Hello and welcome to today’s post!
I welcome Jim Alexander to the blog today and he is treating us to an extract from his new novel GoodCopBadCop which can be seen below (and is an excellent read), but first a look at the author himself.
About The Author
Up until recently I was predominantly a comic book writer. I’d written Batman, Spider-Man, and Star Trek Manga. A couple of my strips, which appeared in Metal Hurlant (Ridley Scott’s favourite anthology), have been adapted for TV. I’ve been a small press comic book publisher. The comics medium has always been my friend. I’ve always felt comfortable with it. Perhaps it’s the collaborative side of it. Knowing I’m working with any number of talented artists who can set the scene, show the visual side of the story, and bring my imagination alive.
I had written prose, but only short stories.
I say ‘only’ short stories, but back in the day I really found writing prose difficult, to the point it had a near-paralysing effect on me. I was prone to over-analysing everything, each single sentence, word, piece of punctuation. It proved a stultifying experience. Laborious and never enjoyable. The thing was I knew I needed to overcome all that. I’d reached a point in my life where the two main items in my bucket list were 1. Run a marathon and 2. Write a novel. If the latter was to become a possibility, basically I’d need to find a way to turn things around and start loving writing prose.
And I did it. I found a way. Maybe, it was all to do with turning a certain age. Or entering a phase in my life where I feel completely settled. It was certainly helped by finding the right editor (Eli, many thanks to you, and your potty mouth, for all your patience). And finding the right idea to enable one side of my brain to convince the other, more reticent side that I had what it takes. That I could write a novel; all 87,000 sciatic, acerbic words of it.
GoodCopBadCop. It’s all one word. No pauses to be found between. Although, I still haven’t run a marathon yet, but apparently, or so I’ve heard, you can do so up until you’re ninety.
GoodCopBadCop is a crime novel with a twist. It is a modern crime take on Jekyll and Hyde where both ‘good cop’ and ‘bad cop’ are the same person. This is not a story about a good man turned bad, or a bad man turned good. Both good and bad arrived at the same time.
The novel delves deep into the psychological trappings, black humour and surrealist overtones of the crime novel. Tartan noir with a delicious twist. It really gets into the gut(s) and mind(s) of the main character.
It’s said that I was a loner, but I wasn’t really. I just didn’t choose to socialise with the people that other people chose to socialise with. I reached the mainly wooden door. Peering in through a little square of frosted glass, I saw dim light. From where I was standing, the only indication of life.
I pushed open the door and it squealed like I was taking liberties. I had caused it terrible offence for daring to use it for the purpose it was intended.
Now inside the pub, I noted that the rough carpet underfoot shared the same spongy sensation as the tarmac outside. And no different to the asphalt, the stories I was sure the carpet could tell.
With such a thought in mind, Electric Dreams opened out in front of me. The interior as a whole was dilapidated, bare, no thrills; damp on the walls, paint flaking, wallpaper ripped and outdated. It was fair to say that, for the majority of regulars, décor was not the main consideration. You came here to get drunk, and in so doing obliterated the random injustices and blocked out the cruel realities of the outside world. Or at least, it was a case of here’s hoping.
There was a barman standing, appropriately enough, behind the bar. To look at him, he was slumped, moribund. He was in a zombified state.
Sitting squat on a round barstool situated at the end of the bar furthest from me was a man with a ponytail. The man was middle-aged. Not sure how old the ponytail was. To his left were three empty barstools, indicative of the scarcity of souls in the pub. For all its splendid isolation, I would have expected the pub, at this time, to be packed out. The fact it wasn’t would have been a surprise to me if I actually believed in surprises.
Two other guys sat at the part of the bar closest to me. They were hunched in conversation. There was a conspiratorial air about them.
Furthest away, beyond the bar, there was the snug, just large enough to accommodate a pool table. Ensconced there were two fellas, both younger, pool cues in hand, crouched around the table, a white cue ball on green felt the centre of their universe.
I kept on walking and plumped myself on the barstool right next to the ponytail. On the subject of hair, I couldn’t help but notice his was slick with grease and badly in need of a wash. Unshaven, vagrant; I’d go as far as to say he looked like he’d been sleeping in his clothes for a week.
He had the telltale odour of someone on the run for days. On the bar in front of him was a whisky and half pint of heavy, colloquially known as ‘a hauf and a hauf’.
I knew him by name. He was called Ricardo.
I sat down on the stool, adjusting my buttocks until things got more comfortable. Or more accurately, tried to attain the illusion of comfort on a cold, flat, unyielding surface. I fidgeted from first position to second position, back to first position again.
My opening gambit was to address the barman, hopeful of life behind that hunched, undead exterior of his.
‘Nice carpet,’ I said. ‘Pint of Diet Coke, please.’
Ricardo sat frozen, focussed entirely on his horizontally-ridged whisky glass. It too was greedy for his attention, like a horizontally-ridged siren.
For my Diet Coke, the barman did the necessary, though not before he shovelled ice into my glass without first asking.
‘Three pound seventy,’ he said.
I handed over a fiver, which he took in sluggish, humourless fashion. ‘Ta very much,’ I said, but the stream of niceties was proving to be one way.
‘Sniff. Sniff.’ The noise came from Ricardo.
‘Sniff,’ there it was again.
I swivelled on my seat, now facing him at an angle. ‘Pardon me?’ I said.
‘You heard,’ he said. A fact, even if I had a mind to, I could not deny.
Ricardo ‘sat’ his ground and eyeballed me. The tips of our noses virtually touching. His expression was thinly veiled, playfully vindictive. ‘Little piggy,’ he said, ‘I could smell you a mile off.’
From the snug, there was the crack of a cue ball off a hoop or stripe. I was too far away and too preoccupied to make out the markings.
Barman returned with my change. His expression was expressionless. His movement was perfunctory. Such an essentially numb outlook was, I supposed, a prerequisite for working life in Electric Dreams.
‘Thank you,’ I said.
I took my change and sipped my drink. A rogue ice cube slipped into my mouth. I rolled the tip of my tongue, which flicked aimlessly at the cube.
To my right, Ricardo slurped noisily from his half pint.
‘I’m thinking,’ I said, ‘been lying low for how many days now, Ricardo?’
Ricardo took the now empty half pint glass from his lips and made a show of studying it. ‘And hey presto,’ he said. ‘You find me here. Who grassed me up?’
Ricardo put the glass back down on the bar. ‘Hauf and hauf,’ he said to the barman, motioning two outstretched fingers towards two empty glasses.
‘You’re either a brave little piggy,’ Ricardo said, words intended once more for me, ‘or a stupid bag of shite!’
I didn’t want to look away from him. Didn’t think it wise. All the same, I was aware that the snug wasn’t generating any kind of noise, the area around the pool table had gone dormant.
There was a scuffing noise, the sound of a pool cue being chalked possibly, but it seemed to come from closer by.
‘You know what I think?’ I asked in what I hoped was a rhetorical tone, whatever that was.
‘You remember Phil Oakey of The Human League?’ I said. ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby? You remember Giorgio Moroder? I Feel Love with Donna Sumner? What am I saying? I’m making them sound like they’re deceased, but they’re still making songs, I think, top tunes. Anyway, Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder, they collaborated together, created the quintessential eighties pop record, Electric Dreams. This morning, early doors, I popped into the station. Opening my mail, I find from an anonymous source a music CD of … you guessed it.’
I wasn’t expecting a response, and that’s what I got anyway.
‘The bizarre thing is that I’d only just downloaded the track a couple of weeks ago,” I said.
‘Electric Dreams by Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder,’ I prompted.
Ricardo’s eyes widened. He knew where this was leading. I paused, gave him the chance to take over and lead the discussion. An opportunity he neglected to take.
‘This could only mean one thing. Well, to me at least,’ I said. ‘I recognised you as soon as I came in. Whoever, whatever, you’re running from, you’ve run out of options. Ricardo, you’re out of favours. Someone wants you off their hands, which is where I come in—and my comprehensive knowledge of ‘80s pop classics and dodgy Yoker bars. Electric Dreams and Electric Dreams. The wherewithal to make a connection.’
The silence around the pub was deafening. There was one source of sound only. It was just me talking out of my cakehole. All me.
‘So, what say you and me go for a wee chat? I’ve got a car waiting outside. You can help me out with my enquiries; by first telling me why you’re here and what the problem seems to be. Basically, throw some light on things.’
The two guys, sat at the other end of the bar when I arrived, occupied the other end of the bar no longer. They were no longer in a sitting position either. All together now, they were behind me.
I slid my glass of Diet Coke on the bar away from me. My thoughts were very much of the ‘uh-oh’ variety.
There was next to no time to take it all in. Guy 1 was bald with thick eyebrows. Guy 2 was slick and neat in appearance. If he were born in another time and in another place, he’d be a shoo-in for the Gestapo. Must have been a young person’s look. You know how styles come and go.
A cavernous hand slammed into the back of my head. My forehead hit the bar with an almighty whack. Pain seemed to split my skull in two equal parts. A sliver of blood emerged from the resulting gash.
Next thing I was aware, my right arm was twisted around my back; immobilising me. I tried to lift my head, but only got as far as placing my chin on the bar.
Ricardo started on his new round of drinks.
‘Break its arm,’ Ricardo said, ‘cut it, and send the little piggy wee-wee-wee all the way home.’
There was a crack, but this one came from the snug. Pool players were playing a new game of pool.
I took a deep breath.
When I exhaled, I was a different man. The kind that eats and shits pain for breakfast. My bulk shifted like the onrushing tide. My assailant adjusted his grip, sought to retain the advantage, but I was unbowed. I sat straight up on my stool, faster than a bullet, arm twisted, contorted, pain shooting through me, pulsating but, in increments, slowing down, becoming irrelevant.
Did they know who they were dealing with? Did they—
‘Fucktard!’ Announcing my arrival, I growled, shifting sputum from the lower recesses of my throat.
The back of my head, moving at force, hit Guy 1, as it turned out, square in the nose. His proboscis gave away with a satisfying plop and just like that I was as free as a bird.
I turned. I leapt to my feet.
Fancy Reading some more? I know I do! It can be bought at the links below
I should have a review of this book in the future, but for now, let me know what you think when you read it!