Friday, 25 September 2015

It Ain't a Dog's Life No More

New day. New inspiration....

It Ain’t A Dog’s Life No More

A long time ago I used to own a stray mutt.
Found the mongrel wandering near a sinister fairground.
He wasn't exactly what you’d call the most charming hound in the pound.
And sometimes he was a real pain in the butt.

I cared for him just the same.
You see, he was loyal; he would give his life for me.
But I saw it coming in his eyes... that darned curiosity.
Flickering like a flame.

It was getting the best of him.
He wanted to know what was on the other side of the forest.
So one winter morning I walked him outside; wanted to put his mind at rest.
Removed his chains. Set him free. And off went my pilgrim.

But it wasn't long before he came back.
Running to me, straight out of the fog.
There was something different about my dog.
He had a scar from his belly to his nut-sack.

And I knew right then: he was changed.
He never ran away again or tried to hide.
He never left my side.
But like I said, he was different. Somewhat estranged.

Because that day his growl turned into a deafening screech.
He learned that the world that lies beneath.
Remains unforgiving, relentless, and gnarls with sharper teeth.
And he learned the most valuable lesson that I could ever teach...

Life's a fight. Stand tall or snap under its strain.
It's a bitter pill to swallow. But show some dignity. Show some virtue.
Dog, you gotta get them before they get you.
And don't cry like a bitch when you feel the pain.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Nasty Noir: Stakes Raised in 'The Corruption of Chastity'

I am once again thrilled to have been one of the recipients of an advance copy of the new crime-thriller ‘The Corruption of Chastity’ by Frank Westworth. ‘Chastity' is the second book of the Killing Sisters Trilogy and a great read. I was also honoured to have had an extract of my review for 'A Last Act of Charity' (the first book of the trilogy, released last year) included in the ‘Praise for the Author’ section. Thank you, Frank, Rowena at, and The Book Guild.

Here is my review of ‘Chastity’:

Nasty Noir: Stakes Raised in 'The Corruption of Chastity'

Unlike most sequels, 'The Corruption of Chastity' doesn't disappoint. I'd go as far as saying that the energy and zaniness which made 'A Last Act of Charity' a thrill to read enter a new dimension with 'Chastity'.

Story-wise, the characters I very much enjoyed in the first book continue to surprise you as author Frank Westworth gives them additional psychological substance and emotional development. The rollercoaster experience I felt with the first book's momentum intensifies with 'Chastity', all the way to a captivating finale, yet remains well-punctuated with welcome breathers. And stylistically, the book’s certainly got something cool going on...

"She pulled the body, still warm and willing, to the floor of the nave, carefully slid the long blade between two of the exposed neck vertebrae and sliced. The bones parted. One more slice and the head fell free. Black skin and wide white eyes staring at the religious painting on the ceiling.
Chastity glanced up. 'Can you still see? That's some bad old white man's God on his big white cloud, welcoming the sinners to their hereafter. But there is no hereafter, is there buddy? None. Just one big fat silent nothing. Hope you enjoy it.'
She stood. Stretched. Placed the handgun beside her clothes and walked, naked apart from the long knife, to the church door. Opened it. stepped outside, crossed the small car park, the small road, and ran lightly down the clean beach to the calm waters of the big lake. Waded in. squatted down and relieved herself luxuriously..."

As this segment shows, Westworth's writing comes in outbursts of tough, streamlined elegance. Oftentimes it is paired with sharp and punchy dialogue, which is astutely delivered and ultimately pushes the plot forward, maybe more so than the action scenes.

Plot-wise it is also interesting to see how the cool and determined master blues guitarist/contract killer JJ Stoner is no longer the main driver of the story, as is the case in the previous opus. What may be perceived as a lurid and gritty man's world is increasingly overtaken by the female characters, all of whom have important roles in Stoner’s life. Be it, Chastity, Charity, Bili the bassist, or Jenny, a cruise ship love interest… they are fleshed out and constantly surround Stoner. And dangling like a Sword of Damocles, the mood of uncertainty which prevails in the book is upheld by these strange femme fatales with hidden agendas; and it's fun trying to decipher their intentions while being under the influence of their sexual power and enchantment.

In 'Chastity', Westworth pushes the boundaries of classic noir further by making once familiar characters more elusive and mysterious. He also successfully weaves in elements of the spy novel: the alpine forests, the boat cruises, and the stints in exotic, luxurious hotels - all are rather reminiscent of Bond movies. And the book's solitary sniper/assassin sequences have nothing to envy from the genre. Yet despite the influences, Westworth preserves his own, unique voice. Add in the weird sex and the not-so-distant vibe of blues music in the background, and you have a sincere attempt at creating something new: something which I've never really come across before, something Westworth has mastered; something I dare name 'nasty noir'.

However, at times I found 'Chastity' hard to digest. Occasionally the conversations go on a wee bit too long and thus feel contrived. And I couldn't help myself from smiling at all the wisecracks which are arguably too numerous for a regular human being to spurt out if his/her intention is to make him/herself understood. There is a delicate balancing act to maintain in order to keep the reader both focused and entertained, and at times it felt like Westworth went a bit too far. I had to re-read segments to make sure which character was speaking; and by doing so I interrupted the flow of my reading, which possibly made me miss out on some of the finer subtleties. But maybe that's me being finicky? Having said that, the long chunks of dialogue are just a minor blip in what is a second great chapter of the Killing Sisters saga. Looking forward to the third and final book.

'The Corruption of Chastity', the second installment of the Killing Sisters Trilogy, is out on September 24th 2015.
Check it out here:

Monday, 7 September 2015

Finding the Limelight Again?

September is the start of the academic year in many countries in which children go back to school after the summer break. With September comes the sapphire, representing clarity of thought, intuition, and peacefulness. In September we celebrate "Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month". And September 2015 marks the beginning of my own little DIY project. After having submitted queries and manuscripts to indie publishers and agents all year, I have decided to once again pursue the route of self-publishing.

This time I am not entering new territory, neither am I very anxious. No, this time I am equipped with extra self-confidence, knowhow, and what may be the most crucial of all when it comes to editing your own book: patience. Self-publishing a second time was a carefully-planned and long decision. In June, it seemed like I'd found my publisher after receiving a publishing contract in the mail. But after much debate, I turned it down. I had to avoid falling into the trap of what seemed to me like vanity publishing. As I've said before, I must think bigger and more long-term. My book was deemed worthy of publishing, but by accepting such an offer, I would've been setting the ambition bar too low.

Now with 'The Perfectionist', I have to fine-tune a marketing strategy and make sure to blow my own trumpet in the months prior to the launch, during, and in the weeks following the launch. I shall seek additional readership, but being better prepared than I was for 'Out of Bounds'. And who knows? Maybe I'll get spotted by someone who can take my work to the next level or I could stir up some kind of buzz? Whatever the outcome, I'll try to do my best. Larger commercial success can come later. I'm not in a hurry. Maybe novel number three, or number four which I'd like to work on in the coming months, or one of those I will write in the future will be my ticket to stardom? Dream big, I say, for no-one will do it for you.

I've set up a calendar listing the main tasks at hand and what I need to do between now and the time of the book launch, which I have penciled in for early-2016. This gives an overview and makes sure I don't lose focus. I have learnt valuable lessons with 'Out of Bounds', which I hope to put into practice in the coming months. I must ramp up promotional activity. I need to be more active on the reviewer front and more interactive as far as social media is concerned. And I have to generate more following and cater to my existing followers - or dare I say fans? - by writing here too, on this blog. And that's just the tip of the iceberg! 

My team is in place to help me with the book cover and formatting before I undertake the self-publishers' grinding process. In fact it's the same one. I loved the 'Out of Bounds' book cover and, as they say, you don't change a winning team. It's so good to brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other. We've got a great understanding and I'm impressed by what the guys can come up with. I'm also currently working on the book's inside, making sure that it all looks good. 'The Perfectionist' is approximately 115,000 words long. That comes down to a bit less than 400 pages (paperback). Add on the front and back covers, as well as the spine, and we'll have a hell of a book.

Feel free to contact me if you wish to be kept informed of the editorial process and the book launch. All you need to do is send an email to

Here's the synopsis (in case you haven't yet seen it):

Synopsis – The Perfectionist – by Simon Duke

1988. A severed and decomposed head belonging to an unidentified old man is found rotting in an Iowa corn field. Confronted with this gruesome discovery, rookie reporter Gerry Stokes is urged by the local sheriff and his newspaper editor to cover up the affair. But the truth can't be concealed forever.

2010. Stokes, now an arrogant and unpleasant sex-driven, yet seasoned veteran journalist at the Chicago Tribune, must at last atone for his wrong-doings as the shunned-upon past returns with a vengeance. Payback ultimately comes in the attractive form of Sarah Howard, a nostalgic but committed young woman, who believes she has identified the old man as being her own long-lost grandfather, Ted Callaway. Unwilling to be exposed by the young woman, Stokes is forced into an investigation to discover the truth of what happened twenty-two years ago.

Looking for Callaway's killer leads Stokes to an even more sordid truth: Callaway is one of many victims; people seemingly chosen at random across the nation by a serial killer who has been at large for more than two decades: a killer so cunning that he has flown under the radar of the cops and the FBI by navigating through the loopholes of the federal law enforcement system while respecting a unique and horrific modus operandi. By fine-tuning methods of execution, the killer seeks artistic perfection. He is "the Perfectionist".

As the case is in full swing, Stokes's parents die in a tragic car crash. Reluctantly he must temporarily halt his pursuit and travel back to Iowa for the first time in years to take care of the funeral with his brother, Joe. Stokes faces Joe's anger regarding his decision to leave the family hog farm behind and never come back. Little does Stokes know but this tragedy and its aftermath impact him more than expected.

As the hunt for the killer progresses, Stokes becomes obsessed with the case and questions his own selfish nature. The evil lurking behind the investigation causes a gradual attitude shift inside him as he looks back on his former Iowa life, this time with feelings closer to regret. He not only tries to resurrect a difficult relationship with Joe, but he also begins to feel a mixed array of emotions for Sarah who becomes a crucial part of his life, in some ways his anchor.

2013. Three years later, the investigation is given a new lifeline after Stokes is alerted to a series of gruesome Colombian neckties in California. Stokes realizes that the Perfectionist, who had been dormant for a long time, is still at large and has resumed his hunt for new victims. The current nature of the murders and the media buzz around them put the FBI in the hot seat, and Stokes must confront their determined lead investigator, Special Agent Elliot Keppler, to obtain confirmation that his killer is still active.

At the same time Stokes is quick to identify a promising path to journalistic success. He sets himself an ambitious and innovative target; a risky objective preventing him from keeping law enforcement in the loop, one which may very well merit a Pulitzer prize and pave the way to fame: he wishes to publish a truly special book; a book, which for the very first time in publishing history will give the police the means to capture a serial killer. And not just any serial killer... America's greatest and smartest: the Perfectionist. Using the potential shared success generated by such a book as bait, Stokes finds unlikely help along the way from Frank Craven, his editor at the Tribune; Dr. Ken McFarland, a forensic autopsy technician and old friend; Prof. Dennis Morton, a criminology professor; and James Henry Johnson, a death row convict - all of whom acknowledge the need to proceed in discretion. But to keep his book project alive, he has to keep on hiding the full truth from the FBI. And by doing so he becomes a Person of Interest, arousing Keppler's suspicion.

With such high stakes, the pressure is on. Stokes is in the race of his life to discover the killer's identity and publish his bestseller, while bending the notions of what can be considered ethically right.