Cheeseburger Gothic

Fanfest 2015. The Favourite, by Professor X Boylan

Posted February 24, 2015 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

To mark the release of a second helping o' Dave, we'll begin the Festival of Reader Fiction tonight. It seems appropriate to kick off with the Prof, since has already proven himself such a worthy addition to the canon of The Dave.

On which topic, allow ME to remind y'all before we begin. Although I might borrow from these stories in the future, none of the pieces we'e about to read can yet be counted as Canon.

THE FAVOURITE - by Professor Boylan

As the Grymm Elder grew closer to the Queen’s private parlor, he felt her thoughts pushing against his skull – probing - like long, boney human fingers - the wall around the Elder’s mind. He felt the Queen’s presence grow as he walked steadily through the grand chamber’s dim red-lit gloom. Her unseen presence beat at him like the waves of an ancient ocean crashing on the rough rocks; like the roll of thunder booming before rain fell from the almost forgotten open sky.

The Elder ignored it all. He saw it as courtly drama, a game: the Queen flattered him, paying him a compliment through her token attempt. Nothing could so easily invade a Grymm’s mind – not even the Low Queen of the UnderRealms.

But age-old tradition dictated what came next: the Grymm Elder entered the Queen’s parlor, dropped to his knees, retracted his fangs and talons and bared his neck for her teeth and claws to ravage, if she so desired.

“Rise and speak,” the Queen commanded, sprawled upon her bedrock throne.

“The Grymm Council is concerned about the human,” the Elder began as he rose from the hard stone floor.

“Which human?” the Queen asked.

“Your new pet.”

“Ah. That human,” the Queen said, shifting her massive bulk to a more comfortable position. “What concerns the Grymm Council?” she asked.

“We gave the human to you as a gift with the expectation that you would eat its flesh and slake your thirst on its blood, and that you would be pleased.”

“The gesture did please me,” the Queen said.

“But you did not kill it,” the Elder continued. “You did not eat it. You did not drink its bloodwine.”

“No. I did not.” The Queen paused, her reptilian face unable to so much as hint at the amusement this meeting provided. “The human is too puny to make a proper meal. A mere morsel. A mere drip of bloodwine. My hunger is not so easily satisfied.“

“Your appetite is legendary, Majesty, and this concerns the Grymm Council,” the Elder said.

“Are you saying you are worried that I am getting fat?” the Queen asked.


“Yes. Overweight. Possessing an inappropriately large physical bearing, resulting in socially rejection,” the Queen explained. “And counterproductive if intent on attracting the amorous attention of others,” she added and waited expectantly.

“I understand and accept the traditional protocols, Your Majesty,” the Elder carefully said,” but I feel the need for honesty.”

“You could always open your mind to me,” the Queen suggested. “I would then know the truth that concerns you without any threat of deception.”

“According to our ancient customs, I respectfully decline your invitation.”

“Then you may speak freely,” the Queen said.

“Your concern that I think you are “fat” is at the heart of the Council’s reason for seeking this audience,” the Elder explained.

“How so?”

“Your questions – and your equally alarming comments – demonstrate that you have changed,” the Elder said.

“No I haven’t.”

“Yes, you have.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Yes you have. For ages untold you have never asked any Grymm if you look fat.”

“Do I look fat?”

“You see, that is what I am talking about,” the Elder said. “You have never asked that question.”

The Queen said nothing.

“You’ve changed, Your Majesty. We feel the human is responsible.”

“You fear the human’s influence,” the Queen said. “You fear it will corrupt me. You doubt I will dominate the human.”

“No. I have no doubts. But I am told you cannot enter its mind,” the Elder said.

“None of us can,” the Queen observed. “Humans do not share the gift of belonging to a group mind.”

“True, but none of us imagined that you would also lack the ability,” the Elder said.

“You fear my lack of power?”

“No, not at all. We fear that you do not recognize this vile creature for what it is. We fear it weaves words into magick that veils your vision and leads you astray.”

“Magick!” the Queen snorted in derision. “There are no magicks in these humans.”

“There is magick in the Dave,” the Elder stated.

“Yes, but the Dave is unique,” the Queen explained. “The Dave is the only one. There are no others. This human you fear is like all other humans - like spiders so small and so easily crushed.”

“I have undeniable proof that this human has corrupted you,” the Elder said.

“Are you prepared to reveal your evidence?” the Queen asked in deadly promise.

A sense of encroaching doom struck the Elder. But the Grymm Elder came to this moment prepared with a weapon that he hoped he would not be forced to use. He said a word designed as both sword and shield in the battle for his life, cast forth to both disarm the Queen and push his argument forward.

“Bacon,” he said.


“Yes. Bacon. The human assists you to acquire great quantities of bacon,” the Elder said, avoiding any hint of accusation.

“It is widely believed by humans throughout the Above that there is no such thing as too much bacon,” the Queen said.

“It is not the amount of bacon you consume that concerns the Council. It is the undeniable fact that bacon has replaced your desire for human flesh and blood.”

“I have not hid my fondness for bacon,” the Queen said. “It is delicious.”

“Yes. Granted” the Grymm Elder conceded. “I sampled a morsel once. Very tasty. “

“Only a morsel?”

“Only a morsel, Your Majesty. It is a substance that is difficult to procure.”

“And expensive.”

“And expensive,” the Elder agreed.

“Yum boogie,” the Queen said.

Not understanding the reference, the Elder moved on. “In addition to preferring what you refer to as “pig meat” to human flesh, it is whispered that you forego bloodwine in favor of a liquid called “Zinfandel.”

“From California.”

“I don’t know what “California” is, Majesty.”

“It is a human land of great riches. Did you know that California is the only place Above that has the zinfandel grape because there was a war, and all the seed burned, but immigrants to the Realm of California brought seeds with them and they planted them everywhere and now I can drink of that bounty?”

“I … did not know that.” The Grymm Elder shook his head

“My pet human told me that the existence of Zinfandel combined with my desire for it is proof that even human history serves my interests. If not for my desire, it is possible that war may not have been fought casting those immigrants to a new home to save the varietal,” the Queen said.

“Is that also true for durian?”

“You know of durian?”

“Yes, of course we do. And we know of stinky tofu, Epoisses de Bourgogne and black truffle. We know your pet human has established a network of contacts throughout the Above to provide you with exotic luxuries that do not just tempt you, they change you, coaxing you to reject our ancient ways, our ancient wisdom, in favor of foreign ways and alien values,” the Elder said. Suddenly his dignified reserve crumbled, exposing his fear. “You no longer hunger for human flesh and blood,” the Grymm Elder said. “You prefer bacon and pork chops and wine and chocolate.” Saliva jetted into the Elder’s mouth at the thought of chocolate.

“Oh yes,” the Queen said, taunting the Grymm and ridiculing his chocolate lust. “I have learned it is very nice to nibble on a bit of chocolate between sips of Zinfandel. But only the dark chocolate. The milk and white chocolate varietals are an abomination.”

“You see, Majesty?” the Grymm said. “This human is changing you, shaping you. Influencing you. Humans - not plants and their byproducts – are our prey.”

“There is nothing wrong with a salad every now and then.”

“Did the human tell you that?”


“Most definitely. What is salad? Whatever it is, it is another example of the human influencing you directly, circumventing intermediaries such as the Grymm in their efforts – their duty - to protect your interests and the interests of the Horde. All Grymm desire nothing more than to continue serving and protecting you, to represent your personal will.”

“The Grymm Council fears that this human is replacing the Grymm in my esteem.”

“The human is dangerous,” The Elder repeated. “It adapted to our ways and learned the Olde Tongue far too quickly.”

“Yes, I found that surprising, and it is one of the reasons I did not kill and eat it,” the Queen said. “The human you fear is no threat to us. It is weak and vulnerable – but it is also valuable, if not for the only reason that it teaches us how the Dave thinks and plans. Did you know the human was an advisor to the Dave?” the Queen asked.

“I learned that, and it concerns me,” the Grymm Elder admitted. “We should kill it and then - according to our eldritch traditions - we should present its skull to the Dave, so that, although the Dave will hate us, he will respect us - and know that his friend is dead. If not, the Dave will mount a rescue attempt as honor requires, and he will attack at a time when we are most vulnerable, as is the human way.”

“There will be no rescue attempt,” the Queen said. “The Dave and his ‘Scooby Gang’ of warriors believe this human is dead.”

“I still fear this human, Your Majesty. My heart and soul tell me that we should kill it.”

“And I may, but not until I’ve learned all it knows.”

“I know you interrogate it,” the Elder said. “But so far the only information we’ve obtained is stories of the Dave’s unsuccessful coupling with a female human and the Dave’s hatred for a malevolent being called Vietch.”

“I am gaining the human’s confidence, securing his loyalty to me and to our cause,” the Queen explained.

“Perhaps some torture would increase the likelihood of a successful interrogation,” the Elder suggested.

“Torture is so inelegant,” the Queen retorted, derisively waiving her talons and flicking her tongues.

“’Inelegant?’ What does that mean?”

“Never mind.”

“Kill the human, my Queen! I beg you to kill it.”

“It is no threat. It is weak.”

“No longer. I am told that you have assigned him Minion and Thresh as attendants and a squad of Fangr to command.”

“There have been three attempts on the human’s life. I seek to protect a valuable asset.”

“You have allowed the human to arm his retainers with human weapons and to have them trained in their use by something referred to in whispers as ‘the Rhino.’” The Elder watched for the Queen’s reaction, to see if she, too, had heard these same terrified whispers.

“I am interested in human weapons,” the Queen said without betraying any of her internal thought process or emotions. “Human weapons have been effective against every class of daemon that serve me, every clan, every sect.”

“We can prevail against the humans without changing who we are, Majesty,” the Elder said. “The Grymm fear that, by allowing the human so much freedom to travel between here and the Above, by allowing him to arm his retainers, you make the human far too strong.”

“I smell jealousy,” the Queen said, soft laughter rumbling in her throat. One of her tongues flicked out of her mouth. “I taste fear,” she said. “You fear that the human is replacing the Grymm in the hierarchy of my court.”

“A hierarchy that has existed since the beginning,” the Elder said.

“Change may be necessary to conquer the Above and to retake our rightful place beneath the open sky.” The Queen paused. The Grymm Elder felt her thoughts probing his, pushing – not with any hope of breaking through – but for the simple pleasure that came from squeezing his mind like she would squeeze a fresh, still beating heart to lick its juices.

“Leave me now,” the Queen suddenly commanded.

The Grymm Elder turned and left the Queen’s parlor. In the cave corridor the Elder’s adjutant joined him as the Elder walked back to Grymm controlled territory.

“You heard?” The Elder asked.

“Yes. I heard,” the Elder’s adjutant whispered back.

“And your thoughts?”

“The Queen is lost to us.”

“We must kill the human at once,” the Elder insisted.

“I fear that can no longer be done.”

“Then what do you advise?” the Elder demanded.

“We should stop all attempts to assassinate the human,” the adjutant said.

“What? And let it continue to poison the Queen against the Grymm?”

“It is clear that has already happened,” the adjutant said. “Further unsuccessful attempts to kill the human will only reinforce the Queen’s attachment to her dangerous pet.”

“Then what can be done to rid us of this troublesome beast?” the Elder hissed between clenched fangs.

“Seek out the human,” the adjutant advised. “Form a false alliance. He is weak and greedy. We will promise him more than he receives from the Queen if he betrays the Queen.”

“And then?” the Elder asked.

“Approach the Sliveen and Hunn Council Elders and form a true alliance with each.”

“And the Scolari?”

“The Scolari will remain loyal to the Queen,” the adjutant predicted.

“Most likely, yes,” the Elder agreed. “But we don’t need the Scolari.”

“No, we do not. We will need the Sliveen and Hunn when the time comes,” the adjutant again advised. “When we are ready, we use the human and his Fangr and Thresh ‘strike force’ to overthrow the Queen. For her own good.”

“Then we kill the human,” the Elder said. The adjutant was silent, and the two continued to walk in silence.

“Have you heard of ‘durian?’” the Elder suddenly asked, breaking the silence between them.

“Yes,” the adjutant admitted. “It is said the scent of the durian is a perfumed aroma that rivals the delicious odors of the finest, oldest blood pots.”

“I have heard the same,” the Elder admitted.

“Perhaps,” the Elder suggested “perhaps we should not kill the human immediately.”

“I agree,” the adjutant quickly said. “The human must die, of course, but not until after we have assumed control over his trading network. Especially the one that provides bacon.”

“And chocolate,” the Elder said, fantasizing about plundering the Queen’s private larder, imagining durian, bacon and chocolate devoured together with abandon.

*** ***

The Queen watched the Grymm Elder leave her throne chamber. She watched as the Elder’s adjutant slithered up to whisper in the Elder’s ear. She watched them both walk into the darkness beyond.

A small human stepped out of the shadows behind the Queen’s throne rock.

“Did you hear?” the Low Queen asked.

“Yes, Majesty.”

“And your thoughts?”

“The Grymm plan rebellion,” the human stated.

“Your recommendations?”

“It is likely the Grymm Elder will seek a meeting with me in an attempt to persuade me to assist the Grymm to overthrow you,” the human began. “I will, of course, appear to cooperate, to accept their bribe, but only to learn all of what the Grymm plan so I can best advise you, my Queen.”

“Good,” the Queen said. “I approve. Is there more?”

“Continue to expand your trade connections with the Above,” the human advised. “Continue your efforts to establish diplomatic contact with competing human national factions. Continue your plan to modernize. You cannot retake the Above without modernizing. And continue to train and arm the thresh - who will be loyal only to you.”

“I will do as you advise,” the Queen said.

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” the human said. “The Grymm will bow to your authority and adapt to the New World you engender. If not, they prove they are weak and are fit only as meat for the blood pots.”

The Low Queen was silent for a few moments, apparently deep in thought. Then she asked:

“Does this rock I am sitting on make my butt look big?”

“Absolutely not, Majesty. You are truly a vision of loveliness. Can I get you any more bacon? Perhaps some prosciutto crudo,” the human suggested.

“No, not now. Do you have any Ghirardelli chocolate? The kind with the gooey caramel centers. And some of that Zinfandel I drank yesterday.”

“The 2010 Ridge East Bench?” the Boylan asked.

“Yes, that is the one. Blood red, lots of spice, finely balanced. To die for.”

“I’m afraid we are out of that one, my Queen,” the human said and bowed his head. “The 2010 Ridge East Bench zin is popular Above and it is difficult for our agents to locate and purchase.”

“I remember that happening to the Brunello di Montalcino.” The Queen writhed in frustration. “It was soooo good. But you let it slip away forever. No amount of precious metals, gemstones or rare earths will procure more – because there isn’t any. And now I am deprived of the 2010 Ridge East Bench as well because you didn’t have the simple foresight to order enough.”

“I expect to receive more very soon, and my Thresh apprentices have just installed an electric cooler so that we can cellar as much as two cases at a time,” the human said.

“I am deeply disappointed,” the Queen rumbled. “I should eat you and be done with you. It would make everyone happy.”

“I have failed you, my Queen,” the human said, going down on one knee and baring his neck for the killing stroke.

“Don’t do that. Just don’t. I hate it when you do that. Everything’s fine.”

The human looked up at the Queen. “Everything’s fine?” he asked.

“Yes. Just fine,” the Queen said. “Look, I value your judgment in such things. Is there anything else available in sufficient quantity to satisfy my thirst?” the Queen asked.

“I have a lovely French Margaux I strongly recommend,” the Boylan suggested.

“Very well,” the Low Queen sighed. “I suppose I can make due.” She shifted her massive weight on her rock throne. “And maybe a little Virginia country ham. Nothing fancy; just a nosh.”

32 Responses to ‘Fanfest 2015. The Favourite, by Professor X Boylan’

Anthony would have you know...

Posted February 24, 2015
Boylan on Boylan?

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted February 24, 2015
Everyone deserves representation & counsel.

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insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted February 24, 2015
Most excellent

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Sparty has opinions thus...

Posted February 24, 2015
So woosy submitting copy BEFORE a deadline, I'm sticking to the end of month deadline, and now revising with Dave 2....

she_jedi mutters...

Posted February 25, 2015
I'm glad it's not just me rushing to meet that deadline. I'm resisting the urge to revise based on Dave 2, I'll never get it finished if I do.

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JG asserts...

Posted February 24, 2015
Bravo, Paul. An excellent story. Joanna

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she_jedi puts forth...

Posted February 24, 2015
"It is widely believed by humans throughout the Above that there is no such thing as too much bacon." By the Sky Lords that made my day.

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sibeen mutters...

Posted February 24, 2015
Fuck you, Boylan...just FUCK YOU!!!

rips up carefully worked on and worded manuscript in disgust

I'll admit it, I won't be topping that.


BTW, absolutely loved the Wolfram & Hart reference at the end. Bravo.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted February 25, 2015
You don't have to top it. I can't win the prize. The only reason I lowered my personal standards enough to allow me to write "fiction" was my incorrect belief that my character was going to be killed off, and I hoped to give X new life by winning this contest. Now I know the character survives, so I can't gain anything except the inescapable knowledge that I debased myself for little more than the admiration of people who didn't notice any of my allusions to classical literature or the obvious and admirable fact that almost all of the dialogue is written in iambic pentameter blank verse. Oh, Homer! Oh, Virgil! Oh Dante! Oh, Milton! Oh, Goethe! Oh, Koontz! Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?

But I digress. Please don't let my poor attempt dissuade you from throwing your very large hat into the ring.

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Rhino puts forth...

Posted February 25, 2015
Original comment didn't work ... odd.
Bravo! Bravissimo, Herr Doktor Professor!
Outstanding job, Mr. Boylan. That was great!

Rhino ducks in to say...

Posted February 25, 2015
It only made me love you more...

Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted February 25, 2015
I might add that the dragon farts in the morning.

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Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25, 2015
Reads very much like Charles Stross.
Excellent work, Professor X Boylan.
On the Outer Marches

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Rhino reckons...

Posted February 25, 2015
I will have #TheDaveDeux on Friday.
So much for working.

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GhostSwirv mutters...

Posted February 25, 2015

I despair of an Above where the Boylan is Chief Counsel to the Low Queen - is there any hope for humanity once X rewrites our destiny and commandeers all the bacon?

GhostSwirv over and out to continue redrafting, recrafting, redacting ... oh bollocks!

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25, 2015
Commandeer? No, purchase on the open bacon market. The Low Queen's money is as good as anyone's.

GhostSwirv would have you know...

Posted February 25, 2015

The mind boggles at what currency the Low Queen is likely to trade in and what advice your X-ness has proffered as to a Share Portfolio of choice.

GhostSwirv ... still redacting, removes animal products from the menu.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted February 25, 2015
It isn't very difficult to convert precious metals and gems - which should be plentiful in the UnderRealms - into cash that can be deposited in banks around the world that specialize in laundering black cash (Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands Israel, Lebanon, Panama, the Philippines, Russia, etc.). Once cash is legitimized the rest is intuitive, with buying political influence as the central goal.

I would advise the Low Queen to invest in tech stocks (3d printer tech in particular) and the emerging markets that are poised to replace China as the source of cheap labour for manufacturing (Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, etc.)

GhostSwirv asserts...

Posted February 25, 2015

You really do have the campaign all figured out, ... don't you?

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she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted February 25, 2015
Oh happy day! Just discovered I now have an extension on my Roman essay, which now gives me time to finish the Dave, my Dave fanfic, and yeah, my uni assignment. Hooray!

It's just as well because fictional Boylan kept me up way past my bedtime last night being all wildly entertaining and shit, and now I'm paying for it. Do you really look like a Klingon, or is JB just messing with you? :)

Lulu mutters...

Posted February 25, 2015
"Dave, my Dave fanfic, and yeah, my uni assignment"
Heh, I like the order of importance there.

Bondiboy66 mumbles...

Posted February 25, 2015
Perhaps a slightly smaller Klingon, with far less facial protrusions.
btw - you dun rite goodly Prof.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted February 25, 2015
Yes. I look like a Klingon. Imagine a short, long armed, hairy Brad Pitt with a bumpy skull.

sibeen asserts...

Posted February 25, 2015
Brad Pitt?

Shakes head and wanders off in disbelief.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 26, 2015
Despite the Brad Pitt comparison, the image is nevertheless fairly repulsive, especially if you add the part about having connecting eyebrows, being bald, overweight, and having a penchant for spontaneous nosebleeds.

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Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted February 25, 2015
Choice Bro. Very choice.

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Surtac reckons...

Posted February 25, 2015
Beautiful work, Professor.

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Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted February 25, 2015
's a pity that Professor X Boylan is kicking arse and taking names in Dave 2: Boylan Boogaloo.

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted February 26, 2015
A well put together piece Paul. I liked it a lot.

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MickH ducks in to say...

Posted February 27, 2015
Golf clap for the proffWell done sir, well done.

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Respond to 'Fanfest 2015. The Favourite, by Professor X Boylan'

Foxhound free until Jan 14

Posted January 12, 2015 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

James Phelan's 2006 thriller Foxhunt is free down under for the next week, and only 99c O/S. It's the one where I die.

Always worth revisting.



‘This is incredible,’ Alissa Truscott muttered to herself for the hundredth time that day. With almost every bone perfectly in place, it was the most exciting archaeological find any of them had ever come across. Alissa knew that soon, when the secrecy of the expedition was lifted, their discovery would stun the world.

Just as incredible as the preserved skeleton was the surrounding earth, which contained fragments of assorted flora, suggesting the figure had been buried ceremoniously. The emphasis on the rituals of death at such an early prehistoric period was an amazing revelation, made even more so by crude stone pictographs cut into the tomb walls, hinting at the life once lived and a belief that it could be carried on after death.

‘How are you going there, Alissa?’ inquired a deep, resonating voice. Richard O’Brien was a die- hard Irishman with a large soup-straining moustache that made up for the lack of hair on his head. He had barely managed to squeeze his girth through the crawl space into the tomb itself, a small ante- chamber to the main cave system. The process had resembled a walrus moving across the ground.

‘Fine, thanks, Professor O’Brien,’ replied Alissa in her southern US way, richly articulated unlike the stereotypical drawl. She had six years at Princeton to thank for that.

‘Magnificent,’ O’Brien said, taking in the fully exposed skeleton. ‘Shall we discuss our impending fame over lunch? The National Geographic photo- grapher has arrived.’

Alissa wiped her thick cotton sleeve across her brow; it came away with a dirty smudge. ‘Remind me to freshen up if a camera gets pointed my way.’ She offered O’Brien her hand and he took it in his, pulling her slender frame to her feet. ‘I’ll leave my workbook here and finish up after lunch.’

The other members of the dig were already in the mess tent, exchanging the data they had uncovered during the morning in their separate areas of the cave system. On the table were several varieties of preserved vegetables, some dried meat and fish, a large bowl of yellow dip and a mountain of fresh flat bread. A decanter of one of O’Brien’s reds was being passed around to add to the merry atmosphere and a small CD player was playing in one corner.

‘Alissa, come sit down,’ called Christian, a Danish student studying with her. He was holding an open sandwich in one of his long tanned hands; the other held a tin cup of wine. He scooted across the pine bench and made space for her shapely behind; it had become open knowledge that the two had begun an affair shortly after their arrival in Iran. The twenty-three-year-old Alissa would admit to no one, especially her new casual lover, that he was the first man she had slept with. She was a little disappointed that he was a bit clumsy but, admittedly, it wasn’t a bad way to spend the cold nights of the desert winter.

Towards the end of their lunch, O’Brien, who had ended up beside Alissa, turned to whisper to her while the others were busy laughing at a story the National Geographic photographer was telling.

‘I forgot to mention it earlier—last night I was preparing our material for the photo shoot and I noticed some of the excavated material is missing.’ The soft smell of wine was evident on O’Brien’s whispered words.

Alissa, fearing the worst, felt her stomach turn. ‘Not the organic material, or the tool fragments—’ O’Brien cut her off: ‘Shhh, not so loud.’ He looked around to check everyone was still pre- occupied. ‘Nothing that important, but puzzling nonetheless. It’s the rock trays, the mineral samples.’ Alissa looked from O’Brien to the others in the room. ‘The mineral samples? You’re sure someone’s not running tests on them?’ She knew the answer

though: O’Brien ran a very tight ship.

‘They’d have to clear it with me and sign them out.’ O’Brien had a distant look on his face, trying to grasp a reasoning that he was sure was out there


‘It wouldn’t surprise me if Orakov didn’t bide

by your rules,’ Alissa said. ‘He’s given me the creeps since day one.’

O’Brien cocked an eyebrow, considering the comment. ‘Before we figure out who, we have to ask ourselves why,’ he said eventually.

The CD player stopped mid-track, hardly a rare occurrence due to its state. Christian, who had been humming along to the tune, got up to check and quickly saw it had no power at all.

‘That bloody Russian hasn’t fuelled the generator again!’ he shouted, interrupting the photographer’s current anecdote.

The tent went silent and all nodded agreement that the generator had gone off.

‘I’ll fix it myself,’ Christian mumbled as he donned his parka and made for the door. He was only halfway to it when something came rolling through the doorway. Every eye in the tent stared uncomprehendingly at the small metal object as it tumbled across the floor.

An intense light and tremendous thunderclap rocked the tent and Alissa was thrown backwards onto the sand-covered floor. The last thing she saw through a smoky haze was the unshaven face of Dimitry Orakov staring down at her, an automatic pistol comfortably gripped in his hand.


The parade attracted a fanfare the like of which had never before been seen along the main streets of Grozny. State-funded vendors supplied hot foods to the crowd, while thousands of soldiers and police in dress uniform kept any citizens from flowing onto the sanctioned-off parade area. Every able body in the city had turned out despite the cold. Steam rose from the masses, giving physicality to their vocal jubilance. Independence had taken almost ten thousand military and civilian lives to achieve. Not only lives, but also years of hardship and misery for all concerned. Almost all.

The towering broad-shouldered man dressed in a long cashmere coat, Italian suit and shirt had not felt such pains. He had spent the past four years travelling between Grozny and a luxurious secret retreat, all the while maintaining true control over his semi-autonomous country through Russian- friendly rulers. Disposable men.

Now the time had come to take the reins himself.

President Sergei Ivanovich of the Republic of Chechnya stood on the decorated back of a flat- bed army truck—against the advice of his personal security chief—resplendent in the glory of the moment. For too long he had stayed in the shadows. Now he was the centrepiece of the procession, a convoy of over two hundred military vehicles. No one would dare make an attempt on his life today. In death he would become a martyr, creating even bigger problems for Mother Russia. And the local bands of rebels knew how ruthless he could be— a botched assassination attempt and the capture of the perpetrators had proven that point.

The people loved the show. Not that they really knew much about Ivanovich, besides his stellar career trajectory in the KGB and subsequent position as special military aide to the old Politburo, the former USSR’s governing body. Being labelled by Putin as one of the most dangerous men in the world had guaranteed his prominence to the Chechen masses. They knew he looked like a leader, spoke like a leader.

Leading ran in the Ivanovich family. Ivanovich was old-school Soviet; his lineage had all been officers in the Soviet army and his younger brother was the current Vice-President of Azerbaijan, Chechnya’s neighbour on the Caspian Sea. Already that alliance had reaped mutual benefits: free trade, dual citizenship, a combined military force.

Ivanovich waved to the masses, a collective of exiles driven to the region over the past two centuries. He had made it clear that their lives and futures were entwined, destined for greatness: a nation which would be heard on the world stage.

A security officer walked over to the float and passed up a folded note, which Ivanovich opened and glanced at quickly. He smiled. He waved. He threw his fists into the air and shook his arms to display the emotions he felt.

Yes, he thought, yes! Now we will have real power!

High above, death loomed. Orbiting slowly and silently, unknown to almost all in the world.



The day was windy and bright. Clouds whispered through the sky and an aeroplane soared overhead. It was a time of peace and quiet on the beach; too early for most tourists but too late for the morning anglers. Only one figure disturbed the serenity, his large feet splashing in the warm tropical water of the Indian Ocean. For Lachlan Fox this was the most peaceful place on Earth, a sanctuary from the real world.

Every morning for the past few months this had been his ritual: a seven o’clock run along the beach for five kilometres and a swim back.

Fox paused at the end of his run and stretched out against the lone lifesaving tower that marked his distance. The paint flaked beneath his hands as he worked the tension out of his thighs. He couldn’t help but laugh as the tower moaned against his weight, his own body protesting against the force. Every movement of his legs was a chore, but thankfully getting easier with each day of rehab. The swimming was therapy.

Five minutes and several routines later, he walked into the water. Every few seconds one of the soft breakers that rolled through the mouth of the cove sprayed against him, the waves remaining upright in the offshore breeze. The wind carried the noises of a small town rising.

Fox could see movement atop the far headland, mainly kids and their dogs running from house to house in search of whatever entertainment was on offer inside, getting as much as they could out of their morning before school. Fox looked at his house in the distance and saw the specks of kids playing cricket in the street.

For a wonderful moment his mind was free of purpose. Just the water and sky and murmurs of life.

The lapping water against his waist brought him back. The bay went deep fast, and there was no standing still in the shallows as the gradient of loose sand lured swimmers out. With the sea calling, Fox duck-dived under a fresh set of waves and broke the surface with a practised freestyle.

Almost back where he’d started, Fox climbed the weathered wooden stairs leading up the steep cliff face of the northern headland of Flying Fish Cove.

The island’s only port, and the township of Christmas Island, grew around the cove’s arc like a crust. Most beach-view houses were original settlements, dating from the island’s early days as a phosphate mine for the British Empire.

Fox’s house was a never-ending renovation job, already with six months’ worth of his own blood and sweat. Inside it looked like a bookstore, with barely a piece of wall in view. Stacks of The Islander, the local newspaper that Fox had created and edited each month, were piled like skyscrapers in one corner.

Fox entered, picking up the mail behind the door and flicking through it. The letters from the mainland he tossed on the unopened heap near the coffee table, the familiar handwriting of friends and family among the official correspondence.

He walked to the bathroom on autopilot and let the warm shower from rooftop solar pipes engulf him, the water removing both the sand and salt from his tanned skin. It had been a couple of days since he’d shaved and he lathered up whilst still in the shower, shaving with the speed and precision of someone who’d never used an electric razor.

Towelling off in front of the mirror, he decided to pick up the pace of his current exercise regime. Not that his six foot two, ninety-kilogram frame wasn’t toned—it was merely something else to set his mind to.

He brushed his wet hair out of his eyes and left the room and its mirror, no longer noticing the pink scars that carried so many memories.

At ten o’clock that evening, Fox emerged from a pub and started walking home. It was balmy and the wind had picked up strength; bits of foliage were flying about. Cyclone Catherine, which was meant to skirt the island the next day, was closer than predicted. He pulled his collar up around his neck to shield himself against the sea spray—a futile gesture. The fine mist soon soaked him through.

Walking through the town’s small botanical garden, Fox thought he heard a cry. He stopped to listen, but with the wind so strong it was impossible to pinpoint. Branches scraping metal roofs and loose items knocking about created a symphony of chaos. A few more paces around a bend and he came across three burly men, the type of merchant seamen who frequented the island’s casino. They were blocking his path, and that of two young women headed in the opposite direction. The pair clung to each other for support, fear in their faces.

‘Evening, boys,’ Fox said as his danger sensors lit up.

‘Fuck off—this ain’t your business,’ replied one of the men in a deep, heavily accented Afrikaans voice. Two more figures emerged from the bushes to Fox’s right.

‘How do you know what kind of business I’m in?’ asked Fox, buying himself time to weigh up his opponents. ‘Why don’t you boys leave those girls alone—I’m sure you can find something you like at the casino.’ The casino was a notorious spot for Thai prostitutes.

‘Piss off, mate, last chance.’ This came from a mountain of a man to Fox’s right.

Fox took a few more steps towards the five beefy men surrounding him. ‘You see,’ he began in a low, calm voice, ‘there’s the problem.’ His blue eyes came alive and gleamed before the threat in front of him.

The first two sailors looked at each other in bemusement.

‘Last chance, boys . . . how about I spot you a couple hundred for a good time some place else?’ Fox continued in the same crisp voice. His days in the navy had included being at the pointy end of enough conflicts to know what he could handle. This situation was borderline. Have to catch them off guard if it blows up...

Of the two men to Fox’s right, the largest, apparently the leader, gave a laugh.

In a lightning move that none expected and barely saw, Fox knocked two of the thugs to the ground. They dropped with cries of agony, whilst in seemingly the same passage of motion Fox’s leg spun to his right with perfect timing. The resulting crunch was sickening. The man on the receiving end fell to the ground clutching his throat, barely able to breathe after the gracefully savage blow.

Fox was now facing the last two standing, the leader being one of them. His look of fright and disbelief turned to rage and he gestured his remain- ing henchman forward.

Fox let him approach. When the man produced a long curved blade, the two women—until now stunned into silence—let out shrill cries.

The two men mirrored each other’s movements in a circular motion, much like a battle of wits between a matador and a near-defeated bull. The thug made his blunder when he got tired of sending jabs at Fox, which were expertly parried, and made an angry slash at his opponent. Fox jumped back a little to let the swipe go by, then caught the beam- like arm of the man and broke it like a twig across his upcoming knee, following with an elbow in the man’s face.

Fox turned to where the leader stood, but was a second too late. Another cry came from the women, this time in warning, as Fox moved around, but a blow to the side of his head, accompanied by the shattering of glass, ended all motion.

Fox’s eyes were still open when he hit the ground in a heap. The last thing he remembered passing through his blurred vision was a pair of feet moving towards him.




MARCH 2005

Fox lay in a pool of mud, the rain cutting visibility to a few metres. To his left was Leading Seaman John Birmingham, covered in blood from a gouge across his brow.

‘They’ve got us pegged, Lieutenant,’ Birmingham said as he loaded another high-explosive round into his M203 grenade launcher.

‘Looks that way, JB,’ Fox said, using a small mirror to look above the rim of the trench they had taken cover in. If they didn’t move in a few minutes, they’d be fully submerged in the torrential downpour. Fox felt the mud sucking him down and shifted his weight to compensate. His fatigues were heavy with rainwater. Not that the Royal Australian Navy’s Clearance Divers minded getting wet. Especially CDT4, specialists in shore assaults and the most active unit in the Australian military.

‘Try to get the others on the blower again,’ Fox said, as a spray of heavy-calibre automatic gunfire tore into the trees around them.

‘Damn if these are bloody militia!’ Birmingham said, trying the satellite phone again.

‘Indonesian Army, you reckon?’ Fox wiped down his Austeyr assault rifle, wishing he had one of the SAS’s new M4s—much better in the wet.

Several more shots rang out, splinters of wood showering them, before Birmingham answered.

‘They’re M16s, boss—and they’re gettin’ closer. No answer on the sat-tel.’

Fox looked across at the confident face of Birmingham and was glad he had chosen him for this recon. There was supposed to be a prison camp of East Timorese refugees nearby, and the man next to him had seen more combat than anyone else in CDT4. Birmingham’s cool head under live fire was invaluable, especially since they were well outside the mandated security zone and no one knew where they were.

‘Ideas, JB?’ Fox asked.

Birmingham looked about him; the visibility was unchanged. ‘Fire a couple of HE rounds and bolt, or wait here for a full company of bad guys to show up.’ He took a couple of jelly babies from his top pocket and passed one over.

‘Hmmm, tough call,’ Fox said.

‘That’s why you’re paid the big bucks, sir,’ Birmingham said, cocking his M203 ready for fire. ‘Okay, let’s do it. We’ll hump it north, exactly a kay from here, if we get separated,’ Fox said, inserting a round into his grenade launcher.

‘On three,’ Fox said, getting ready to move. ‘One,’ Birmingham said, moving into position. ‘Two,’ Fox said, doing the same.

‘Three!’ In unison the pair raised to one knee, brought their grenade launchers up . . .

. . . and came face to face with thirty rifle barrels, topped by the camouflaged faces of Indonesian Special Forces and the unpainted faces of the local militia.

10 Responses to ‘Foxhound free until Jan 14’

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted January 12, 2015
Did you discover your namesake here or were you informed before it happened?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 12, 2015
I approved.

Respond to this thread

Murphy mutters...

Posted January 12, 2015
I'm proud of you, John.

You didn't fire the fucking thing off in a closet this time. ;) Or did you do it off stage?

Umm, where does he get that the M-4 works better in the wet?
Seriously, excellent stuff. Going to have to add it to my stack.

On the Outer Marches

Therbs would have you know...

Posted January 12, 2015
James Phelan has a back catalogue of 'splodey/action gear worth a look and not only 'cos JB gets his beans cashed in the first Fox book.

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tqft puts forth...

Posted January 12, 2015
Only if I transfer my amazon account from a USA one to Australian amazon. And not have my US amazon credit transferred.
Also will I lose access to books released in US but not in Oz?
Am I allowed to hate on amazon?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted January 12, 2015
No. It is dangerous even thinking it.

Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 12, 2015
The last guy who tried it went to pieces. All over the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. In shark faeces.

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Bangar would have you know...

Posted January 12, 2015
Can heartily recommend Mr Phelan's work. Very good reads and he should apologise (OK buy a beer) for tuckerizing the Boss.
PS read the alone series, bugger got me on the first book

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Chaz asserts...

Posted January 13, 2015

Have to say it made my day to see The Scribes literary death so quick in the book....

As JP is such a nice guy everyone should buy his books.

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted January 13, 2015
Acquired it yesterday and finished it this arvo. A great little read, and Mr Phelan will be getting some more of my shekels.

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Respond to 'Foxhound free until Jan 14'

A Time to Every Purpose, by Ian Andrew

Posted December 15, 2014 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Another ebook for your consideration, a pure alt hist this time by Ian Andrew. It has a touch of SS-GB, as you'll see from the chosen extract, but plenty of splodey in the later chapters. It's set in Nazi occupied Great Britain and turns on the Maguffin of a female scientist with a time machine.

Ian Andrew was born in Northern Ireland and joined the RAF as an aircraft technician. He was later commissioned as intelligence officer. I have another extract with some spodey which I'll run later this week.

She stood on the Mall opposite the entrance to Horse Guards and gazed along the flag-lined boulevard towards the Palace. A soft spring breeze gently billowed and caressed its way down the two parallel lines of red, white and black. The folds of the nearest flag shook out and the Swastika unfurled against the turquoise blue of a London sky.

As the ForeFone buzzed on her arm she looked away from the symbol of the Reich to check the screen. The unknown number icon flashed but she reached up to her earpiece and clicked the connect toggle anyway.

“Leigh Wilson, hello.”

“Doctor Wilson, it’s Heinrich Steinmann, I’m so sorry to disturb you on your weekend.” The language was English, the accent clipped, precise and stereotypical of an Ox-Bridge education. Yet just in his vowels there was the trace of mid-Germanic origins. Leigh’s senses sharpened. Mid-Germanic yet educated at the best universities in England normally indicated a particular type of Party operative. That alone would have made her cautious but the fact that she didn’t know who Heinrich Steinmann was added to her foreboding. As a Senior Government Science Officer her mobile number was not in any directory listing, yet here this stranger was calling her.

Leigh responded cautiously, “Guten Tag Herr Steinmann, Wie geht es Ihnen?”

“Thank you Doctor Wilson but English will be fine and yes, I’m fine too, thank you for asking. I was wondering where you were at present?”

“I’m sorry, but would you mind telling me who you are before I tell you where I am?”

“Ah, my apologies, I forgot. You’ve been on leave. I’m Sturmbannführer Lohse’s replacement.”

“His replacement? I didn’t know he was leaving.”

There was a momentary pause and when Steinmann spoke again his accent had softened, subtly. “No. That’s right. It was rather sudden. A family emergency in the Homeland. It would appear his eldest boy was involved in some... Mmm, unpleasantness, at the Munich Institute. We do all trust the Sturmbannführer will return to duty swiftly but,” he paused a beat before continuing, “as you can imagine, it will depend on the outcome of enquiries. Yes?”

“Yes, I see,” and she did, clearly. Although she had no idea what the unpleasantness referred to was, it didn’t matter. A Sturmbannführer in the Reich Security Directorate did not, could not, have members of their family being anything less than model citizens. Depending on what young Lohse had gotten himself into, Lohse senior was facing a halt to his career, perhaps a demotion or two or... She didn’t finish the thought. “So is it Sturmbannführer Steinmann?” Leigh asked.

“Well, no. Formally I suppose I am Standartenführer Steinmann of the Allgemeine-SS, Special Investigations and Security Directorate. But please call me Heinrich, as we shall be working together and I find formality so, um, formal.” Heinrich laughed lightly at his own humour.

Leigh felt a stab of adrenaline in her stomach. Her breathing had quickened and she could feel sweat running down the back of her neck. The temperature was a seasonal fifteen degrees Celsius, the normal average for London in May, yet her whole body convulsed in small shakes more associated with a freezing winter wind. She struggled for control of her voice.

“Oh!” she was high by an octave. She covered her mouth and coughed. Her mind screamed at her to get a grip on herself. She coughed again. “Excuse me Heinrich, my apologies. So, what can I do for you?” she knew he would have expected his title to get a reaction and she was annoyed at herself for allowing it to show so obviously. She imagined him smirking as he spoke again.

“As I said, I was just wondering where you were?” he asked plainly and without offering any explanation as to why he wished to know.

“In the Mall, opposite Horse Guards, I was going for a walk,” she answered quickly. Her mind shouted so loudly to calm down she almost flinched from the noise in her head. “Why do you ask?” she managed to say a little slower and a lot more calmly than she felt.

“Excellent, I’m so pleased to have caught you nearby. My apologies for interrupting your walk, but I was wondering if you could come into work? Just for a short while. We have a little query with regard to the experiment Professor Faber has left running and I’m afraid he isn’t available. I realise my request is terribly inconvenient on a Sunday evening but I would appreciate your input.” Heinrich spoke in such a non-confrontational, pleasant and almost charming way, that anyone with no knowledge of his professional specialisation would have felt flattered to be asked.

Leigh knew it was all just for effect. She knew from his title exactly what Heinrich Steinmann was and no one, not even the Chiefs of Staff of the Reich forces, would have turned down his ‘request’ for ‘input’.

“Of course,” she heard herself say. “I can be there in half an hour.”

“Oh no, please. Please allow me to have a car pick you up. Just stay where you are and we’ll save you the walk. I’ll see you shortly Doctor Wilson,” and with that he hung up.

The call had already disconnected but she distractedly pressed the end call button on the wireless earpiece. Continuing to stare at the Fone’s blank screen she played out the scenarios in her head. There was nowhere to run to and nothing to do but wait for the car. If, at last, they had finally caught up to her then the best she could hope for was a swift processing. At worst, if they thought she had information on others, then her next seventy-two hours would not be so pleasant. She reached inside the concealed double lined pocket in her light jacket and fingered the small gelatine capsule that nestled there. She would wait for the car. It wouldn’t take long to figure out what was going to happen.

If they travelled east to her work in the Todt Laboratories then maybe things were not as bad as she feared. Although there was a newly built detention facility in the compound she would know straight away if they headed for it. She would stay alert to the possibilities that Standartenführer Steinmann was playing a game with her, but she would wait. However, if they took her north-west to the Harrow Holding Centre, then there would be nothing to wait for.

Leigh smiled. For her thirty-five years of life she had worked her way through the system, gained academic honours and achieved a senior government role. She was a leading scientist on the most far-reaching scientific experiment ever undertaken in the eighty years of the Greater Germanic Reich, or arguably in the whole history of humanity. She had run a good race. If it ended now, well that was what God intended. If not, she would continue her work to undo everything; in His name.


Ah, what the hell. I'll throw the splodey extract in too:

The shaped-charge explosive that had been placed around the bay window detonated with a force that took all sound away.

Simultaneously the front door to Thomas’s house was blown off its hinges, the back door was put in by a leaden entry ram and all power was cut, taking away what little light had been in the lounge room. In a smooth, well-practised and much used manoeuvre the black-clad Kommando moved into the house through the ingress points. Three of the soldiers entered directly into the lounge room through the remnants of the shattered window and shredded drapes. Each man knew the target he was responsible for. After studying the surveillance photography for the last forty-eight hours and having watched the arrival of the targets that evening they knew exactly who was who. As they moved into the room they trained the laser sighting of their Heckler & Koch MP19 machine pistols onto the head of their designated target.

Four more Kommando entered through what was left of the front door frame. One covered the hallway and bottom of the stairs whilst the rest moved swiftly into the house, turned right and entered the lounge room through the door directly opposite the bay window. They also trained their weapons on their designated targets. The four Kommando personnel who entered through the back door cleared the empty rooms on the ground floor before moving up the stairs, clearing each of the bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor. The securing of the six targets in the lounge room took less than fifteen seconds from the first blast. The rest of the house was secure in little more than a minute. It was swift, professional and brutal in its execution.

The six targets were not expected to put up any resistance. Even if they hadn’t been guided by their God, the friends could not have resisted. In the noise and shock wave caused by the initial explosions Thomas had his eardrums ruptured. He had instinctively crouched at the noise but had stayed up on his feet. As he looked through the dust and the swirling black shapes around him he could see Ben lying on the floor. A piece of window frame had smashed into his friend’s face and he lay bloodied beside the debris. Thomas looked left and right and saw the rest of his friends crouching like he was. Frightened, shocked, cowed in submission. Except Christine.

Christine stood tall looking down at him. In the faint blue-black light of dusk that was filtering in through the obliterated window he saw a smile on her lips. He tilted his head in a query and looked at the woman he had loved deep in his heart for the last fifteen years. She looked back at him and then down at the table. He followed her gaze but stopped as he saw the stain of red spreading across her shirt. What looked like a finely crafted crystal spear jutted out of her right breast. He couldn’t understand what he was looking at. He frowned and looked back at Christine’s face. She gazed into his eyes and then he saw her lips move.

“I love you Thomas.”

He watched as she began to fall but saw nothing else as his world plunged into black. He felt the hood’s fabric around his face and he felt his hands yanked behind his back and tight restraints jolted onto his wrists. He was pushed, pulled, lifted and then forcibly thrown down. He braced for a hard surface but felt the soft yield of a lawn. He lay still and tried to hear through deafened ears. Had he been able to see he would have been amazed.

The quiet suburban street was a changed scene from what was its norm. Three detachments of Special Forces had sealed off both ends of the road. They had quietly and with their normal efficiency moved all the other residents out of their houses. The cordon had been secured before the commander, Johan Lowther, gave the ‘Go’ order. He now stood and listened to the radio chatter from his Kommandos. A small, charred tear of curtain fabric fluttered silently down, twisted in the air and landed gently on Lowther’s lapel. He reached up and with a delicate touch dusted off his pristine uniform. The blackened remnant fell away and revealed again his subdued pattern, double lightning strike insignia.

“Building clear. Tango 3 unconscious from flying debris, Tango 4 is dead from a glass shard. Looks like one of the det cords on the window slipped and blew in the bottom left of the frame. Other targets secured and on way out now, your orders?”

SS-Sturmbannführer Lowther raised his right hand to the throat mike he wore and acknowledged the report.

“Good work and don’t worry about the det cord, it saves us transporting six of them. I don’t want to waste time lifting unconscious bodies, just finish it in place. Leave the corpses, torch the house. Escort the others to the transport. Liaise with the Fire Department so it’s only this piece of shit that is razed. The good citizens of Stanmore might object otherwise. I want you all up and out of here within the half hour. See you back in Northwood. Oh and Carl, remember to post the sign.” Lowther keyed off his mike and turned on his heel towards his transport. He knew the job had been well done and he was very satisfied. He also knew that his senior operators could look after the rest of the night’s necessities without him hovering over them.

SS-Hauptscharführer Carl Schern looked down at the slumped figure of Ben Stevens. He moved the sight of his HK-MP19 so that the small red dot of the laser illuminated on to Ben’s brow and pulled the trigger twice. He then nodded to his remaining squad members to carry out the rest of their orders. The main power switch was tripped back on so they could work with more haste. It also allowed his men to see what was worth ‘saving’ from the house before they set it on fire.

The kerosene cans were emptied throughout the upper and lower floor. Once done the final squad members made their way out through the remains of the bay window. Carl stopped and checked by radio that all his men were clear. He took a last look around and was about to leave when he saw the table in the middle of the lounge room. Its white cloth was soiled by dust and debris and Tango 4’s blood. But sitting upright on it, unharmed in any way, was the six-spoke wheel. He walked over to the table, picked the statue up, smirked and shook his head. He was slightly incredulous that something so fine and delicate and obviously very old could survive the violence that had been visited upon this place. Somewhere deep in his psyche he knew there was a bigger significance to the symbolism but he ignored it. He looked again at the statue and momentarily thought about pocketing it. He smiled as he remembered this little flimsy statue carried a death sentence for anyone found possessing it. The spoils of war were not that important. He dropped it on the floor between the two bodies and crushed it under foot.

Less than twenty minutes after the ‘Go’ order, the street was cleared of Special Forces, the remaining prisoners taken in the raid were being transported to the Harrow Holding Centre, the Fire Department were monitoring the blazing house and a sign had been posted on the front lawn:

This property has been identified

as a gathering place for the

Turner Religious Sect.

Its continued use is outlawed by order of the

Reich High Command.

All citizens are forbidden to congregate

in its vicinity on

Pain of Death.

It was the same wording that had been in use since the beginning of the Reich. It was the same wording that had been posted throughout the world from the German Southern African Colonies to the west coast of the German States of America to the east coast of Germanic Russia. The High Command boasted of two things; the sun never set on the Reich and the Reich never stopped in its hunt of Turners.

24 Responses to ‘A Time to Every Purpose, by Ian Andrew’

Darth Greybeard ducks in to say...

Posted December 15, 2014
DON'T read the Amazon reviews first. Deadbeat reviewers give away the whole plot, including the "surprise twist" without so much as a Spoilers warning.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted December 15, 2014
Amazon reviews, like kommuntz in the media, are something I have left behind.

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 15, 2014
Thanks loves me some explody alt time travel action.

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted December 15, 2014

But what if I only have a limited budget for explody action books this Christmas, should I get this one or another book, perhaps with a title that rhymes with 'vengence' by a well beloved Australian Author?

Ian Andrew would have you know...

Posted December 15, 2014
ahhh what a dilema you have put me in!! That JB fella has been so kind as to put an extract of my book up on his blog, so buy his as a thank you...... and mine ;)

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted December 15, 2014
fair enough, will do

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted December 15, 2014
Mr. Andrews (if that is your real name), we will buy your book, but only because JB feathered it here. Ordinarily we tend to distrust anyone with two first names.

Anthony is gonna tell you...

Posted December 15, 2014
They so often turn out to be shifty lawyers.

Ian Andrew reckons...

Posted December 15, 2014
If I used my real surname you wouldn't believe me... Seriously you would think I was a creation of aforementioned JB :)

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted December 15, 2014
I already suspect that.

The Interwebs is a place of lies and skullduggery.

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AuntyLou puts forth...

Posted December 15, 2014
Fine! I bought yet another book because of this joint! My long suffering husband is going to ban me if I am not careful. It is not so much the spending of the hard earned dosh...more the fact that I insist on sharing the experience by the reading aloud of vast passages for which he has no background.....sigh....( it is perfectly ok if you all feel suitably sorry for the poor bastard at this point - I won't take it personally)

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she_jedi mumbles...

Posted December 16, 2014
Alt history explodey Nazis? Shut up and take my money.

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Defender90 puts forth...

Posted December 16, 2014
"Drapes" = curtains here in the UK and the "Fire Department" is the Fire Brigade.

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Sparty mutters...

Posted December 16, 2014
apparently a film version of SSGB is finally off the ground

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Guy is gonna tell you...

Posted December 17, 2014
Given JB's enthusiasm, I've just bought the book. I hope I will be able to say the same about the next Stalin's Hammer soon? It's been a while...

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted December 17, 2014
*hangs head in shame*
Yes. Yes it has.

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sibeen ducks in to say...

Posted December 17, 2014
About half way through this tome and must say I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

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Surtac mutters...

Posted December 17, 2014

I've bought a copy for the summer reading stack. I like this particular sub-genre.

Can't remember if I recommended 'Dominion' by CJ Sansom before - it's a similar alt.hist of Great Britain succumbing to the Nazis in WWII, and well worth a read imo.

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S.M. Stirling has opinions thus...

Posted December 17, 2014
Could have done without the really strange religious stuff; it didn't seem to add anything.
Specifically, human beings don't stop acting like human beings because they convert to a religion which tells them they should.
Eg., Buddhists aren't much more pacifistic than other people.

Ian Andrew swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 17, 2014
I agree, they don't stop behaving like human beings but if the whole society and education system aims to make the state and its people pacifistic then it can happen. Japan and Germany after the real WWII come to mind. Martial societies turned on their head in one generation. The point of the religion was to speculate on what would have happened after 100 generations :) Hope you enjoyed it otherwise :)

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 17, 2014
"Could have done without the really strange religious stuff"

That is, without question, the funniest thing I've encountered all year. You are a fucking hoot, dude. I will never forget this moment.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted December 17, 2014
And Ian Andrew - I still don't think you exist.

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Ian Andrew swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 18, 2014

Aww.. I really do. I even have a blog where I occasionally
write poems about Chihuahuas, I mean who would make that sort of s**t up!! Come
see at and we can talk about which religion doesn't
have weird stuff....<o:p></o:p>

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Darth Greybeard is gonna tell you...

Posted December 18, 2014
Has the Chihuahua been properly studied?
Do we even know it's a dog?
Or was it genetically muddied,
just to leave us all agog?

Jurassic World might have made it,
from a coyote and a rat.
But it's hard to see a reason
for a hideous thing like that.

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Respond to 'A Time to Every Purpose, by Ian Andrew'

Mind the Gap, by Tim Richards

Posted December 8, 2014 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Tim pops up in my Twitter stream every now and then, where I was surpirsed to find him talking about his ebook recently. I'd always assumed he was a programmer of some sort. I was even more surprised to find out that his book was about a protag who develops the power of teleportation. My fave kind of super power. It's about more than too, as it turns out, but you'll have to buy it to see. In the extract below we meet young Londoner Darius Ibrahim, who's discovered he can teleport. But it has to be between seemingly random underground railway stations. As soon as he doesm he's hunted by a mysterious alien force.. Arriving in Melbourne, he befriends a local, Vivien Henderson, and tries to unravel how his power works. Then, just as he thinks he’s slipped his pursuers, a probe appears…

Above them, the silver sphere, the size of a basketball now, had reached the height of the taller city buildings. Humming quietly, it rotated on its vertical axis. Then it stopped, and darted instantly down to street level. It zipped rapidly along the centre of the roadway above the tram cables, moving with certainty as it locked onto its target.

Viv and Darius hurtled down the slope of Little Lonsdale Street, a narrow lane between two major thoroughfares. There were fewer pedestrians here. People stared curiously at their headlong rush, but usually stepped aside to let them through, and they were able to run along the roadway occasionally to avoid collisions. No-one else had yet spotted the threat above them, it seemed.

Pausing at an intersection to catch their breath, Darius glanced behind him. He could see the sphere at a distance, heading in their direction. Viv saw it too as he gestured.

‘Let’s go!’ he yelled.

As they reached the bottom of the slope, Viv jerked Darius to the left. ‘Down here,’ she said, gasping. ‘Might confuse it.’

They ran into a narrow alleyway between nondescript red brick buildings, old warehouses by the look of it. Thick electrical cables snaked above their heads between the structures, and the occasional parked car slowed their progress. They turned right again, then skidded to a halt, startled. Ahead of them, just a few metres away, was the silver sphere.

Before they could move again, it darted toward them and stopped about ten centimetres from Darius’s face. Clicking faintly, it darkened for a moment. Then, glowing brightly, it shot into the sky beyond view.

They stood, recovering from the shock. ‘What the ...??’ began Darius.

Viv grabbed him by the hand and pulled him forward. ‘Come on, the station’s just around the corner.’

They stumbled out of the alley, onto another major street. Crossing via the traffic lights, fortuitously green, they reached the entrance of Melbourne Central station. Pushing their way down the escalator past grumbling travellers, they reached the underground concourse.

‘You’re supposed to walk down on the right while people are standing on the left,’ gasped Viv, catching her breath.

‘It’s the other way round in London,’ replied Darius, darting glances around the concourse.

‘So now what? Why are we here?’

‘We’ve got to go down,’ replied Darius, pointing in that direction.

Viv thought about it. ‘You still have your Myki handy, right?,” she said, referring to the local public transport card she’d bought him after the bar visit. “Let’s head down to the platforms.”

As they passed through the station’s ticket barriers, Darius pondered the strange sphere that had tailed them. Rather than threatening them, it had disappeared once they were located. Could it be a scout of some sort? Then … Darius felt his stomach turn cold as he followed the thought through.

‘We’ve gotta hurry, Viv,’ he said. ‘Get down as deep as we can.’

‘Here, then,’ she said, and guided him down the escalator to Platforms Three and Four. ‘I was hoping to avoid the workplace today, but my stall’s on the lowest set of platforms. But what train do you want to catch?’

‘I don’t,’ he shouted – then turned in response to shocked cries behind him.

The area on their side of the ticket barriers had suddenly been sealed off by a glowing shield of pearly light.

‘Oh no,’ said Darius, terror rising. ‘Not again.’

He grabbed Viv’s hand and they ran down the escalator to the platforms below.

‘What was –?’

‘Just trust me!’ he said sharply as he looked around the platform. It was indeed the place where he’d arrived in Melbourne. Ignoring the coffee stall, they hurried down the far end of the platform to the quiet spot where he’d encountered the cleaner.

He held Viv’s hands as he faced her. ‘I’m sorry, Viv. I just wanted you to show me the way, then I planned to get out of your life. But now I’ve landed you in it too.’

She swept her wayward fringe out of the way with one hand, then looked directly at him. ‘Kiss and run, eh? Should’ve known.’ She smiled, but there was fear beneath it.

Above them, screams and shouts broke out again. Darius cursed, then instinctively lunged forward and grasped Viv in a tight embrace. She returned it with a tight grip. As they held each other, Darius forced his mind to return to the sensations he’d felt before, the swirling, nauseous feelings that had provoked the sea of colours within his mind.

Above him, the concourse was in chaos. Soldiers in black reflective suits fired their weapons at the mouth of the escalator, as more of their number joined them through the pearly barrier. People fell as they were hit by the beams, or ran in terror toward the far end of the concourse.

Satisfied that the way was clear, the squad leader waved his team members forward. They began to run down the escalator, weapons at the ready.

Darius could dimly sense his surroundings, but his mind was focused on invoking the strange sensation he’d felt twice before. This time it seemed clearer, stronger, with less nausea attached. Holding tight to Viv, he felt them sliding away from the reality represented by the cold concrete and tiles around them. Sliding away from Melbourne.

The squad leader reached the platform and swung around to face Darius. The target was locked in embrace with a local, but that didn’t change his orders. He raised his weapon … just in time to see Darius and Viv vanish from the platform. The space where they’d stood was empty, as if they’d never been there.

Metallic walls glowed a dull green under the glare of fluorescent lighting. There was no-one here, no noise other than the faint whistling of the air as it moved through the space.

Then, instantly, two people appeared, holding each other. It was impossible to actually see the transition, instantaneous as it was. One moment you couldn’t see them, the next you could.

The two separated, mouths open and eyes wide.

Viv gasped. ‘What … where …?’ she stammered.

Darius darted away from her, scanning the walls. ‘Brilliant!’ he yelled, punching the air. He turned to face Viv. ‘Yes! I did it!’

‘Did what?’ she managed, faintly.

Darius didn’t reply. Instead, he gestured at a sign set into the metallic wall behind him.

Viv moved to look at it. In large capital letters, it said MUZEUM.

Then she passed out.

Read more at Mind the Gap, $2.99 from all your favourite ebook retailers. More at

10 Responses to ‘Mind the Gap, by Tim Richards’

Dave W reckons...

Posted December 8, 2014

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Lobes puts forth...

Posted December 8, 2014
Looks ok though I kept getting distracted by the authors love affair with Melbourne CBD. Also not sure about the mid-escape debate about which side of the elevator to stand on....suspension of disbelief started wavering there.

However, it was good enough that I'm prepared to keep reading. Muzeum station looks like its in Prague. Hope the author does all these Metros the same justice.

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Lobes mumbles...

Posted December 8, 2014
Woah only $2.99?

Yep Im definitely buying this

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Tim Richards reckons...

Posted December 8, 2014
Lobes - I'm the author and I plead guilty to the Melbourne love affair (I live in the CBD). That's only one chapter though, the action moves around a lot (and spot on re Prague). Hope you enjoy it!

And thanks to John B for publishing the extract, much appreciated.

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sibeen reckons...

Posted December 8, 2014
I too was a tad befuddled, Lobes. You're on the lower levels at Melbourne Central being chased by a malevolent alien presence. Shit, just get on the Craigieburn line, hop off at Broady, and let the bogans sort the fucker out.

Probably would have made for a shortened story arc; so I've bought a copy to see what alternatives can be brought up.

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Anthony is gonna tell you...

Posted December 8, 2014
And another sale. Little Lonsdale Street sold me since I travel down it pretty frequently. And, sibeen, you're right. The pursuit wouldn't even make it into Zone 2.

dweeze asserts...

Posted December 9, 2014
Yeh, send the protags up the Craigieburn line. That'd sort em out real quick. Back in me yoof, Broady Boys and Croydon Boys used to conduct near weekly expeditions from bogan west to bogan east and vice versa for some friendly biffo. When they got bored with that, they'd assemble in the CBD for a fracas with the Lebanese Tigers. I witnessed it first hand one time - no pesky alien thingies would have stood a chance.
Attempting a purchase now.

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AuntyLou ducks in to say...

Posted December 8, 2014
Purchased. I like the idea of teleportation almost as much as I like the idea of telekinesis. That could be just because "Bewitched" ruined me for housework. I also really liked Melbourne the one time I went there. Unfortunately my husband just keeps muttering "No one casts a shadow...must be Melbourne" every time that lovely city is on the teev. Looking forward to lots of Metro action in various guises. Fan of underground rail systems too. Yeah, I know, I probably need a hobby...

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Surtac mutters...

Posted December 9, 2014

Yep. Got me an e-copy too. Looks good from the taster above.

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Rhino puts forth...

Posted December 10, 2014
Bought it. Was like .25 cents in 'Murican money. (I'm joking)

There better be rhinos in this thing.

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Respond to 'Mind the Gap, by Tim Richards'

Extract. A compulsion to Kill, by Robert Cox

Posted October 25, 2014 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

An interesting history of Australia's early serial killers. I used to have a theory that the increasing number of serial killers was somehow related to the metastisizing of material culture. Probably because I read too much Bret Easton Ellis.

Anyway, I was asked to look at a manuscript by Robert Cox, for A Compulsion to Kill. A history of early serial killers. I used to find these sort of books really useful when researching Leviathan. Often more useful than general historical texts.

In the meantime, armed parties were scouring the district for Haley. On Monday 18 February, the night after Wilson’s murder, he was seen at Fort William, on the east coast. The next night he went to the hut of a family named Power, with whom he had previously been friendly, on Steele’s estate at Falmouth, on the coast about ten kilometres from St Marys. Power was absent but his wife and children were at home. After assuring them he meant them no harm, Haley stole a double-barrel shotgun and left. Later he stole another firearm from the house of a man named Struchneide. On the afternoon of Thursday 21st he called at Sawyer’s hut on Steele’s estate and asked for food and ammunition, saying he had been sorely pressed by the police. He swore to Sawyer’s wife that rather than be captured, he would shoot everyone that came his way. Ten minutes after leaving the hut he was spotted by police constables Greenhalf and Livesay. He was about 300 metres from them and caught sight of them as they were crossing a brush fence to pursue him. He began to run. The police gave chase, calling on him to stop. He kept running, so Greenhalf fired at him from about seventy metres away. Haley appeared to stagger as if wounded but turned and fired back, his shot hitting Greenhalf’s finger. Livesay then fired at Haley without effect. Haley now jettisoned his coat, hat, and firearms and escaped into thick bush. Hearing the shots, Chief District Constable Smith and several volunteers rushed to the scene, but the bush was so thick they could not find the fugitive.

Next morning a woman saw Haley passing through a wheat field. When the field was examined, evidence was found that he had spent the night there. Blood traces showed he was wounded. That afternoon he held up another hut, taking clothes and enough food for a week. On Tuesday 26 February he robbed John Hyman’s hut.

Despite the number of armed men searching for Haley, three days passed without sight of him. Then, on the afternoon of Friday 1 March, eleven days after Wilson’s murder, the fugitive went to John Galty’s property at Cullenswood and approached a hut there. He identified himself to an old man working nearby and told him he was starving. The man offered Haley some tobacco and kept him talking until two men at work not far away noticed what was happening and rushed to raise the alarm at Galty’s. Supported by several reapers, Galty approached Haley and the old man, but, as they got close, Haley darted into some scrub and squatted under a honeysuckle log. As Galty and the reapers passed by without seeing him, he stood up and cried out ‘Here I am!’, whereupon Galty seized him. Haley was unarmed and had a gunshot wound in the arm, inflicted by Constable Greenhalf a few days before. The capture was at Mt Nicholas, between Fingal and St Marys.
Chief District Constable Smith, who had been nearby supervising police search parties, when told of Haley’s whereabouts, soon arrived. He took the fugitive into custody and conveyed him to the Fingal jail where Haley confessed to killing Thomas Wilson, blaming drunkenness, but denied killing Julia Mulholland. Hobart’s Mercury newspaper cryptically reported that ‘With reference to the murder of Mrs Mulholland there is some reason to believe that he had a felonious intent besides murder’.

As a result of the manhunt, the tragic widower Peter Mulholland’s woes were compounded. Sworn in as a special constable, he had armed himself with a shotgun and joined the search for Haley. On the morning after the fugitive’s capture, Mulholland sought to unload the gun by firing it but the overloaded weapon exploded, shattering his left hand. ‘So complete was the destruction,’ a newspaper noted, ‘that three of the fingers and other portions of the limb were scattered about the ground in different directions.’ A doctor was summoned, but at midnight the arm had to be amputated.

On 11 March Haley was examined before Police Magistrate J.P. Stuart at Fingal court house. He continued to deny all participation in the bloodbath at the Mulhollands’, although he professed to know who the culprit was. His attitude was defiant. The Mercury reported that although at first ‘his usual tiger like and murderous ferocity appeared somewhat subdued’, he soon ‘presented the same brazen defiance, the same cool indifference, as before. He passed the woman he has made a widow [who had survived his attack] and the child he has made an orphan without a blush or a bend of the head ... and as his examination proceeded he browbeat the witnesses and bullied the police magistrate.’

During testimony by John Evans, who had been working in a paddock only 100 metres from the Mulhollands’ on the Saturday of the first murder, Haley constantly interrupted and made threats against him. When Evans gave evidence that Julia Mulholland had later approached him and ‘asked if [Haley] was gone away from her place ... she seemed very sad and downhearted; I had never seen her so before’, Haley became so enraged that several constables were needed to restrain him. In a furious outburst that lasted more than ten minutes, he swore he would tear Evans open and eat his heart.

‘During the whole examination,’ the Cornwall Chronicle observed, ‘he exhibited the most demoniacal hatred to the witnesses, and on his removal gave further proof of what a reckless villain he is. He seemed to regret his inability to commit more murders.’

Haley faced the Supreme Court in Launceston on Tuesday 30 April 1861, with the Chief Justice, Sir Valentine Fleming, on the bench. The charge was murdering Thomas Wilson, to which the usually talkative Haley pleaded guilty in a low mumble, adding that he had nothing else to say. The Chief Justice did, however. He already knew Haley, having sentenced him at Oatlands in 1856 to six years’ jail for the assault and attempted robbery of William Humphries. Next day, when Haley was brought up into the crowded courtroom for sentence, Fleming observed that the prisoner’s record evidenced his ‘ungovernable passion which seems to have overpowered all reason and every sentiment of humanity’, noting that in 1856 Haley had been convicted of ‘unlawfully and maliciously wounding a fellow creature [Humphries]’. He said Haley had a ‘fearful history of merciless vengeance and reckless brutality’ and ‘had outraged all laws, human and divine’. After urging him to pray for divine mercy, Fleming sentenced him to be taken to the place ‘from whence he came’, there to be hanged and dissected.

The doomed man for the first time seemed bewildered, and turned to the left and then to the right, as if he did not know his way to the place ‘from whence he came.’

He was then escorted out.

On Haley’s removal from the Supreme Court to the Gaol ... on the officer in charge proceeding to handcuff him to another prisoner ... Haley offered the hand which had lost a thumb, and from which he could have easily slipped the handcuff. This, however, was refused, and the handcuff was placed upon the other wrist. On his arrival at the Gaol, Haley, according to custom, was put in irons, and he evinced considerable stubbornness at being subjected to such a proceeding.

Three weeks later, before he was taken from his cell for execution, Haley eased his conscience by admitting that he had indeed slain Julia Mulholland as well as Thomas Wilson. Then he shocked officials by confessing that he had also murdered a woman named Mary Stack near Cleveland nearly three years earlier—an unsolved crime he had never been suspected of.
She was his first known murder victim.

31 Responses to ‘Extract. A compulsion to Kill, by Robert Cox’

S.M. Stirling mumbles...

Posted October 26, 2014
Serial killers need anonymity and mobility. The impulses have always been there, but most people have always lived in pretty much the same place, or if they move its through a place -like- that, with alert eyes on them all the time.

Only recently have they had good hunting grounds.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted October 26, 2014
Interesting. Mobile killers or mobile victims. H. H. Holmes wasn't mobile during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. But 27 million people flooded into Chicago, providing him with endless potential victims.

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S.M. Stirling would have you know...

Posted October 30, 2014
Yeah, people nobody local would know or miss. There were probably similar (undetected) killings at things like the Crystal Palace exposition in 1851.

And the Ripper murders hit prostitutes in the slums of the world's largest city -- women who nobody would miss and who came from somewhere else, like most of the people around them.

Humans don't react well to anonymity. We evolved in an environment in which everything is face-to-face interactions between people who have always known each other. We're precondition to treat strangers like threats or vermin.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 30, 2014
"Humans don't react well to anonymity."

A thought provoking insight reminding me of Stanley Milgram's experiments confirming that people wearing hoods or masks, and therefore having anonymity, are many times more likely to intentionally cause pain to a stranger than people not wearing hoods or masks. Really interesting.

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted October 30, 2014
Generalisations come in; Sweeping, Broad & Epic. This'd be in the latter category.
Sociability and a need for solitude or social interaction is a spectrum, as much as hair colour or height. I'd suggest it'd be more a cultural norm than an inheritable trait.
Friends who were exchange students to Japan, Korea & Taiwan commented on a strong cohort vibe that was the expectation, compared to Australia where a year group of students would be highly Balkanised.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted October 31, 2014
This begs an important and fascinating question: does culture vary Milgram's results? I'll look into it. Someone must have tried to answer that question.

But until I learn otherwise, I view Milgram with the same regard as I view Reverend Malthus and scientists that believe in global climate change - in the final analysis, absent political and social prejudice, they are right.

All cultures have been guilty of horrible atrocities fueled by sociopathic sadism. I'm betting that, if you take a group of Japanese, Korean or even Taiwanese people, in groups or individually, give them a button and tell them that, if they press it, it will cause a person in another room pain, that the results will trend strongly towards sadism and away from empathy when those holding the button feel anonymous.

You, Bob - and I do love you Antipodean descendants of criminals for this - view human nature as basically good. Although the gene for evil hasn't yet been identified, and it is difficult to objectively observe human nature, it appears most likely that people are, at their core, really terrible.

But there is an upside to all of this: it means that culture influences people to be more than they were designed to be, more than the sum of their cruel and ruthless parts. Collectively we, as a species, have generally concluded that we are all better off transcending the State of Nature and achieving better, longer, less stressful lives filled with imminent danger by working together, and if we don't work and live peacefully together our lives will be nasty, brutish and short.

That is a hugely uplifting final message, don't you think?

NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 31, 2014
No. Because it implies I must tolerate the mouth-breathing oafs that shoal before me. To suggest that they contribute in any significant way to My lifestyle is distasteful in the extreme. But that is not important right now.

"It means that culture influences.. cruel & ruthless past." Must be unpacked & masticated.
Divine design flaws are equally un-satisfying to me as profane evolutionary absolutisms.
Professional specialisation made possible by the agrarian revolution, allowed the progress from simple timber & stone tools - the kind any man could to rocket engines and iPads - make-able by no individual. As well as the tangible constructs, social developments which allowed the written word, non-representative mathematics and evidence based medicine could only flower post hunter-gatherer status.
I find the traditional WHO measurements of life quality - infant mortality, literacy, GDP - unsatisfying, but by what yardstick can one measure a satisfying existence? Only 3 generations ago, happiness found in the arms another of the same sex, or a satisfying life without personal faith would have been unimaginable. So your supposition of a nasty brutish & short existence sans civilisation is unprovable on two from three counts.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 31, 2014
I'm not descended from British criminals. I'm descended from Germans who saw the rising tide of militarism around them in the 19th century, thought "fuck that for a game of soldiers" and moved to Queensland. When they got here, the opportunity was to become a farmer. So my ancestors were farmers in Queensland. My few British ancestors came here decades after transportation was abolished. I imagine it's the same for many here. However, for most of those with convict ancestors, I imagine the majority were political prisoners, either Irish nationalists or just people who didn't like the police state in the UK of the late 18th and early 19th centuries very much. Of course, there was more transportation to the American colonies before the 1770s mutiney than there was anywhere afterward

NBlob asserts...

Posted October 31, 2014
Well that would explain the spiked hat & oompah music.

damian puts forth...

Posted October 31, 2014
Well one ancestor of mine, Johann Ludwig, had been a hussar in the Prussian army. Dunno about a pickelhaube - maybe the hat with the dead bird wings? There's a photo of Johann Ludwig in the national library, and he isn't wearing anything like that.

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted October 31, 2014
Paul I think my basic view here is that the "really terrible" stuff is learned and a part of our cultural baggage. This "human nature" idea is sort of like cultural baggage in that it's simply one of the things we would pass on or not rhgouth culture. To be clear I think you are mistaken here - I think we learn to be evil, by default we are most likely to help others. Sadly our culture is very keen on training more evil people at this stage.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted November 1, 2014
I would like very much to agree with both of you about the basic goodness of people. But, if I did that, I would be unable to understand Professor Milgram's results. Not his conclusions. His results.

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted November 1, 2014
Stanley was a product of his profession, time and culture, presuming that American men 18-65 from a reasonably narrow SEC slice, would faithfully represent all people of all times & places.
Were he to run his experiments elsewhere & elsewhen he may get very different results.
My heroes are the subjects who refused to administer the shock.

It's the prison experiments that chill me and I suggest blow a hole in your hypothesis. Without the cultural justification there is no way Joe Sixpack would have visited such horror on others.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted November 1, 2014
Perhaps I should have read further before commenting.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 1, 2014
"My heroes are the subjects who refused to administer the shock."

I agree. I very much agree. There is a true incident where a man on the phone called a series of fast food restaurants representing himself as a member of law enforcement, spoke with the manager and told the manager that one of her employees, a young lady, was suspected of a crime. To make a long story short, the guy on the phone persuaded a number of people at that restaurant to subject the "suspect" to a horrible ordeal, including physical abuse. Everyone did what the voice on the phone told them to do - except one janitor. He was the only one who said "this is messed up" and refused to participate in the abuse.

That janitor is a hero. The rest of them are damned fools.

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Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted October 31, 2014
Ditto re the Brits. Half my ancestors were Danes tired of being monstered by Bismark (see Schleswig-Holstein Question) who thought as did Damien's above. They were miners there and here until my generation (thanks Gough). The rest were Irish sick of being starved and monstered by the Brits. How or if that has affected our general world-view I don't know but pretty sure it isn't determined by distant convicts.

And no, I don't see people at their core as being really terrible Paul. I've known far too many who, despite poor, dysfunctional and abusive backgrounds, were very decent indeed. Where did that come from? Damned if I know. Different experiments to Milgram's(?) but much was made a while back of the psych experiments which divided students into guards and prisoners and lo and behold, produced sadism. I read somewhere recently that that was greatly exaggerated and poorly analysed. Can't remember where but I think the upshot was, the experiments were designed to show humans were evil and, naturally, they did.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted November 1, 2014
As far as I know Milgram's studies were pristine and I suspect they cut across culture. As for the mock prison scenario study, there have been a number of them. I am only familiar with one, and I was and am impressed with the results.

Risking a gross display of hubris, allow me to play the roll of your de Tocqueville and point out that your view of human nature is influenced by your own majority culture that was formed in penal colonies where a choice was made: share meager resources to promote a higher survival rate, or fight for meager resources and experience a high death rate (incidentally, this beginning also infused your dominant culture with a strong dislike for anyone in authority - the ones in uniform were well-fed while those they "protected" were starving).

The majority culture that evolved from such harsh conditions influences your immigrants, such as Damian's and Greg's ancestors who came to Australia voluntarily.

So it is no surprise you tend to view human nature as basically good, and it is no surprise so many of you are so willing to help those in need (a truly astonishing thing from the viewpoint of one influenced by a very different dominant culture, such as me).

In summary, it is understandable why you tend to see people as basically good, and I honestly hope that cultural viewpoint - and how it affects social and political policy - prevails in the nascent struggle for the soul of Australia. Leviathan Rising.

damian asserts...

Posted November 1, 2014
I suspect some sample bias is affecting your evaluation, Paul.

There is some sound stuff here. Epigenetics rather than genes will be the factor in the sort of process you're describing. Your height, for instance, is more dependent on your parents' nutrition as children than it is on genes. An injury done to your great-grandfather may still have a physical expression in your own development. So while the possibility of breaking the cycle of abuse is the only proven method to mend broken cultures within families, some things may still take generations to heal even in the best circumstances. In fact some things can seem like "human nature" - though you'll probably recall from previous discussions that I don't think that is a thing.

It's worth pointing out that the majority of convicts transported to Australia went back to England - in contrast to the majority transported to the American colonies, for whom this was not permitted. Free settlement was the norm, not an outlier, and it's likely that in absolute numbers there are more Americans descended from British convicts, especially in the south, than Australians. Even with the US slavery era in between, it might be true proportionally too. Queensland in particular took convicts from 1824 to 1839, when it sent all of the ones it had back to Sydney (and most eventually back to England). It's possible some former convicts turned up later as free settlers in a higher proportion than the general population, but I'm not sure there are studies that provide figures.

So we're talking about a cultural resonance rather than actual epigenetics, but that's not really a problem. What might be a problem is that the myth and symbol of this upstart, quasi-revolutionary Australian spirit have largely been co-opted by some of the very worst. You see Eureka flag bumper stickers most commonly on vehicles with "Fuck off, we're full" stickers. Ned Kelly beards seem to be in fashion at the moment, and the Redgum song 'Poor Ned' was definitely of the left, but we see the image of Kelly most often associated with gun-toting types here, a real kind of libertarian hero if you think it through. I imagine there is something similar around the James brothers mythology in the US. Don't get me wrong, there is still a deep and rich egalitarian vein that underlies even the horrible ridiculousness. But I am not convinced that is in itself uniquely Australian - it's just that Australians have attached some unique cultural artefacts to it.

Lulu ducks in to say...

Posted November 3, 2014
"It's worth pointing out that the majority of convicts transported to Australia went back to England"

The Irish ones, OTOH, didn't - there was almost nothing for them to go back to.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted November 1, 2014
As coincidence might have it, I listened to Redgum's Only 19 a few days ago.

As for the rest, I didn't communicate my point well enough. I'm right and you're wrong, but I just wasn't skillful enough to illustrate my rightness and your wrongness sufficiently to persuade you that your arguments aren't very good, and I apologize for this failing on my part.

damian would have you know...

Posted November 1, 2014
Have I mentioned that Queensland had what were basically extermination squads, whose role was to "disperse" native camps and settlements? These were mostly comprised of aboriginal men themselves (a model later followed, to an extent, in Europe). There are ashes from mass cremations in unmarked graves all over Queensland.

This isn't by way of a pissing contest and it's totally the case that horrible things happened everywhere. I am just making the point that Australian history isn't especially notable for the absence of stuff like this.

Actually though, on that Europe thing, it's totally worth reading Henry Reynolds' Forgotten War and Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin back to back.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted November 1, 2014
Damn, mate, you're right: you people are monsters. I was wrong, horribly wrong, to romanticize you punters, munters and bogans as I blindly did.

The next time I visit, I will be armed at all times. "No worries?", eh? I'm fucking worried now.

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted November 1, 2014
Yep, great big hairy monsters with great big hairy teeth. But witty...

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted November 1, 2014
That makes you people more terrifying. But I've got it worked out. If and when I return, I will just mosey over to a local neighborhood gun shop and load up and buy something tasteful, but not too expensive.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted November 1, 2014
I just found out that y'all don't have local neighborhood gun shops. Hell, you don't even have shooting ranges in your schools.

What kind of a madhouse are y'all running?

Anthony ducks in to say...

Posted November 1, 2014

And my daughter had shooting as a sporting option at her country high school...

While I don't have any convict ancestry, my wife does. She has an ancestor that was transported for highway robbery. All very romantic till her sister looked up the history. It turns out his modus operandi was sneaking up behind people and hitting them over the head with a cudgel. Basically a common or garden mugger.

Bangar puts forth...

Posted November 1, 2014
PNB sorry mate in Victoria you even need a valid (as defined by law) reason for carrying a knife, even a small pocket knife. So you may as well carry a big FOFF knife you'll be in no more trouble than for multi tool/Swiss army knife ;)

NBlob asserts...

Posted November 1, 2014
Context is everything.
Mug on a footpath you're a lout. Mug in an alleyway, you're pitiable. Mug on a highway* you're dick Turpin, all romantic & dashing as you "clatter and clash into the old inn yard."
*17th century definition of highway may not be the same as ours.

Darth Greybeard has opinions thus...

Posted November 1, 2014
I'm glad I don't have common or garden muggers
or the other, more terrestrial, kind.

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Simon's granddad.

Posted October 9, 2014 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

This comment appeared in Mr Havock's guest post about Fury. It seemed a shame to let it languish there. I'll let Simon take up the story:

I wonder what my grandfather would say. He was in the 2/1 Australian tank artillery regiment. Fought the rear guard action in Greece and got captured for his efforts. Escaped and several months later working his way through Greece with the underground finally rejoined his unit. He wrote a fair bit and there are some pretty choice sections in all of it. Hard to pick what would be best for the topic! Let me know if you want a read of the whole thing and i can send it on (about 39 Word pages worth)

A section of his diary:

"Although well dug in, so much so that only a direct hit would shift them, they were very obvious to his recce plane, the Henchel Storch, which looked like our Lysander.This meant one thing, unless we moved our guns and changed our fire plan, our guns would be methodically shelled out and not a tank would appear within thin arcs of fire.

All that day an enemy artillery unit put concentrations on my guns and Hubs. They were accurate and had the Hun only known he could have pushed his tanks in and the fire put down would have flattened our gunners. It was neutralization at its best or worst whichever way you looked ar it.
We decided that night to move to alternate positions. By much hard work and a few casualties we got three guns back into alternate positions. One we had to leave to cover the minefield but of course moved it to another position.

The BC (Nim) decided we would need a roadblock and told me that evening that he would arrange it. I was after materials for a dummy gun. With Jim Aldridge my orderly & confidant we visited the Veve railway station to get such material as was needed. Imagine our surprise to find that the stationmaster was still in occupation and fiercely resisted our efforts to pinch his downpipe. We squared him off with a signal pad receipt (how often was that done?) and departed.

Jim and I were busily erecting the dummy gun positions in our two abandoned positions. As far as I could see the dummies were good, and to help, the snow started to come down again.
We had almost gained the main road when we heard a tank moving along the branch road towards Veve Town. We knew we had no armour handy so the first thing we thought was that the Hun tank had got in behind and where there was one there would probably be a number more. The place was quiet and we ran like steam to where we had dumped our gear, among which was our tank surprise. It comprised of about a dozen sticks of gelignite with a short fuse. We headed off to the noise and waited by the road in a ditch.

The area had gone deadly quiet but the rumbling and clanking of the tank continued. Closer it came and Jim was about to light the fuse when I stopped him. Now it was almost on top of us it somehow didn’t sound like a tank although it was pitch black and we couldn’t identify it. Almost on top of us it stopped!! We risked a look and then a door clanged, a light blazed out and there was the biggest steamroller I had ever seen. Driven by ‘Woy Woy’ Downing, it had been sent along to be wrecked on the road for our roadblock. It had scared six months growth out of the whole sector. We cursed old Woy Woy so he started off again and twenty yards further on hit a mine, which as far as we knew was not laid by any of our people and so was blamed on the Hun patrol. The roller survived but the yolk broke and the old roller sat down fair in the road the next best job to an immovable block you could see.

All next day the Hun arty concentrated on the pass and the dummy guns. Our own guns were giving him as good and our patrols of Hurricane fighters Beaufort bombers kept his aircraft away."

9 Responses to ‘Simon's granddad. ’

Dave W is gonna tell you...

Posted October 9, 2014
There are some great tales out there and well written too. Thanks Simon and JB for putting this up for us.

Cheers, Dave.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon mumbles...

Posted October 9, 2014
I took Therbs suggestion to heart and created a wordpress account. I split it up a bit to make it easier to read and get back to if needed (long read). To start you'll need to scoot to the bottom of course. Even has some pictures!

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Rob ducks in to say...

Posted October 9, 2014

When I read things like that I always feel I have done very little of any note with my life. Moaning about video games on my blog, or my obsession with trying to be fulfilled at work doesn't compare with fighting nazis or changing the world as part of a larger machine. Always makes me want to quote Tyler Durden ' our great depression is our lives'

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon ducks in to say...

Posted October 9, 2014
It seems like such a huge event (and it was) but i continually remind myself that it lasted for 6 years (if you were in it for the full length). Then you had the rest of your life to get on with - it is defining but if you think back on the first 6 years after turning 18 you think "hell, such a small part of my life"

My other grandfather on my dads side actually fought in both of the world wars (and survived) but injured in both. Joined the first one when just sixteen. I don't have much history from him because dad is a pom and my grandad died long before i was born. In fact my dad remembers the second world war - he was born 1936. He remembers having to get in the cage under the kitchen table when an air raid was sounded.

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Therbs asserts...

Posted October 9, 2014
Simon, checked out the blog. Great stuff. Makes me think both the Australian War Memorial and National Archives would love copies of the diary.

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JG mumbles...

Posted October 9, 2014
This is fascinating. Thanks for sharing it, Simon. Also very well written. Primary historical sources like this are so important. I hope the AWM and NAA gets to keep a copy of it (or the original). First-hand material like this is a national treasure: part of our nation's history.

Talk about resourceful men - ie using a downpipe. Much respect for all that our diggers and all forces have done - past and present.


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pi ducks in to say...

Posted October 9, 2014
Great stuff Simon. Thanks for sharing.

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Bernie puts forth...

Posted October 9, 2014
Thanks for posting the entire thing Simon, and I'm going to add my voice to the chorus asking you to send a copy to the AWM, this type of first hand account needs to be preserved and shared especially as there are so few who served in the world wars left, they truly were the greatest generation.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon mutters...

Posted October 9, 2014
I think my mum has forwarded this plus some other personal effects along to the AWM. Not sure what became of them though. They also handed in a german luger to the police! But like they said there was nothing they could do with it.

There were also some war trophies from the Japanese side. A wallet with what looked like ashes and a pay sheet as well as an officers japanese sword. They took them all in to the Japanese consulate a few years back asking if they wanted them and they only took the wallet with the personal effects. The sword went to the local RSL. The Japanese consulate got back to them saying they had found some relatives and asked if they could contact - Mum declined considering the nature of how they arrived in our hands.

One more story about my grandfather - this was back in the nineties. He lived in sydney in a suburb called Meadowbank. Backed onto a park like area and some old tennis courts and was right next to the big park on the parramatta river. They had chickens and they were going missing. So one night pop staked out the coop and sure enough a fox was nabbing them. He used his old .308 and took it out (he was a crack shot on top of everything). He collected the corpse for the trophy tail, stowed the gun away and went back out with the other neighbours who came outside to investigate the loud noise. When asked "did you hear that noise?" he replied with "yeah i thought i heard something just thought it was my ears" . . . . . . everyone knew he was hard of hearing from his time in the anti tank.

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