[BOOK TOUR: BOOK EXTRACT] Kissing the Lizard by Justin David @InkandescentUK @Justin_Writer #KissingTheLizard

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Today is my stop on the Kissing The Lizard by Justin David (a prequel to The Pharmacist) online book tour and I’m sharing a book extract with you.

I leave you with the wonderful extract of Kissing The Lizard:

BOOK EXTRACT

Old Compton Street is simmering. Jamie registers the summer joy outside the coffee shop and rests his chin on a hand with listless resignation. Everyone has gone wild at the first sign of moderate sunlight. T-shirts are wrenched from milky torsos, men kiss in the street, shirtless bikers ride roughshod through Soho. Everyone’s leaving work early to grab what they can of the rays. Businessmen drink beer in the street, abandoning ties, collars undone at the neck. Jamie can’t join in. He’s cut off. Three years an art student, in the capital, and no closer to being part of it.

The broken air conditioning in The Crêperie has resulted in a thick haze of steam and smoke.

‘Do you think we’ll ever see America?’ Billy asks, looking up from a book. He draws deeply on a Marlboro—a duty-free gift from when Jamie’s mum and dad spent a package holiday in Magaluf. He exhales into the already choked room.

‘I don’t know,’ Jamie says, waving away smoke. ‘I’m not convinced I’ll ever get back to London, let alone reach the States.’

‘Well you’re here now, aren’t you?’

‘For one more night but then I have to go back to that wretched place,’ Jamie says, rolling up the sleeves of his paisley shirt and unbuttoning his waistcoat.

Billy places the fag in his mouth and leafs through the other books Jamie has piled up on the table, next to a ball of loose red wool and his length of knitting impaled on size eight needles. A volume about alien abductions by Whitley Strieber provokes a curl from Billy’s lip. Another one—Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway—incites a cartoon scowl. He holds up a third book and frowns. ‘The Prophetic Insights,’ he says. ‘Really?’

‘I’m searching.’

‘What for? The knit-your-own-aura-brigade?’

Jamie returns to the accommodation pages of Time Out. ‘Nothing under seventy-five pounds a week.’

‘Well if you hadn’t run back to Mummy and Daddy so quickly…’

‘I didn’t have any money, Billy.’

Billy stares at Jamie’s hair. ‘You could save ten pounds a month if you stopped bleaching that mop.’

A clique of art students Jamie recognises from St. Martin’s cackle over cappuccinos near the window. Plates clatter. A radio crackles, losing and regaining its signal—issuing a broken chorus of Tubthumping by Chumbawumba. The coffee shop is full of French and Germans and Turks and Americans. Everyone else seems to be having a great time.

‘If you’d taken that job with the magazine you’d be on an all-expenses paid trip to India by now.’

Jamie throws the Time Out across the table. Billy, still within the cosy confines of his final year, hasn’t yet felt freedom slipping away.

‘Free holidays don’t pay the rent,’ Jamie says. ‘If I could afford to work for nothing, I’d have a huge portfolio and a contract at The Guardian—not living back with my parents in the arse end of nowhere.’

A tanned rent-boy brushes past the table—an outline of an unfinished William Morris design peeking out of a loosely buttoned shirt. Jamie watches Billy’s eyes trail his studded leather belt and bubble-butt. The youth takes his window seat, from where he has solicited every weekend during Jamie’s time at art school.

‘Some folks know how to make money,’ Billy says. 

‘You’re meant to be with me, not eyeing up the local trade.’

Billy leans across the table and takes Jamie’s hand. Jamie pulls back but Billy holds on tight. ‘This is Soho. Not the West Midlands. You think anyone gives a shit if I hold your hand?’

Billy squeezes even tighter. He is looking into Jamie, his gentle opalescent eyes lined with kohl. Jamie feels himself yield. ‘Maybe you should take more notice of those books you read—meditate or something.’

Hard to stay positive, Jamie thinks. ‘You know, that talentless bitch, Saffron Delany—’

‘Still gnawing away at that bone?’

‘She left St Martin’s last year and did three months at Vogue without pay. She’s done pop videos, photo shoots and now she’s famous for doing fuck all. Can’t open a newspaper without seeing her smug face. This time next year, her father will probably buy her Channel Four for her birthday and she’ll be married to Lance Lewes.’

Billy laughs. ‘It won’t last. Everyone knows he’s got a touch of lavender. You’ll get your chance.’

‘Will I?’ Jamie asks.

‘Anything is possible,’ Billy continues. ‘I might win one of those photographic competitions I entered. Who knows?

I could get a big contract.’

‘You’re deluded, Billy. It doesn’t happen to people like us.’

‘Oh, here comes Tess of the D’Urbervilles again.’

‘When I finished my degree, I thought I’d be on my way—list of contacts, a little place to live in London. Look at me now—working a supermarket checkout. Mother’s driving me mad.’

Billy nods at the books on the table. ‘She’ll wipe the floor with you if she catches you reading that rubbish.’

Billy’s right. Gloria has a temperament neatly suited to British border control. Jamie touches the cover of The Prophetic Insights protectively. ‘It’s the key.’

Billy picks up the book and reads the blurb. ‘From six-hundred hours of channelling extra-terrestrials, Prunella Small brings to us a new wisdom for the New Age. For anyone questioning an ever more confusing cosmos, The Prophetic Insights offer the reassurance and knowledge required to go beyond fear and trust the universe.’ He drops the book on the table as if having discovered a turd in his hand. ‘We’ve got to get you out of this situation. Up there, you’re not surrounded by people who can nurture you. We’ve got to get you back to London.’

‘I’m twenty-two. There are things I should have done by now. List of clubs I should know. I want to publish a novel before I’m thirty.’

‘Come on, what are you having?’ Billy urges. ‘We’ve sent the waitress away twice.’

Jamie fingers the space in his wallet where he might keep a few notes. Empty. ‘I’m not hungry.’

‘I’ll treat you.’ Billy turns the menu to Jamie—an entirely vegetarian selection, couscous, pancakes stuffed with spinach—the sort of fare that bores him rigid.

Jamie sighs. ‘I—’

‘Don’t be proud. You can pay me back later.’

Over Billy’s shoulder, a very tall man is walking in, carrying a satchel and a carrier bag of baguettes. His overall look is disco backpacker—citrus neon green t-shirt underneath a sleeveless maroon pullover, shorts, walking-boots with neon coloured rolled over socks. A long, thin face on a bulbous head,

accentuated by a closely shaven hairstyle—skin taut and shiny. The man cranes over Billy who’s smiling unconvincingly. As the man’s satchel swings forward, Jamie notices a fabric I heart USA badge sewn onto one of the front pockets.

‘I thought it was you,’ the man blurts, gay as a daffodil. ‘I saw you as I was walking past.’ He ruffles the fronds of Billy’s dyed black spikes. ‘How the devil are you?’

Billy angles his face to the man, who towers over him like a giant stick insect. He obviously can’t remember this guy’s name and Jamie enjoys letting this run on, briefly, until he weakens. ‘I could wait forever for an introduction. Hi. I’m Jamie.’

‘He’s so rude, isn’t he?’ the tall man laughs. ‘Matthew. Pleased to make your acquaintance.’ He extends a long limp-wristed arm, hands littered with silver, slightly loose on bony fingers.

Jamie winks at Billy. ‘Lovely to meet you, Matthew,’ he says, watching Billy relax.

He shakes Matthew’s hand and as their gazes meet, his eyes seem to move, vibrate almost, from side to side. Jamie is first to look away.

‘Well, what a surprise to see you, Billy, in a vegetarian bistro, of all places. I thought you were a meat eater.’

There’s an affected air about this man, behind an attempt at received pronunciation, Jamie detects an undisguisable top-note of guttural North, which brings to mind the telephone voice his mother uses to ingratiate herself with the more genteel classes, or else trying to get her own way when returning an item of silk lingerie to Marks and Spencer’s.

‘Room for one more?’ Before Billy can reply, Matthew slides into the banquette. The waitress walks over and hands him a menu. ‘I was only stopping for tea.’ In the early evening sunlight, his complexion has an unnatural greenish tinge, somewhere between vomit and chlorophyll. Fresh scratches criss-cross his sinuous arm. Could he be ill? Twenty-eight? Thirty? It’s not beyond comprehension. Jamie knows three men, at least, who died of AIDS in the last half year.

‘Gardening,’ Matthew lifts his arms. ‘Bloody rose bushes.’

Jamie reproaches himself. His morbid conclusions are ignorant. Though there’s something about Matthew—his clothes, his manner—unlike anyone else he’s encountered.

‘I finished my shift at the bakery. Just popped into the Chinese

supermarket and was on my way home to cook a soup. Now I’ve seen you two, I might stay for a sandwich,’ Matthew says. He drops his satchel and the baguettes on the floor.

‘The more the merrier,’ Jamie says, though Matthew strikes him as pushy. Back at the table the waitress presses a pen against a pad, waiting for them to order: sandwiches, carrot cake, coffee.

‘Are we drinking?’ Matthew asks. Before Jamie can mutter something about not being very flush, he produces a grating ‘I’ll have a dry white wine.’ Jamie deduces, from Matthew’s sickly sweet breath, that he’s already been drinking. Matthew sucks in his cheeks and purses his lips with exaggerated feminine enthusiasm. ‘Billy, do you know, I was pruning the rhododendrons the other day and it just came to me—I could see your face in my mind and I just knew we were going to bump into each other.’ He pauses, draws breath and articulates his impossibly long neck. ‘So Jamie, what do you do?’

Jamie searches his head for something to say, not wanting to look like a complete loser. ‘I finished my fine art degree last year but now I’m focusing on my writing.’

‘I’m a writer too,’ Matthew says.

‘Really?’

‘Anything published?’ Matthew asks.

‘I’m working on it.’

‘You’re very young to be a writer. Perhaps you’ll experience a bit of life first.’

‘He’s an apprentice,’ Billy says, supportively.

‘Don’t mock,’ Matthew says.

‘I’m not.’

‘Is that how your support yourself?’ Jamie asks, breaking the tension.

‘Well, I do a few shifts at the bakery. I don’t think one needs a lot of money.’

Jamie wonders what he means by that. ‘So how do you two know each other?’

Matthew looks away at Billy, tearing the corner of a paper napkin with his eyes shut. ‘Long story, best left for another time,’ he says.

Billy opens his eyes to Jamie. ‘A while ago, before I met you.’

The smile drops from Matthew’s face. ‘Well, maybe it wasn’t you I was supposed to meet that time,’ he says with witchlike illumination. ‘Perhaps I’ve been brought here for another reason. Serendipity. The universe is constantly rearranging itself.’ He taps the table in front of Jamie with his forefinger. ‘Do you know what I see when I look at you?’

Jamie recoils slightly at the direct challenge.

 ‘I see a person who’s afraid of life,’ Matthew says, ‘Afraid of letting go of the edge. But there’s a great big world out there.’ Matthew turns to Billy. ‘Am I right?’ He touches fingers to his temples and then rubs his thumbs and fingers together, as if

absorbing oil into his fingertips. ‘That’s what I’m picking up here. You’re just not living your life the way it’s meant to be lived.’

‘He needs a good kick up the arse,’ Billy says.

‘Grasp the nettle, Jamie.’

The waitress returns with food. ‘You’ll have to move that,’ she says, sniffing at Matthew’s satchel. ‘It’s a fire hazard.’

Matthew kicks the bag under the banquette like a rebellious schoolboy. ‘What’s her problem?’ He raises his hands, as if, resisting an invisible force field and eases them down, until they reach the table. ‘I won’t get annoyed. I’m just going to let this slip off me.’ He turns to Jamie once more. There it is again, his eyes—vibrating from side to side. Jamie didn’t imagine it this time.

‘Happens to me all the time and I say to myself, “Matthew, don’t get yourself involved.” Because, you know, while there’s all this chaos going on in the world, I’m the one who has control.’

Jamie senses Billy inwardly recoil from their new friend’s hippy-dippy claptrap.

‘You’re an old soul. Just getting used to your new skin, aren’t you?’ Matthew says, regaining his genteel tone. Jamie is gripped with magnetic curiosity.

‘What makes you say that?’ Billy’s voice has a challenging note in it.

‘Vibrating on a higher frequency—more evolved,’ Matthew says. ‘I can feel it.’ He nods at the books in front of them. ‘Searching for something though. Why else would you be reading The Prophetic Insights?’

‘Everyone’s reading it,’ Billy says. ‘It’s on special offer round the corner.’

‘Isn’t that fortunate?’ Matthew says. ‘The message is spreading far and wide.’

Billy makes yawning shapes with his mouth. ‘We’re trying to find Jamie somewhere to live in London.’

‘Oh?’ Matthew leans forward with interest.

Jamie lifts up the accommodation page in Time Out. ‘Everything in here is way too expensive. I viewed two flea-pits in Zone Four this morning.’

‘The universe provides us with everything. Just ask.’ Matthew clutches empty space and makes a clenched fist in the air. ‘Think of what you want. Bring it into being. Manifest!’

Jamie giggles nervously. He thinks of the poor emperor

being swindled by the weavers promising to make clothes from invisible fabric and, not really knowing what to say, he takes a huge bite from his sandwich.

‘Go on,’ Matthew insists.  ‘Close your eyes and ask it.’

Jamie stares at the shape his mouth left in his sandwich,

contemplating Matthew’s last words. He closes his eyes and pictures himself living in London, a room of his own, traveling on the tube, making new friends. Then he opens his eyes.

‘When are you thinking of coming? Matthew asks.

‘As soon as possible,’ Jamie says.

‘If you can wait until the end of the month, I’ll have a room for rent in my house. I’ve a flatmate moving out.’

Jamie feels his mouth open a little wider than before.

‘Willesden Green—forty pounds a week. Nicely decorated. Zone Two.’ Matthew makes a magician’s flourish with his hands, silver rings sparkling in sunlight. ‘Well, something for you to think about. You don’t have to decide right now. Give me a call when you’re ready?’ He gets a pen from his backpack and

scribbles his phone number on a serviette.

‘How many flatmates do you have?’ Billy asks. Jamie feels like someone has performed a card trick in front of him and he’s still trying to work out the illusion.

‘Well, Adrian has just gone and Mark’s moving out, so there will just be me. I promised myself a bit more time on my own, but…’

They finish their sandwiches. Matthew regales them with stories of his travels across Europe before slugging back wine and announcing, ‘Listen, I must go.’ He drops some coins in the middle of the table. ‘That should cover my order. See you both soon. Lovely to meet you, Jamie.’ Matthew leans to kiss him on the cheek. A kiss. His large almond-shaped eyes penetrate Jamie, for a moment. ‘Billy. Until next time.’

‘Yes.’ Billy stands to kiss him goodbye but Matthew’s hand comes up evasively. ‘There’s absolutely no need for us to kiss.’ He slips out of the banquette and pulls his satchel over his shoulder. He glances outside. ‘Look at them, out there. They’re running amok!’ He laughs and walks out of the door.

‘Did you see what he did there?’ Jamie says.

‘His crystal ball needs an MOT, if you ask me.’

Jamie asks the waitress for the bill, even though he can’t

afford to pay it. Then he turns back to Billy ‘Well? Did you?’

‘Did I what?’

‘You know. With him?’

‘God, of course not. He tried. I wasn’t having any of it. He’s bloody creepy.’

Billy counts the money Matthew left on the table and scowls.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘He ordered wine and carrot cake. There’s about enough money here to pay for half a sandwich. Self-seeking fucker.’

‘That’s not very spiritual,’ Jamie says.

Billy holds up Matthew’s telephone number. ‘Still, looks like you’ve got your accommodation sorted out.’

Jamie pulls a face. ‘Move in with someone I just met in a coffee shop? What would Mum think?’

What are your thoughts on the extract? Let me know in the comments!

Make sure to check out the trailer for the book by clicking H E R E.

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*Purchase ‘Kissing The Lizard’ here:

*Purchase ‘Kissing The Lizard’ with free international delivery here: 

*You can also find the book here: Foyles and the Inkandescent website.

***I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Justin David

Justin David is a writer and photographer. A child of Wolverhampton, he has lived and worked in East London for most of his adult life. He graduated from the MA Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, has read at Paul Burston’s literary salon, Polari at Royal Festival Hall, and is a founder member of Leather Lane Writers. His writing has appeared in many print and online anthologies and his debut novella was published by Salt as part of their Modern Dreams series.

Justin is one half of Inkandescent–a new publishing venture with his partner, Nathan Evans. Their first offering, Threads, featuring Nathan’s poetry and Justin’s photography, was long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. It was supported using public funding by Arts Council England and is available in paperback and ebook.

Find him on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[BOOK TOUR: BOOK EXTRACT] Address Book by Neil Bartlett @InkandescentUK @neilvbartlett #AddressBook

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Today is my stop on the Address Book by Neil Bartlett book tour and I’m sharing a book extract with you.

Before the extract I’ll leave this quote from the publisher:

In November 2021, Inkandescent will publish Address Book by Neil Bartlett, the new mosaic novel by the Costa- shortlisted author of Skin Lane. This cycle of stories takes us to seven very different times and situations: from a new millennium civil partnership celebration to erotic obsession in a Victorian tenement, from a council-flat bedroom at the height of the AIDS crisis to a doctor’s living-room in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, they lead us through decades of change to discover hope in the strangest of places.

Editor Nathan Evans says, ‘I’ve loved Neil’s writing since finding his first book in the university library, so to publish his latest is something of a dream for me. Inkandescent are proud to be working with such an important queer writer with so much to say about where we are and how we got here.’ Neil says, ‘Every place that I’ve ever slept in, I’ve always wondered about what went on at that address before I moved in. To write this book, I went back to some significant places in my own life and let the walls talk to me. The result of that listening is this new cycle of stories.’

Now I leave you with the wonderful extract:

BOOK EXTRACT

It’s August, and hot, and although the trees outside this particular bedroom are tall and shadowy, someone has still felt the need to screen what is about to happen in here from view; in order to achieve that, they’ve stretched a thin cotton Indian-print bedspread right across the window. You can still see where the hammer and tacks that were used to accomplish this task have been left scattered across the carpet. The room seems very still, after that particular noise, and the sunshine filtering in through the warm rust-and-black colours of the bedspread is turning its air into one ruddy, red-gold solid.

 In the middle of this warm cube of colour, two men are standing facing each other across a bare and rather dirty-looking mat-tress. This mattress lies directly on the floor, with its head against a wall, and the men are measuring the distance it creates between them with their eyes. As it happens, they are both half-undressed already. They seem to have reached some kind of an impasse in their choreography for just a moment, but then—quite unexpectedly—the younger and slightly shorter of the two makes a very definite move; he stoops, unlaces his shoes, and removes his socks; he then shucks off his trousers and underpants in one smooth and beautiful gesture. The older man attempts to follow suit, but when the moment comes for him to slip down his own underwear he feels obliged to turn around and present his back. Then he seems to pause for a moment, taking some apparently much-needed time to gather himself together before he turns back round to face his partner. When he does turn, his body is visibly thinner than the younger man’s, and more worn; you can see every one of his sixty-two years, even though the light in this room seems determined to be kind. Both of the men are sweating already, because of the day’s heat.

The staring between them continues for some time, but then—eventually—something moves again. It is a hand, this time—and now the shorter of the two men, the bloodily-haired one, steps forward onto the mattress and places this reaching hand of his first on the other man’s arm, and then onto his left shoulder. When he feels this hand, the older man smiles, but still only with half of his mouth. He closes his eyes. The redhead, sensing that he must proceed very gently, moves his lips and face forwards in order to plant the softest of kisses on the other man’s mouth. This kiss seems to be a question; eventually—and quietly—it receives a reply.

Once down on the mattress, their limbs seem to fit together quite well. Things move slowly, in this heat—but now, the questions being asked are no longer quite so tentative or gentle. Neither are their answers; the two men’s eyes meet quite often now, closing only when they must, and when a head tips back or turns away it is not now with avoidance or refusal. When the time comes for more noise, the air of the room seems to absorb it all quite easily. For one of the two men the sounds that he is making turn unstoppably into tears, but fortunately his partner holds him tight when this happens, and lets the crisis pass without comment.

By the time they have both come, it is quite late in the after-noon, and the parti-coloured light that is still seeping through the bedspread has shifted several feet around their impromptu bedroom’s walls. Both of their bodies are properly slicked with sweat now, and smeared with stripes of dust, and as they lie there side by side and stare up together at the ceiling—both of them feeling quite hollowed-out and silent now, as if they were lying together on some abandoned beach, listening perhaps to the waves of some distant and still-retreating tide—their bodies are contoured in several shades of a vivid and surprising colour. The light which is sculpting the face of the red-head discovers a line of pure carmine on the crest of both his cheekbones; his companion’s skin takes the colour more gently. Again, a hand reaches out, and again it finds another. The red-head, who is on the right-hand side of the bed, turns, and it is he who begins the necessary conversation. ‘Shall we do names, then?’ he asks.

The older man keeps his eyes on the ceiling, and there is a considerable pause. When he finally does speak, you can still hear in his voice a record of all the weeping that he has just done, together with traces of all the other noises. ‘Roger,’ he says, hoarsely. ‘I’m called Roger.’

‘Hello Roger. My name’s David.’ ‘Hello.’

There is a further silence here, quite a long one, and then the red-haired man tries again. ‘I really needed that,’ he says, quite cheerfully. ‘How about you?’  And then there is yet another silence—but the questioner persists. ‘Are you alright, my friend?’ he says.

What are your thoughts on the extract? Let me know in the comments!

Make sure to check out the trailer for the book by clicking H E R E.

Twitter Card for ADDRESS BOOK EDMUND WHITE copy

*Purchase ‘Address Book’ here:

*Purchase ‘Address Book‘ with free international delivery here: 

*You can also find the book here: Foyles, Gay’s The Word and the Inkandescent website.

***I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Neil Bartlett press photo

Neil Bartlett has been an acclaimed and pioneering voice in British queer culture since the 1980s. His first novel, Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall (written in a council flat on the Isle of Dogs), was Capital Gay’s Book of the Year 1990. It went on to be translated into five European languages, and was recently republished by Profile as a Serpent’s Tail Classic. His second novel, Mr. Clive and Mr. Page, was nominated for the Whitbread Prize in 1996, his third, Skin Lane, was shortlisted for the Costa Award in 2007, his fourth, The Disappearance Boy, earnt him a nomination for Stonewall Author of the Year 2014. Neil is also a maker of rule-breaking performance and theatre. After a controversial early career, he was appointed Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith in 1994 and, in recognition of his work there, was awarded the O.B.E. in 2000. Since leaving the Lyric in 2005, he has created work for major cultural producers including the National Theatre, the RSC, the Manchester Royal Exchange, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Wellcome Foundation, Artangel, Tate Britain—and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

Find him on: Website and Twitter.

[BOOK REVIEW] MAINSTREAM: An Anthology of Stories from the Edges edited by Nathan Evans and Justin David @InkandescentUK

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I’m not officially back to reviewing yet because of life being hectic but I had to share my thoughts on this brilliant anthology published by Inkandescent. I will provide you with the blurb below:

“Mainstream brings thirty authors in from the margins to occupy centre-page. Queer storytellers. Working class wordsmiths. Chroniclers of colour. Writers whose life experiences give unique perspectives on universal challenges, whose voices must be heard. And read:

Aisha Phoenix, Alex Hopkins, Bidisha, Chris Simpson, DJ Connell, Elizabeth Baines, Gaylene Gould, Giselle Leeb, Golnoosh Nour, Hedy Hume, Iqbal Hussain, Jonathan Kemp, Julia Bell, Juliet Jacques, Justin David, Kathy Hoyle, Keith Jarrett, Kerry Hudson, Kit de Waal, Lisa Goldman, Lui Sit, Nathan Evans, Neil Bartlett, Neil Lawrence, Neil McKenna, Ollie Charles, Padrika Tarrant, Paul McVeigh, Philip Ridley, Polis Loizou.

The anthology is edited by Justin David and Nathan Evans. Justin says, ‘In publishing, it’s often only the voices of a privileged minority that get heard and those of ‘minority’ groups—specifically the working classes, ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ+ community—don’t get the amplification they deserve. We wanted to bring all those underrepresented groups together in one volume in order to pump up the volume’ ”

As you can read from the description above,  the anthology features many authors and a variety of themes. I don’t usually read anthologies but having known Inkandescent as a publisher of under-represented voices and queer voices (plus many more) I got completely hooked on wanting to read this anthology. I wanted to experience this anthology and all of its contents and luckily I did.

I won’t be reviewing each story because it features a large number of writers so I will share my thoughts in this way: first of all, I love how the anthology features new voices as well as some authors that the public knows such as Kit de Waal, second of all: yes, not every story can be up to par with the others but I like how they each expressed a different style, a different world-view so that’s a big plus in my book! Getting to know these authors by reading their short stories is such an interesting experience because it provides a glimpse into their writing and makes you search for more from them. I have to say that this young independent publishing house did a great job with publishing this one and I look forward to more from them. It’s so refreshing to read something I don’t usually read because it provides a new outlook, a new experience that’s rewarding.

If you’re someone who enjoys reading anthologies, short-stories, supporting indie publishers this anthology will satisfy your needs.

I would like to thank the publisher for my review copy of this book. I would also like to note that this review isn’t influenced by me receiving this book from the publisher. All opinions written and expressed in this review are my own.

My rating: ratingstar ratingstar ratingstar ratingstar

*Purchase ‘MAINSTREAM: An Anthology of Stories from the Edges‘ here:

*Purchase ‘MAINSTREAM: An Anthology of Stories from the Edges‘ with free international delivery here: 

*You can also find the book here: Waterstones, Blackwells, and the Inkandescent website.

***I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

INKANDESCENT is a publishing venture by Justin David and Nathan Evans with a commitment to ideas, subjects and voices underrepresented by mainstream publishing, we hope to discover and celebrate original, diverse and transgressive literature and art, to challenge the status quo

Find them on: Website and Twitter.

[BLOG TOUR: BOOK EXTRACT] MAINSTREAM: An Anthology of Stories from the Edges edited by Nathan Evans and Justin David @InkandescentUK @neillawrence18

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Today is my stop on the MAINSTREAM: An Anthology of Stories from the Edges blog tour and I’m sharing a book extract with you. Inkandescent UK are a fabulous indie publisher and I’ve been following them for a while. The duo, Justin and Nathan, are brilliant people who work very hard for their publishing house and you can see passion in every post they make and every title they publish.

Before I start with the extract I’ll leave this quote from Neil Lawrence:

“I am so honoured to be part of an anthology that celebrates the breadth and diversity of the outsider community. At a time when tribalism is rampant in the UK I am delighted to be part of a project that is bringing us together. ‘Bleach’ is a story I wrote some time ago and have always wanted to find a good home for. With Inkandescent I feel blessed. Namaste.”

Now I leave you with the wonderful extract.

BOOK EXTRACT

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What are your thoughts on the extract? Let me know in the comments!

Make sure to check out the trailer for the book by clicking H E R E.

MAINSTREAM Blog Tour Graphic 2021

*Purchase ‘MAINSTREAM: An Anthology of Stories from the Edges‘ here:

*Purchase ‘MAINSTREAM: An Anthology of Stories from the Edges‘ with free international delivery here: 

*You can also find the book here: Waterstones, Blackwells, and the Inkandescent website.

***I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

INKANDESCENT is a publishing venture by Justin David and Nathan Evans with a commitment to ideas, subjects and voices underrepresented by mainstream publishing, we hope to discover and celebrate original, diverse and transgressive literature and art, to challenge the status quo

Find them on: Website and Twitter.

[CLOSED] [BLOG TOUR: GIVEAWAY] The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean @willrdean @JennyPlatt90 @HodderBooks

Today is my stop on the The Last Thing to Burn blog tour and I have a giveaway of the book!

BOOK SYNOPSIS

     A dark and brilliant new standalone thriller from a rising star in the crime genre.

He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting …

BOOK GIVEAWAY

All you need to do is click on the image below and RT the tweet, follow the people (@) mentioned and you’ll be entered!

Giveaway ends February 2nd, 2021.

Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments and make sure to follow other bloggers on this tour!

Add ‘The Last Thing to Burn‘ to your TBR:  

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**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. He is the author of Dark Pines.

Find him on: Goodreads and Twitter.

[BLOG TOUR: BOOK EXTRACT] Whispers In The Mist by Darcy Coates @darcyauthor @sourcebooks @midaspr

Today is my stop on the Whispers in the Mist blog tour and I’m sharing a book extract with you.

EXTRACT

What are your thoughts on the extract? Let me know in the comments!

Add ‘Whispers in the Mist‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘Whispers in the Mist‘ here:

*Purchase ‘Whispers in the Mist‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Darcy Coates is the USA Today Bestselling author of Hunted, The Haunting of Ashburn House, Craven Manor, and more than a dozen horror and suspense titles.

She lives on the Central Coast of Australia with her family, cats, and a garden full of herbs and vegetables.

Darcy loves forests, especially old-growth forests where the trees dwarf anyone who steps between them. Wherever she lives, she tries to have a mountain range close by.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[BLOG TOUR: BOOK EXTRACT] Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks @PeterSwanson3

Today is my stop on the RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS blog tour! I am sharing with you a short extract of the book.

EXTRACT

The waiter was hovering, so we both ordered. Agent Mulvey got the eggs Florentine. I wasn’t hungry but ordered two poached eggs on toast, with fresh fruit on the side. After we ordered, she said, “This has me thinking about rules.” “What do you mean, ‘rules’?” “Okay,” she said, and thought for a moment. “If I was the one who had set myself this task…… this goal of committing the eight murders that you described in your list, then it would be helpful to set some guidelines. Some rules. Do you copy the murders exactly? Or the idea behind the murders? How similar do they have to be?” “So, you think the rules dictate that the murderer adheres as closely as possible to the actual murders in the book?” “No, not the details of the murders, but the philosophies behind them. It’s almost as though the murderer is testing these books in real life. If the idea was simply to mimic the books, then you could just shoot someone in a country house library and call it a day. Or, for the A.B.C. Murders, you’d actually copy them exactly. You know, nd someone named Abby Adams who lived in Acton and kill her first, et cetera. But it’s not just about that, it’s about doing them right. There are rules.”

What are your thoughts on the extract? Let me know in the comments!

Add ‘Rules for Perfect Murders‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘Rules for Perfect Murders‘ here:

*Purchase ‘Rules for Perfect Murders‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Peter Swanson is the author of four novels: The Girl With a Clock For a Heart, an LA Times Book Award finalist; The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, All the Beautiful Lies. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine. A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

Find him on: Website, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter.

[BLOG TOUR: BOOK EXTRACT] Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones #SilverSparrow @OneworldNews @tayari

I’m excited to share an extract of SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones with you all. I loved her book AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE + this one sounds so good!

EXTRACT

What are your thoughts on the extract? Let me know in the comments!

Add ‘Silver Sparrow‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘Silver Sparrow‘ here:

*Purchase ‘Silver Sparrow‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Tayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, February 2018). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Silver Sparrow was named a #1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. She is currently an Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University.

Find her on: Website and Goodreads.

[BOOK EXTRACT] None the Wiser (Detective Mark Turpin #1) by Rachel Amphlett @rachelamphlett

Hello everyone! This is a new segment where I post a spotlight of a book and share an extract of it. I’ve been asked by the lovely author to share an extract which I expected gladly because I know many of you enjoy reading her books and love mystery/thriller books as well. This is the first book in the Detective Mark Turpin series. I hope you enjoy the extract!

EXTRACT

None the Wiser
(Detective Mark Turpin, book 1)
© Rachel Amphlett

Chapter 1

Seamus Carter dropped to his knees.
His voice was little more than a murmur, rising and falling with the rhythm of the prayer.
Exhaustion threatened, and he tried to take strength from the subtext, a momentary sense of calm easing the guilt that had gnawed away at him for days.He kept his eyes closed in meditation a while longer, savouring the tentative peace that enveloped him.
No-one would disturb him.
He was alone – the pub that stood on the other side of the boundary wall with his church had a live band playing tonight. He had heard the thumping bass line as he had been praying, and none of his parishioners were likely to visit at this time of night.
Easing himself from a kneeling position, he genuflected as he gazed up at the wooden crucifix above the altar, and then bowed his head in a final, silent prayer.
Seamus blinked, his trance-like state leaving him as soon as he moved away from the altar.
Despite his efforts, the self-loathing remained, and he scowled.
It wasn’t meant to be like this.
He stomped along the aisle towards the vestry, reached into his pocket for a bubble pack of antacids, then popped and swallowed two.
His thoughts turned to the Sunday morning service, and the uplifting sermon he wasstruggling to write.
The events of the previous week had shaken him, and he needed to excuse his fear.
Addressing the congregation would be a tincture, a way to soothe the wound that had been opened.
Crossing the remaining length of the nave, he pushed through the door to his office and sank into the hard wooden chair at his desk. It faced the wall, a plain wooden cross above his head.
The room had no windows, which he preferred. The setting enabled him to meditate upon his words as he crafted carefully phrased sentences to spread the word of his God.
He tapped the trackpad on the laptop, and, as the screen blinked to life, he manoeuvred the cursor over the music app, selected a compilation of violin sonatas, and closed his eyes as the music washed over him.
He smiled.
Two years ago, the church cleaner had entered the room and emitted a sharp, shocked gasp at the loud trance music emanating from the computer. After he’d calmed her and tried to convince her that, often, his best sermons were written at one hundred and twenty beats per minute, she’d continued with her dusting, although she’d eyed him warily. He’d resisted the urge to educate her musical tastes further with the progressive rock of 1970s Pink Floyd.
Seamus read through the words he had typed an hour ago, and frowned. He deleted the last sentence, cracked his knuckles and then stabbed two fingers at the keyboard in an attempt to convey the thoughts that troubled him.
Perhaps in sharing his own foibles, he would find retribution.
The stack of paperwork at his elbow fluttered as a cold breeze slapped against the back of his neck, and he rubbed the skin, his eyes never leaving the screen.
He would check all the doors and windows before leaving tonight, but now he had found his flow, the sermon was almost complete.
A shuffling noise reached his ears before he became aware of someone standing behind him, a moment before a rope snaked around his neck.
Seamus lashed out in fear, shoving the chair backwards. Terror gripped him as the noose grew taut.
A gloved hand slapped his right ear, sending shards of pain into his skull, and he cried out in pain as his assailant moved into view.
Black mask, black sweatshirt, black jeans.
‘There’s money in the box in the filing cabinet over there. My wallet is in my trouser pocket.’
Before he could recover from the shock, his right wrist was fastened to the arm of the chair with a plastic tie.
His left fist flailed, then Seamus cried out as he was punched in the balls, all the air rushing from his lungs in one anguished gasp.
He panted as his left wrist was secured to the chair, and tried to focus his thoughts.
‘What do you want?’
The words dried on his lips as he heard the warble in his rasping voice, the unsteadiness that betrayed the lie.
Eyes glared at him from slits within a black hood, but no words came.
Instead, the figure moved behind him.
Bile rose in his throat as the rope tightened under his Adam’s apple.
‘Help!’
His cry was instinctive, desperate – and useless.
Restricted by the rope around his neck, his voice was little more than a croak, broken and shattered.
He twisted in his seat, nostrils flaring as he tugged at the ties that bound his wrists to the arms of the chair.
He couldn’t move.
He gagged, struggling to swallow.
Without warning, the rope jerked, forcing his chin towards the ceiling and burning his throat.
A single tear rolled over his cheek as a wetness formed between his legs, heat rising to his face while his attacker crouched at the back of the chair, securing the rope.
He had known it would come to this, one day.
The figure said nothing, and edged around his body, peering into his eyes before raising a knife to Seamus’s face.
A gloved hand gripped his jaw, forcing his mouth open as the priest panted for air.
The blade traced around each eye socket, millimetres away from his face.
I don’t want to die.
His eyes bulged as the knife moved to his cheek, his plea little more than a whimper.
Seamus gagged at the rope cutting into his neck, fighting against the pressure in his lungs.
I can’t breathe.
A searing pain tore into his tongue, slicing through sinew and tendons before the knife flashed in front of his eyes, blood dripping from the blade, and, as Seamus’s body convulsed, the figure before him began to speak.
‘Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned…’

What do you think of it? Let me know below in the comments!

Add ‘None the Wiser‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘None the Wiser’ here:

*Purchase ‘None the Wiser‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a film extra and freelanced in radio as a presenter and producer for the BBC. She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and is a USA Todaybestselling author of crime fiction and spy thrillers, many of which have been translated worldwide. A keen traveller, Rachel holds both EU and Australian citizenship.

Find her on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[BOOK EXTRACT] The Pharmacist by Justin David @Justin_Writer @InkandescentUK #ThePharmacist

I’m very excited to share with you today an extract of Justin David’s The Pharmacist! 

EXTRACT

At last, together in the same space, Billy drinks red wine with his new friend. It’s as if they have always known each other. In this short space of time, he’s learned that Albert’s favourite authors are Genet and Proust, that he never eats red meat on a Sunday and that he once had dinner with Dusty Springfield.
Billy stands in the open bay window where Albert had stood earlier. He wonders where Jamie could have got to. Maybe he’d had to work after all. This is happening more frequently since he started that blasted job at the Walter’s Gallery. He’s so good at his job, they just want more and more of him. The thought lingers at the back of his throat like a bit of dry bread until he washes it down with a zealous gulp of red wine.
Cradling the glass, he leans out into the sunshine, intermittently eyeing up a neighbour washing his car. The street is ablaze with gold and green—dappled sunlight pushing through the gaps in the foliage of the sycamores lining the street. Albert stands, holding the bottle of red wine. ‘Vada the bona dish on the omi-palone!’ he says, extending every vowel sound, curling his words like ornate calligraphy. He’s come to stand next to Billy, to stare down at the neighbour. The palm of Albert’s hand gently rests on his back, warmth spreading through the fabric of his vest. Billy turns and presses his arse against the windowsill. ‘Eh?’
Albert pours more wine into Billy’s almost empty glass. ‘I said, look at the rear end on that gorgeous queen.’ Albert puts the bottle down and gulps his wine.
It takes Billy a moment to register. ‘Ah, Polari. I haven’t heard that for ages,’ he says, but still feels a little bewildered. ‘Who?’
‘That guy next door.’ Albert nods his head towards the man in the street. ‘Don’t pretend. I saw you. Couldn’t take your eyes off him.’
Billy looks over his shoulder at the man who has dropped his sponge and now has his mobile phone clamped to the side of his face. He’s sneering and flaring his nostrils, looking busy. He takes lots of very quick, small steps, down the tree-lined street, shoulders pivoting forwards and backwards. After having been misled by an image of butch masculinity, this little display makes them both giggle. Billy turns back to see Albert smiling to himself, walking across the room to throw his hat on a coat stand. ‘Dolly capello, old fruit,’ Billy says, complimenting Albert on his hat. They both suddenly crack into laughter, surprised but united now, across the generation gap, by the ancient gentleman’s slang.
For a moment there’s a silence in which they stand looking at each other. ‘So, what do you do?’ Albert finally says.
The question makes Billy squirm. He ponders a second before announcing, ‘I’m an artist.’ He knows if he’s ever going to live the life he wants he must get used to defining himself so. It seems such an airy-fairy thing to say—not really a proper job.
‘I knew you had to be a painter. First time I met you, in the hall, I smelt the turps. Though, I suppose when I saw you loitering in the flower market, from the way you were dressed, I thought you might have owned one of those trendy art galleries on Columbia Road.’
‘You saw me?’ Billy acts surprised, but of course he knows that Albert had seen him that day. He covers a smile with his hand.
‘Oh come off it. You were watching me!’ Albert teases. ‘You even nodded at me.’ His eyes glint and his cheeks flush pink perhaps with the wine. ‘But didn’t you say you were on holiday, the other day?’
Billy explains that he works part-time for an arts trust.
‘Must be difficult,’ Albert says. ‘Working in an office as well as fitting in your creative activities.’
He’s relaxed, even though the old man continues to fire question after question at him. There seems nothing guarded about Albert. From the outside, who would guess they only just met?
Billy looks around the room. It’s a large space with bare floorboards and a thick rag rug in the middle. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves run along the left-hand side of the bay window. In front of the window there’s a tatty cream chaise longue, and in the corner, to the right, a writing bureau, on top of which sits an emerald green glass vase, containing eight bright pink gerberas. Billy counts each stalk and wonders if Albert has always chosen that colour.
‘I’m easing myself into the painting again,’ Billy says. ‘But no doubt just as I build enough momentum to work towards the next show, I’ll run out of money and be back to the grind.’
‘Got to stay positive, Billy. You’ll make it work.’
Billy continues to gaze around the room. In front of the bookshelves, there is a well-worn ox-blood leather Chesterfield and a standard lamp with a dusty cream shade. On a glass-topped coffee table sit a few books and a scattering of magazines. Some of them are pornographic, which strikes Billy as rather unusual. Is Albert too lazy to clear up, or is he making a statement?
‘But you’ll continue to paint?’
Billy nods. ‘Right! That’s enough,’ he says, flopping down onto the Chesterfield, halting further interrogation. ‘You’ve been quizzing me ever since I arrived. What about you?’
‘Me? I’m an open book. Not all that interesting, mind.’ Albert bites his bottom lip as if to feign shyness. ‘I am all your failed expectations in a man,’ he says sadly. Billy lifts the bottle of wine and Albert pushes his glass towards him. He pours two more glasses and Albert swallows almost half of his in one gulp.
‘Well, you must have a pretty pension to keep this place on. What did you do? I mean work-wise—for a living?’
‘Life doesn’t cost a lot now. There’s no mortgage on this place. But there are no savings and no pension either, only what I get from the state and that’s next to nothing. I’ve done some acting. Used to be a singer. All a blur now. I managed a very nice restaurant in Soho, once. But mainly, I just got by.’
‘Just got by?’ Billy questions. ‘I can hear the jangle of old money in your voice.’ 
‘Darling Boy!’ Albert says, pointing his finger. ‘You must not make assumptions about people based on the way they speak.’
‘I had you down as an aristocrat. Blue blood.’
‘We’re not all high fliers, Billy. I’m just a survivor.’
‘Well at least you have your home. How are you surviving?’     
Albert pauses in contemplation. Billy doesn’t know much about him, but he senses Albert is about to open up. ‘Billy, I hardly know you. But I feel we have a connection.’
‘Me too.’ Billy gives him a sexy little smile, confirming a mutual trust.
‘Okay, well if you can keep a secret…’
‘I thought you were an open book?’ Billy sits forward keenly.
‘Everyone has things that they keep to themselves.’ Albert slumps next to Billy on the Chesterfield and starts to talk, slurring his words a little. ‘I think it’s really important, at whatever cost, to be true to oneself. I hate spending my time in drag for other people’s convenience.’ Albert sloshes back more wine. ‘I mean drag in terms of putting on a performance. You know, like wearing a mask, covering up the self.
‘This is the way I see it. Most folks want to get married and have babies. So they have a baby, and they do everything they can to mould it, shape it, and dress it into what they think it should be. And they set this child on a path towards where they think it should be going.
‘You know, one is lucky if you grow up feeling comfortable being that person, being that shape, being on that path. And you can forget to think for yourself. One can get so far down that path with the job and the wife and the car, that before you know it, the whole process starts again, of making more babies to mould and shape, mould and shape… and oh…’ He pauses and swallows, then continues almost without drawing breath. ‘But for some of us, no matter how hard we try, we just don’t fit a particular shape. And we start thinking for ourselves. And we come to a fork in the road. And you just know you’ve got to make this choice, because when you’re different, if you wear those clothes and stay on that path, when you know you really should be somewhere else, then you’re just doing drag. Do you see what I’m talking about Billy?’
Billy is completely absorbed. ‘I think so. Yeah. But I don’t really understand what this has to do with money?’
‘Well, when you make that choice, when you take that fork in the road, you might have to turn around to your folks and say, ‘Yes, thanks for that. But no.’ With that, you’re on your own. Surviving means you might end up doing things you had never expected.’
Billy waits for a moment, expecting a punch line. ‘So come on then. What’s your secret?’
Albert turns to Billy and looks directly at him. ‘I’m in pharmaceuticals.’
Billy narrows his eyes at Albert.
‘You ever go dancing?’
‘God—all the time,’ Billy says.
‘You knowThe Palais? On Kingsland Road?’
‘Yeah. Been there lots of times. There’s a fantastic Trance night on Fridays.’
Albert’s eyes widen. ‘You’ve never seen me there?’
‘You?’
‘Yes, me, strangely enough! Old man in a Panama. Impossible to miss.’
‘No.’
‘I deal drugs in there.’
Billy feels his chin drop. ‘You’re kidding?’
‘Close your mouth, Billy. You look like you’re trying to catch flies.’ Albert swallows more wine.
‘I don’t understand.’
‘It’s not hard, Billy. Every Friday night I go to The Palais and I sell drugs to the clubbers.’
‘What kind of drugs?’
‘What kind of drugs do you think? Coke, speed, pills. A little bit of acid sometimes, but mainly E’s.’
‘Albert… you’re an old man,’ Billy says.
‘Thank you for pointing that out.’
Billy rolls around, uncoiling in his place on the Chesterfield. ‘Well, of course—a very well-preserved old man,’ he giggles.
Albert smiles, his eyes sparkling, full of danger.
Billy sits quietly staring at him, pondering the old man for several minutes. Albert smiles back without complaint, until Billy asks, ‘What are E’s like?’
‘You mean you’ve never done one?’ Albert runs his fingers through silver hair.
‘Never done anything, except a bit of grass.’ Billy looks at the clock on Albert’s bureau. They have been chatting for hours. An empty bottle of wine stands on the coffee table and a second, half empty, is in Albert’s hand refilling Billy’s glass. The sunlight is changing. It’s lower now and passes through the window, causing Billy’s wine glass to sparkle like a giant ruby.
‘I thought you said you’d been to The Palaison a Friday night?’
‘I have, but I’ve never done an E.’
‘You? A man in his twenties, dancing around half-naked in The Palais, never done an E?’
Billy laughs. ‘Well, I suppose, in the past, my attention was mainly on my work. The students who did drugs at art college didn’t get first class degrees. It would have been no good, me doing drugs. I can’t even open a box of chocolates without finishing the lot.’
‘Ha. I see. But most people who hang out on the club scene, especially those of your age, have tried it at least once. Part of the territory.’
Billy shrugs. ‘Never been offered.’
‘Never lived.’ Albert chuckles and strokes Billy’s head.
Billy is alert like a boy on his first day of school. ‘Tell me what it’s like,’ he says, lightening the tone of his voice, playing innocent. He kicks off his trainers, falls back onto the sofa and breathes in sun-warmed leather.
‘Hard to say. Like nothing you’ve ever felt in your life. Like being in a dream state.’ Albert flutters his hands in the air, pretending to scatter fairy dust. When his hand drops, it falls casually onto Billy’s shoulder. Billy allows it to rest there.
‘Can’t you be more specific? Dream state? Call yourself a drug dealer?’
‘I’m an expert on all drugs,’ Albert says. He undoes the top buttons of his shirt and removes his cravat. For a man of his age, Billy notes, his skin is in very good condition—only a slight sagginess where one might expect to see a more developed dewlap. His strong jawline reminds Billy of Marlon Brando. ‘I’ve never ingested any substance without first knowing about all the highs and the side effects. But with E, the experience is slightly different for everyone. Generally, with ecstasy, it’s all about empathy. If people around you are enjoying themselves, chances are, you’ll pick up on that vibe.’
‘They make you feel horny, don’t they?’ Billy asks, still playing dumb.
‘Yes. There’s that too.’ Albert smiles.
A July breeze of warm air moves through the open window. Sounds float in from the street—birdsong, traffic, the wind through the trees.
‘What else? People die, don’t they?’
‘There are risks, I suppose, but really, the few deaths that have occurred have been the result of carelessness. Overheating, or else over-hydration and all that stuff.’
‘You trying to sell to me?’   
‘Darling Boy, I’m not a drug pusher. I sell to those who use them. If you want to try one, you are more than welcome.’
Billy is surprised by this suggestion. A man of his age, sitting around popping Es, seemed unconventional to say the least. ‘Don’t you worry about stuff?’
‘Like what?’ Albert says, clearing his throat.
‘Short-term memory loss. Alzheimer’s. You read things, don’t you?’
‘When you reach my state of decrepitude, you stop worrying. Look at me, I’m seventy. Nothing wrong with my memory. And, Darling Boy, for every brain cell that has died, a new door has opened to a magical world.’
There’s a wry twinkle in Albert’s eye. ‘People who do drugs always say stuff like that,’ Billy says, deliberately juvenile.
‘I’ve explored corners of my mind which would’ve been otherwise unreachable. It has helped me to recall events from my childhood with incredible clarity.’
‘What about the hard stuff? Done that?’
‘I’ve done everything,’ Albert says.
Billy rubs the insides of his legs in anticipation. ‘Everything?’
‘We live in a chemical world, Billy Monroe. Everyone needs some kind of medicine.’ Billy forgives him the use of his surname. It makes him feel like a pupil being addressed by a teacher but he knows that Albert is playing his game.
‘What for?’ Billy asks.
‘When I’m tired, I snort a little speed. When I’m restless, I have a bit of pot. And if I’m feeling stuck. I mean, if I feel troubled by something, I’ll smoke a bit of opium to help me get through it. If I can’t sleep, I slip a little something in my tea.’
‘Speed? When you’re tired?’
Albert shrugs. ‘From time to time. Gets the vacuuming done.’
‘Albert Power!’ There, switching roles—he’s equal now. ‘You must have a liver like a piece of leather.’ He sits forward, trembling.
Albert stands, moves to the writing bureau, pulls open the front and lifts out a tiny bag of white tablets, shaking out a handful before disappearing through a beaded curtain into the kitchen. A moment later, he returns with two pint glasses of water and sits down next to Billy. Albert places his hand over the table and lets the tablets fall onto the glass surface. For a moment, Billy looks at them. Then he leans and picks one up, rolls it between his thumb and forefinger and examines its tiny logo.
‘Mitsubishi. Bona doobs!’
‘Eh?’ Billy misses the slang again.
‘Don’t you know your Polari, Darling Boy? Doobs. Drugs. These are good ones. Pure MDMA. Lovely trip.’
Billy’s mobile phone buzzes in his pocket. He pulls it out to read the text message. It’s from Jamie.
Really sorry, Billy. Had to work late.
I’m not going to make it.
Billy frowns and stuffs the phone back in his jeans.
‘Problem?’ Albert asks.
‘Not at all.’ He smiles coyly, puts the pill to his mouth, lets it touch his tongue. ‘It tastes bitter,’ he says, pulling a face.
‘Swallow it.’
The glass of water trembles in Billy’s hands. Albert swallows his pill and smiles. ‘See? Not dead yet.’

What do you think of it? Let me know below in the comments!

The Pharmacist is available from Amazon, Gay’s the Word & www.inkandescent.co.uk 

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Add ‘The Pharmacist‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase the ebook version of ‘The Pharmacist‘ here:

*Purchase ‘The Pharmacist‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Justin David is a writer and photographer. A child of Wolverhampton, he has lived and worked in East London for most of his adult life. He graduated from the MA Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, has read at Paul Burston’s literary salon, Polari at Royal Festival Hall, and is a founder member of Leather Lane Writers. His writing has appeared in many print and online anthologies and his debut novella was published by Salt as part of their Modern Dreams series.

Justin is one half of Inkandescent–a new publishing venture with his partner, Nathan Evans. Their first offering, Threads, featuring Nathan’s poetry and Justin’s photography, was long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. It was supported using public funding by Arts Council England and is available in paperback and ebook.

Find him on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.