop shaking since they arrived at the hospital yesterday. He sped through the streets ten minutes after receiving her phone call, picked her up from the house and carried on speeding towards Thom.

But, Thom hadn’t stayed long. They had watched through a window as the doctors rushed around his bed, only seeing glimpses of his still face amidst the chaos. Later, they had sat by his bed for a few hours, hoping he would open his eyes. He didn’t. He obviously waited until they had both left him for a mere few minutes and had taken his opportunity to escape them forever.

Where the hell is he now? Richard wishes he knew so he could cuddle Mum and whisper in her ear that everything is okay and mean it. At the moment, he can’t say anything of the kind. He takes her into his arms anyway, smelling the last twenty-four hours of tears and desperation like the strong stench of someone who is unwashed.

Are you okay?” he asks, squeezing her. She locks her arms around him.

I’m as okay as I can be.”

How are you?” she counters. She pushes back from him and looks into his face. He imagines his eyes look as heavy and bloodshot as hers. His hair is stuck up in different positions from attempting to sleep in an uncomfortable wooden chair. Suffice to say, they’d probably only slept for about four hours between them.

I’m fine Mum.” He leans against a wall and yawns widely. “I think we should go home though…” he trails off, swallowing loudly.

We’re giving up already?” she asks him, staring at the floor. He takes her hands.

We’ve stayed the night here. The police and us have searched the grounds – I don’t think he’s here. And if he’s gone, he won’t come back here. He may not even be able to, the state he’s in.” She nods as he speaks but keeps her head down.

I know you’re right,” she says quietly. “I know you’re right,” she repeats more firmly.

We need some rest. We won’t be any use to Thom this way anyway. We can go home, rest a bit and then start looking for him again. Who knows, he might be looking for us at home and we’re not there…” It’s a lie but Richard feels it’s necessary. They are both dead on their feet and he knows he has to make Mum go home.

Okay Richard... okay.” She is quiet for a moment. “Do you think he’s still alive?”

Richard lets this question absorb into his brain. “Of course,” he answers slowly. “Of course Thom is alive,” he repeats, trying to convince himself. Yet his words feel hollow in his mouth.

Richard, I want to be honest with you. I want to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes with you,” Mum says suddenly. She is staring out into the car park, seeming not to focus on anything in particular.

What do you need to be honest about?” Richard pulls his coat tighter around himself.

Daniel was ill.”

What?” Richard leans closer, not sure he has heard properly. He isn’t sure why they are discussing Daniel now. Surely, everything is about Thom.

Daniel had leukaemia,” she says, turning to face him.

You’re joking…” Richard shrugs, giving a twisted smile. His mum doesn’t flinch, however.

It wouldn’t be a very funny joke would it?”

No, not really,” Richard admits. “I’m not sure what to say, then...” Richard does what he usually does in these situations and lights a cigarette. Mum hates him smoking, but he guesses this is one of the times she won’t say anything. He sucks on the cigarette as if it is giving him oxygen.

Are you mad at me?” Mum asks, pressing her fingers against his arm. She seems afraid to fully touch him.

Why would I be mad at you? Daniel didn’t tell me either.”

I should’ve told you. I told Thom a few days ago and he got really angry.” Ah, there’s the connection, Richard finally understands.

Well, I’m not Thom,” Richard exhales with a puff of smoke. The cigarette is burning his lungs. The usual comfort it provides isn’t working. Maybe he’ll never enjoy one again until he finds Thom.

Mum, do you think that’s why Daniel killed himself?” he asks, stubbing the cigarette out after only about a minute.

I really don’t know, Richard,” she mumbles, not looking at him.

He guesses asking her that is a little unfair. How should she know what really makes a man, her son, jump in front of a train? But, Richard doesn’t know that she is still holding back. And he won’t know for a few weeks still.

Well, that makes things a bit different.”

For us?” Mum asks shakily.

Of course not, silly,” Richard insists, pulling her to him again. She is limp in his arms, a heavy weight. “We’re fine, Mum. It’s just strange finding out your brother killed himself, for sure, I mean.”

She starts crying quietly into his shoulder. Richard only wonders how long it will be before she will accept Daniel’s death and Thom’s disappearance. At the same time he wonders if he will ever accept those facts and how long it will take him.

Let’s tell the doctors and the police we’re going home now,” he says gently.

It’s long overdue.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Only Forward (Michael Marshall Smith)

4 stars ****

When a friend recommended this book to me and I looked it up, I thought 'science fiction'. However, when I read the blurb, it seemed like something else. Not until I read a preview of the first few pages did I understand quite what this book was - dark humour, crime, and mystery all at once. It also happens to be set in the future, in a world that is rather different from what we know now. Everyone lives in different neighbourhoods, known for one particular quirk. For example, in Colour, where our main character lives, the prerequisite is an appreciation of colour. Other examples include Idyll, which is a peaceful neighbourhood, Cat is inhabited solely by cats, Red is the most dangerous, and so on...

As soon as I met the hero, Stark, I was hooked on his ambivalent attitude and his cool demeanour that was hard to shake:

'I was tired.

I got up, crawled out of the maelstrom of sheets, at 9.30 this morning. I took a shower, I drank some coffee. I sat on the floor with my back against the wall and felt my muscles creak as they carried a burning cigarette from the ashtray to my mouth, from my mouth to the ashtray. And when I first thought seriously about taking a nap, I looked at the clock. It was 10.45. a.m.'
 Copyright Michael Marshall Smith.

When I read reviews on Amazon, some people wrote that they thought the narrator was unreliable and kept saying that he would tell you the details later, which annoyed them as a result. I found that this was what I liked most about Stark. He wasn't always trustworthy and he wasn't always on the ball. This made him capable of making a few mistakes and at times, having to plaster over the cracks, as normal people do. For me, he felt quite real, if a bit too cool and witty in comparison to who you normally meet!

I won't ruin the story for you but if you like a good mystery in a strange world, with a smart-mouthed narrator that most people want to kick, you'll enjoy this as much as me. There were a few surprises too, not to mention the ending, which reveals the troubled personality hiding underneath Stark's cool persona.

What was also great was the explanations of the strange world and the side characters who were really interesting and complimented the plot. My only qualm might be the descriptions in the dreamworld, which were at times, a little too long in my opinion. Otherwise, it was an amazing read.

This is much recommended and I will definitely be checking out Marshall-Smith's other novels!

Find out more about Michael Marshall Smith on his blog and website

Monday, 17 September 2012

Non-US self-publisher? Find help!

Hi all,

I've been having nightmares trying to sort out my tax details for publishing with Amazon KDP, Createspace and Smashwords. If you are a non-US self-publisher, you will be charged 30% tax on your royalties by the US, unless you get this special number to exempt you.

I'd heard about the ITIN, which is meant to be the number for individuals, taking months on end to arrive. Plus, lots of notarizing passports and paperwork. It sounded horrific.

Luckily, I stumbled across a site, run by an author called Catherine Ryan Howard, who upon experiencing similar hell, has gotten another author to find a simpler route. You can apply for something called an EIN, which is fine if you act as a self-employed author.

When they ask what type of business you are applying for, this worked for me: ‘I’m a self-employed author registering for compliance with withholding for Amazon.com’.

Anyway, here is the amazing blog here: http://tinyurl.com/8o2bxl3

I hope it saves you hours of trouble too!


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Creating an ebook - the toil

I have just spent a significant amount of time formatting the word document of my second novel, Semblance, into ebook format for Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.

Although it took me some time and I wanted to smash the computer a few times, I'm actually really pleased with the final products. I just hope when I upload them, there aren't too many errors! I may well curse the decision not to pay someone else to do it.

I'm am very excited that very soon, Semblance will be available for people to buy! My expectations of sales are not massive. The main thing for me is to get the sequel to Ellipsis out there.

If any of you are interested in the blurb for Semblance, here it is:

In this thrilling sequel to Ellipsis, Richard Mansen embarks on a desperate search for his missing cousin, Thom. Whilst Alice attempts to rebuild her life, she is haunted by Richard's suspicion and the secret that Thom has taken with him.

As both Alice and Richard struggle with conflicting emotions of loss, love, and acceptance; they are hurtled towards a dramatic conclusion that neither of them can escape.

The only question left is who will survive when the truth is finally revealed?

From the writer of psychological thriller, Ellipsis, comes its electrifying climax. 
I will keep you all updated on the release date and I hope a few of you will purchase a copy. There will be a special deal for the first few days after release so I will keep you informed!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Someone's in the House (Samuel Bonner) review

Someone's in the House is my first adventure into horror fiction since I was a teenager and read things like Point Horror. The good news is, I really 'enjoyed' my first journey back into it. As much as you can enjoy being unnerved and a little frightened of turning off the light at bedtime...

This book follows the story of Rita, a young woman trying to escape her drug-addicted boyfriend and keep her child safe in the meantime. A chance encounter with an old friend, Vicram means a change of fortune for Rita. Or so she believes... What at first seems like a great opportunity to move on and start a new life soon becomes a living nightmare, which hurtles us towards a devastating and chilling end.

I have to say, I didn't love Rita at first. Yet after a few chapters, I started enjoying her voice a lot more. I particularly liked her son, Luke, and the moments between them. It felt quite authentic. I enjoyed too, Rita's relationship with Vicram. This is why I particularly liked this book - I cared about the characters as well. It didn't feel like they were just there to be tortured and destroyed, although perhaps in a horror book, you can't expect things to end well. 

The tension in the novel was built up well. Starting with noises and small sightings, this book soon became more frightening. I liked the small incidents which slowly added to a catalogue of terrifying events, keeping both the characters and readers on tenterhooks. I wasn't quite sure where the story was headed, whether the incidents were supernatural, imagined or real. What came in the end was a shocking confrontation that didn't pull any punches. 

Those of a nervous disposition may find this novel, particularly the ending, too much to bear. To give you a hint, there is a lot of graphic violence, including some sexual violence. I won't ruin it for those of you who bay for blood though... Personally, although the violence was a little shocking initially, I found myself unable to stop reading. Once I got to a certain point, all of my other priorities got pushed back. I had to know how it ended and if you find yourself salivating over a bit of horror, you might just feel the same.

If you like suspense and a well-crafted novel which leaves you feeling a little chilled to the bone, this is the novel for you. Although if you hide behind your hands throughout gory horror movies, you might find it a little more difficult to swallow.

Thanks a lot to Samuel for the review copy. I shall be looking up his debut novel, Playground.  Find out more about Samuel and his work on his website: http://www.samuelbonner.co.uk/

Saturday, 19 May 2012

He Died With His Eyes Open (Factory 1) by Derek Raymond - REVIEW

I was very excited to read the first instalment of Raymond’s Factory series and I am pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. This is one of the most thrilling and satisfying reads I have had for a while.

The Factory series is set in Thatcher’s London, with a nameless sergeant from the Unexplained Deaths department of the London police as the protagonist. In the first page, we meet the murder victim, Charles Staniland, a tragic character who leaves behind recorded cassettes of his thoughts and a whole lot of mystery. In time, the Sergeant realises the cassettes are more important than he first thought, providing key information to help him identify the culprits.

The city is represented as gritty and desperate, hinting at the employment problems of the 1980s and a ruthless pursuit of self-interest. In turn, the grittiness is also present in the array of characters – for example Harvey Fenton, the brute who apparently only ‘mocked’ Staniland; Barbara, Staniland’s girlfriend who drove him to distraction with her cruelty; Staniland’s stepson, Eric who is addicted to hard drugs; and many more who are similarly loathsome and pathetic.

Despite all of this, the nameless Sergeant remains focussed, if not a bit obsessed with the case. The dialogue is sharp and witty, especially of the Sergeant. Sometimes it did seem like he had a joke for every occasion but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Also, for someone who isn’t familiar with the East End London slang, it might be a little difficult to always understand what the characters are actually saying, but it doesn’t take a genius to do the translation.

Overall, it was a thrilling read. The culprits weren’t exactly shocking but the investigation itself was always absorbing. The twists and turns were accomplished through believable and exciting methods. I even enjoyed the presence of the retro piece of technology, cassettes, as a way to impart information and give more of a sense of who Staniland was. Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed being in the company of the nameless Sergeant and will certainly be getting my hands on the next Factory book in the series (The Devil’s Home on Leave).

Much recommended. A noir novel with a no-nonsense investigator who can generate a laugh, plus the added twist of the grittiness of 1980’s London. What more could you ask for?  

THANKS TO... Mike Lipkin from Noir Journal for the contact, Melville House Publishers for providing a review copy. 

streetcake issue 23 now published!

Hi everyone,

I am not sure if you are aware that I co-edit an online magazine specialising in experimental writing.

Well, either way, the new issue is now live on the site!

Please take this chance to visit the site and give the issue 23 a read.

We have a lot of great poetry this issue and also some fantastic artwork, including Jo Langton, William Garvin, J.R. Clarke, Sophie Clarke, and others.

If you want to submit to streetcake, please visit our archive and submissions pages for more information.

The next issue will be released in July 2012!

That's all folks...

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Diversity in Young Adult books

There's a great blog post on the Booktrust website regarding diversity in Young Adult books. Bali Rai interviews Catherine Johnson, Malorie Blackman and Malaika Rose Stanley. 

It's a really interesting piece and brings up a lot of questions about publishers, readers and writers in today's society and how hard it is to really bring diversity into the Young Adult market. 

I absolutely love Malorie Blackman, whose Noughts and Crosses series is absolutely amazing and is a fantastically different view on the world in terms of race and prejudice.  

Great interview. I'm off to check out the other featured authors.


Two poems published on the con-struct site

Two of my poems have been published on the con-struct website. Go and check them out here:


It's an interesting site with some great writers.

I hope you enjoy my contributions!

Nikki x

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Supernatural Noir review

Hi all,

I have written a review of a short story collection called 'Supernatural Noir'.

You can read the review on Noir Journal's site.

This is also a great site for book recommendations and information. Of course, the focus is noir fiction!

I hope you enjoy the review.


Sunday, 29 January 2012

1Q84 - The Verdict

I had heard a lot of things about 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami before I read it. I am a massive fan, along with millions of others, so I was eager to see his new work. Due to living abroad, I patiently waited until Christmas and was given parts 1 and 2 as a present. I then bought book 3 as soon as I finished parts 1 and 2. In the end, I think this is what helped me...

Had I rushed out and bought the books right away, I think I might have felt a little differently. As it happens, the wait meant my expectations were not too over-inflated and I think I came to the book in a better state of mind. I was still excited sure, and worried to see some pretty negative reviews floating around.

So, a quick summary (if this is at all possible!): The trilogy is set in a fictionalised 1984, an alternate reality if you will, where one of the main characters decides to rename it '1Q84' (hence the title). In this world, the two main characters, Aomame and Tengo are inexplicably drawn to one another and over time, their worlds begin to collide more and more. The novel focusses on Tengo's rewriting of a book called Air Chrysalis by an enigmatic young writer (Fuka-Eri) and the consequences of this action. Fuki-Eri's past of being part of (albeit it unwillingly) a religious 'cult' called Sagikate begins to surface and the unusual events described in the rewritten novel begin to look more real than Tengo first thought, beginning with the appearance of two moons in the sky. Aomome meanwhile, moonlights as a skilled killer of abusive men and all too soon, she too is dragged into the world of the Sagikate cult and the mysterious 'Little people' who are said to have great power but hardly anyone seems to be able to explain or want to acknowledge.

Whilst I don't think 1Q84 is quite as good as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles or Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, it still kept me gripped. I wanted to know what was going to happen and I wanted both the main characters to survive. The tension about whether they would get to meet again (after seeing each other last when they were only 10 years old) was definitely strong and I hoped they would meet before one of them was found by the Sagikate cult. Therefore, despite some bad reviews, this is why I think 1Q84 is a good book. If I cared enough to want the charaters to survive, that tells me it was a good read.

I also cared about some of the side characters. Fuki-Eri was a strange character who was quite amusing to read. She was described very well and the scars of her past were evident in her strange manner and almost oblivious perspective of the world. Tamaru, the security man for the elderly woman who employs Aomame, is an intelletual and comforting presence. I liked the way he mentioned to Aomome that Chekov believed once a gun appears in a novel, it must be used. This was an added bit of tension as to whether Aomame would need to shoot anyone or herself at some point in the future. Tengo's friend and editor, Komatsu was also quite an interesting and sometimes amusing character.

However, there were a few characters that didn't work quite as well. I found the chapters in book 3 told by the private investigator, Ushikawa, quite dull at times. I didn't mind the fact that his investigation was a bit pathetic and yielded no results, I just found the details a little boring and his family history even more boring. I have to say I did skip some of these parts. Also, the nurse (Kumi) that Tengo meets whilst visiting his sick father seemed to be a bit too much of a construct used by the author to implant specific phrases and information in Tengo's mind. I didn't really enjoy her presence.

I have read some other criticisms online - mainly to do with repetition and sex scenes in the novel. With these criticisms, I can agree slightly. There are some points where information is repeated by the same character or by both the narrators in different chapters. This was a bit unnecessary and could have cut the book down a little with removing these alone. Also the sex scenes - they were sometimes not written as well as other parts. Additionally, there is quite a few mentions of breasts, as one person pointed out on Amazon. Sometimes it was no problem but sometimes it seemed a bit too much of a fixation. Once you notice something too much in a novel, it probably means it has been overdone a little. Lastly, the use of italics to portray character's internals thoughts were a bit too numerous, sometimes spanning several paragraphs. If it was a character's perspective in the chapter, I am not sure why so many italics were needed.

But despite these things - I really enjoyed 1Q84. It's not perfect but as I said, it kept me turning the pages. I enjoyed the two main charaters and believed in them. I liked the presentation of the strange Sakigake cult and the unusual aspects of it. Murakami's usual strangeness was definitely present. To keep everything going for about 900 pages is quite an achievement. There was conflict between the cult and everyone else, between Tengo and his father, between Aomame and her conscience, and between the characters and their pasts. Strangely, there were also odd moments of humour. I think the dialogue was also good overall and I enjoyed the exchanges between chracters, particularly Aomome and Tamaru, who often had some interesting and wide-ranging exchanges.

So in conclusion, don't believe the hype or the criticisms. I would advise you to try reading 1Q84 yourself and remember that although Murakami is a giant of literature, he isn't always completely perfect.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Sons and Fascination (book review)

Sons and Fascination by Gurdeep Mattu

'A good debut novel and a love letter to London'


This London based novel is a great read by a fresh new voice. It doesn't take long to read as it's more like a novella and it is quite dialogue driven. The main chracter, Jack can be a little bit hopeless, but this seems to be his personality more than anything else. The other characters were a little more absorbing in my opinion - Jack's unknown half-brother Sean, Jack's 'uncle' Ray, Jacks father's ex-lover Fran... Overall this is a really solid novel and a good read. The snapshots of London life are also great to see - London often gets a bad rep in books but Mattu obviously loves it!

Jan 2012 update

Hi all,

Happy New Year! Can't believe it's 2012 already. I am really looking forward to the Olympics and seeing how it all pans out!

In the meantime, here is a recent poem...

hear you

as IF a tunnel, echo eco
ache-o, my heart.
Have you to think – keep in
The flesh, my bone don’t

find fun in

shatter ring and ear no
voice now.

Still got my lo ve
he don’t fall
part now cause
you believed in it despite what,
dispirit you
kept it me but forgot

Tawking shit, I hear words like
too morrow, how long
here too? Stay.

Can’t put worse in
words, never rights down, in the
night, inthenight, avalanche
your face
your face
the gauze skin, trumps
tears but I want
sleepless love, no avail launches when
the words
definitely, run
not one
let her left
to run

Apart from this, I am currently working on my third novel 'Volta' (working title). It is a bit of a hard slog at times as it is a different style to my last two - new characters and more of a teen novel. I think it has a similar thriller feel though.

I am also in the process of getting my second novel 'Semblance' edited. It doesn't matter how many times you read something you've written, you always miss something! I'd love to get 'Semblance' out there this year so fingers crossed!

Anyway, more soon! x


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