Kevin Ramsden’s novel The Drop was a gripping read of the London underworld, and personally I was impressed by the mastery of different voices and the weaving together of the plot. The link for the book is here – not only is it highly recommendable, but all profits go to provide educational opportunities for children in the developing world. (JD)
Dear WIK members,
I was asked to offer something to the group by John D., and have decided to take this opportunity to kickstart writing the sequel to my first self-published effort The Drop by lobbing out a hastily penned ‘taster’ draft of the first 1,000 words for your scrutiny. This second book will be as grim, violent and uncompromising as the first, which, given my “man of peace” stance and outlook, may confuse some. However, I love crime/thriller fiction, too, and this serves to balance me out.
Ha ha! – Kevin
Khalil stood, hands clasped behind his back, looking down on the loading bay ten metres beneath him, an immense smoked glass window effectively hiding him from the attention of the many bodies feverishly working away below. Ash tipped from the stubby Cuban clenched between his teeth, and spiraled lazily down to the thick, pile carpet at his feet, as an involuntary spasm set his lower jaw trembling. Spitting out the remains of the broken stogie, he wheeled round to face the room and the three men who had been waiting nervously for his attention. When he spoke, his voice was calm and extra virgin smooth. His eyes, by contrast, conveyed the real message. “Did I ask for so very much”, he began, arms now outstretched. “Did I ask for so very, very much”. The miserable trio were like statues, not sure of how to respond: with words, with silence, look up, look down. Between them they managed all four. Cristophe, the eldest of the three, grew a voice. “It was the bastard Turk”, he blurted, “he gave us no choice, it was him that brought …”. Khalil silenced him with a hastily raised finger pressed firmly to his lips. He sighed, and then with the volume rising on each syllable, spoke. “The Turk”, he spat, “The Turk is now with his God. He can not answer for himself”. His gaze swept across them once more. “But you are here, and you … you will answer to me”. The terrified men looked to the floor as one – an act of appropriate submission, but actually one of rather poor judgment. With a few measured strides, Khalil crossed the short distance between them, and with lightning speed, struck mercilessly. Cristophe in the centre barely had time to raise his head and blink before the curved blade of the dagger that had appeared seemingly from nowhere sliced a perfect arc across his neck, severing his jugular and spraying the men on either side of him with his lifeblood. As he crumpled to his knees and started to pitch forward, Khalil reached out to clutch a fist full of hair, jerking the man’s head back and widening the gaping wound even further. Addressing the shocked foot soldiers on either side, both of whom had hastily distanced themselves by several feet, he continued in calm, measured tones once more. “This is the price of failure gentlemen – you would be well advised to take note”.
Later that afternoon, Khalil’s jet black Bentley prowled through the waterfront district of Marseilles. Lined with the sheds and warehouses of a hundred different enterprises, it was familiar territory, and a long time home to the man reclining on the sumptuous leather upholstery covering the back seat of the fine automobile. He had arrived in this place some thirty years earlier, an abandoned Algerian immigrant child, scared, friendless and without hope. He should, by all rights, never have been able to survive more than a few days in the hostile, unforgiving environment in which he had been placed, but he did – and he not only survived – he flourished. Alone, and seemingly undetected by the authorities, for the first few years of his existence in this new world, he endured unspeakable abuse at the hands of the numerous miscreants that inhabited the area – a victim of savage beatings, forced labour, and witness to rapes, torture, and even murder. His young mind was shaped by all that was evil, and he forgot not one thing. Every brutal act, each and every one of the numerous deceits perpetrated against him, he learnt from and stored away as valuable experiences. He came to know this place as home, and knew it better than anyone who lived. A hundred alleyways and rat runs, each bolthole and doorway, he knew them all – by sight, sound, smell, and in the dark of night, touch. Then, as he grew, became stronger, he learned to embrace the violence that surrounded him and turn it to his advantage. With an extraordinarily high threshold for pain and a very low regard for a conscience, he was soon able to exert his dominance over the felons and lowlifes around him, eventually coming to the attention of the criminal elite that ran the docks. Year on year, he carved out his legend, one outrageous grisly deed after another, until he stood atop the heap. But now the area was no longer the maze of grimy, odorous thoroughfares of his youth. Vast tracts had undergone extensive gentrification, and many of the warehouses and shipping merchant offices lay empty, or had been converted into chic restaurants, shops and hotels. Despite this, and though he chose to live in far more salubrious surroundings commensurate with his wealth and standing, he still knew it intimately; it was without doubt his domain. Khalil was the boss of bosses. He didn’t just have fingers in every pie, he had hands, toes and feet, too.
His driver, Charles, half turned to speak, “Straight to the pier, boss?”. Khalil leaned forward to touch the rear of the driver’s seat, “No, swing by Bay 42 first, I want to see how our boy is shaping up”, he said. “Sure boss, “ the driver growled, the huge shaven dome of his head facing front again, and with his meaty paws gripping the steering wheel hard, he pressed down steadily on the accelerator and urged the Bentley forward with a throaty purr.