Today I’m on the blog tour for Dead and Talking by Des Burkinshaw and am delighted to bring you an extract AND a giveaway!
If a ghost appeared from nowhere, rescued you from suicide and then ordered you to start solving crimes to help dead people, what would you do? When it happens to Porter Norton, he just wants to put his head in his hands and have nothing to do with it. But now he has to atone for the family curse that has seen all the men die at their own hands for five generations. The Gliss, the sarcastic spirit that rescues him, says he can now and see and hear the Dead – if he’s close to their remains. Porter has to use his unwelcome gift to clear up past injustices. Or else. Forced to investigate the murder of a WW1 British Tommy executed for spying in 1917, he begins to suspect the case has links to his own family history. Along the way, Porter enlists the help of a bickering group of misfits, who struggle to stay involved – because only fools believe in the supernatural, don’t they? Full of pop culture references, banter and twists, the story takes us from present-day London and Flanders to scenes from World War 1. As Porter, The Gliss, and friends, get deeper into the explosive case, they discover their own lives and sanity are at stake. An evil from WW1 pursues them all.
The following extract is taken from Dead & Talking, my debut novel.
Porter Norton, who is having a hard time in his life, has been saved from suicide by a strange being called The Gliss. He’s like a really sarcastic version of Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life.
Porter would have been the 5thman in five generations in his family to have committed suicide and that’s created an imbalance that has to atoned for. So he’s given a gift and told he has to right some historical injustices or else.
One of the cases he becomes interested in his great grandfather, Harry Norton, who was executed for desertion in WW1. In this excerpt he visits the house of his dying grandmother to pick up some diaries belonging to Harry.
“Wait till you get upstairs – you’ll see,” said Porter. “This woman throws away nothing. That damn attic gives me the heebie-jeebies. This’ll help.” He pulled his phone out and pressed play on the original cast recording of Gypsy. To its tinny accompaniment, he pulled down the loft ladder, switched on the lights and headed up into the Attic of Ultimate Dread. The Gliss hummed along to Dainty June and Her Farmboys. However, as soon as he peeked inside the attic, he suggested that Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana might have been a more appropriate soundtrack.
The attic still smelled of mildew and rat’s piss. Porter had hidden up here as a teenager when privacy was only ever snatched, never given. The inverted V of the roof and its troll spiders gave him the willies then, and it gave him the willies now. Ida’s hoarding mania was evidenced everywhere; old dresses, glass jars of rotten fruit that looked like evidence seized from the lair of a Victorian serial killer, bundles of Woman’s Own magazines from the 50s featuring chubby women in girdles, one half of a pair of tan-leather shoes. You name it, there was a sad specimen somewhere in this museum of chaos.
“If this place were a book, it would be Jack the Ripper’s Diary,” said The Gliss.
“I always thought it was haunted,” said Porter. “Seems a bit silly now I’m up here talking to an actual ghost.”
“I’m not a ghost. I’m a messenger.”
“Really? Transparent, white blobby thing. Suspended mid-air. Not of this world? Have you looked in the mirror? Do you have dictionaries where you come from?”
Porter stooped to avoid the cobwebs and glanced around in trepidation. This would be a long 10 minutes. But they found the cigar box almost immediately. It sat on an old dresser, iridescent thanks to a spear of light coming through a hole in the thatch.
Porter sensed a vibe.
“It’s your powers. Harry had a bad death. It’s got his stuff inside. You’re tuning in,” said The Gliss.
Porter took a breath and opened the box. He saw two well-thumbed, yellowing notebooks, a pair of spectacles, a hip flask, a crumbling leather wallet and two buttons. He couldn’t see in the gloom and decided to bolt, knowing childhood spiders lurked eternal. As he scuttled down the ladder, clutching the box, he felt the old familiar shudder and the same relief when the door slammed shut without smoky black fingers hauling him back in.
He didn’t want to stay at Ida’s for long, but curiosity meant he had to skim the notebooks.
“Can you do anything with those Mickey Mouse gloved hands of yours? Make tea? That sort of thing? Anything useful?” asked Porter.
“I don’t have a physical dimension so, no, my silver service skills aren’t what they could be.”
Tutting, Porter held up the hip flask Harry Norton had carried till his death. He tried to unscrew it, but the cap was rusted shut. He imagined himself in the trenches, clutching the flask to his chest.
“This represented home for Harry,” concluded Porter. “It stood for better days and something to aspire to.”
Choked, he examined the rest of the contents and found the wallet empty, the spectacle lenses scratched and foggy. He got nothing from them.
Opening the first notebook, he saw faded ink and handwriting, bunched-up and tiny. Harry was either trying to save paper or protect his privacy.
The first entry was dated July 1914 and was clearly aimed at Harry’s wife.
I’m on the train, heading to the front. I’m a bit frightened if I’m honest. We always joked one day we would visit Paris, didn’t we Alice? Now I just want to be back home in England. God, I miss London.
about the author
Born in the middle of the Summer of Love on a pre-fab council estate in Luton, teenage bitterness and a chance viewing of the Watergate movie, All the President’s Men, made him vow to become a journalist and bring down the government.
First he had to pay for his journalism course, so he became a civil servant. Literally the day he had enough for his fees, he packed it in.
Twelve years on from watching the film, he was a journalist at The Times and had a big hand in bringing down John Major’s government. News ambitions sated, he packed that in too.
Several years of working for Channel 4, ITV and the BBC as a senior producer saw him working across the world, but he eventually got fed up with asking bands how the new album was coming along, and packed it in.
He set up his own production company magnificent! in 2002 and simultaneously worked on the BBC Live Events team for another 10 years. But then six years of work on the Olympics came along, so he packed the BBC in. Again.
Des has jammed with many of his heroes from Paul McCartney to Brian Wilson, Queen to Nancy Sinatra. He has interviewed many A-listers, including David Bowie, Michael Caine, John Cleese and even Noam Chomsky.
He has directed/produced a fairly long list of people – Muse, Coldplay, Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, produced BBC3’s Glastonbury coverage for a couple of years, made films about leprosy in India, comedy shorts with Miranda Hart and Lenny Henry and played guitar for Chas and Dave at the Hackney Empire.
He has made 300+ short films for the Queen, MI5, the BBC, Sky, Discovery, EMI, the British Academy and dozens of authorities, charities and private sector firms. His most recent publication was a series of interviews with leading academics like Mary Beard on the state of the humanities which was published as a standalone magazine by the British Academy.
Fed up with travelling and determined to be a half-decent dad, he now works in London as often as he can. He runs the Young Directors Film School making movies with young people and is about to head up the Digital Film and Video MA at Tileyard. An avid musician and producer, he releases his third album as Romano Chorizo (he plays drums, bass, piano, guitar and really bad sax).
He hates to be pigeon-holed, thinks creativity is a learned state of mind and wishes they would teach people memory and learning techniques at school.
Dead & Talking is his first novel, the first in a series of Porter & The Gliss investigations.
Win 3 x Signed Copies of Dead & Talking (Open INT)
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TOUR HOSTED BY
Thanks to Rachel, Des and the publisher for letting me part of this tour and for sharing an extract with us.
Have a brilliant day!