Hell is Empty Teaser #1

wtrloobridgeI sipped my coffee while I flicked through the sheets, glimpsing ghosts. Nearly known names and addresses. Tip-of-the-tongue stuff. Slant-rhymes in a dissonant memory. Many of these people dead now. Many of these addresses turned to rubble or morphed into millions of tons of gleaming glass and steel. The misdemeanours on their criminal records, some of them almost laughably old- fashioned; cute, even. Ernest Percival, fifty-two, of 6 Walmer Road, London W11 had apparently, at midnight on the night of 20th December 1961, stolen two frozen turkeys from Pyrkotis Butchers in Camden and then tried to hide them in a tree when approached by police officers.

Jesus. I trawled through three or four envelopes until I realised I was sitting in an uncomfortable position on the kitchen stool and cultivating a cricked neck. I stood up and stretched and took the pile through to the living room and stretched out on the sofa. It was old shit, but it was interesting, in the way any document from the past is interesting. A window on a world you used to know but is now so alien it seems drawn from dreams.

One envelope in particular caught my eye. The word Skylark was written upon it. I tore it open and out poured a glut of horror. I saw the photographs first. Large monochrome prints of what at first seemed to be pictures of carelessly spilled black paint. But paint didn’t contain body parts: fingers and faces. These were bodies that had been obliterated. What could do such a thing? But I knew full well it had nothing to do with weaponry. This was catastrophic injury sustained in a fall from a great height. This was what we used to describe in the police as ‘pancaking’. We had to collect what didn’t stay inside the bodies with a scraper. I’d dealt with one, a couple of months before I threw my serge uniform and tit helmet at the Chief Superintendent and walked out. A Russian couple who had thrown themselves off the top of a multi-storey car park in West Kensington. They didn’t look too bad, all things considered. They were lying on their backs in the snow. They were still holding hands. Blood had leaked from their ears, the only hint of fatal damage, until we tried to transfer them to the ambulance. It was like trying to heft an octopus. There was no structure to the corpses, the bones having been pulverised. It helped, in a freaky way. You could believe that what you were wadding into the body bags was anything but human. Lover’s leap. Hellish romantic.

‘Skylark’ was apparently the nickname given to an evil bastard who’d been getting his jollies pushing construction staff from the top of skyscraper building sites in the early 1980s. London was enjoying a boom back then, and in-demand architects were sketching their erect pricks, passing them off as blueprints and pocketing acres of green. The capital was going up in the world in more ways than one. There was no obvious motive for what Skylark was doing, but there were a few theories written down on memos. Political activist? Anti-capitalist? Protesting against the verticalisation of London? Worth looking into. Anybody on file?

Presumably not, because nobody had ever been caught.

Dust and Desire: Three Months Until Publication

I started her up and took her along Crawford Street, first left into Seymour Place and then left again up on to the Westway. I love driving at night. Obviously, the traffic’s pretty much non- existent at that hour, but that’s not the main appeal. London, for me, comes alive at night, seeming to breathe and seethe with possibilities. It flexes its muscles, this city, when everybody is asleep, perhaps working out the cramp from the previous day, with so much filth clogged in its airways, so many dirty feet shuffling along its streets. Regenerating itself, sloughing off its outer skins, the dark is this city’s friend. They feed off each other, London and the night. As do the few who emerge at this hour, who know how to read its secrets.

Fancy meeting you here…


Getting certain characters together in fiction without any hint of contrivance is a challenge for any writer. In Sonata of the Dead, my WIP, I’ve got my lead character, a PI named Joel Sorrell, who needs to link up with another character, a woman with whom he will develop a strong working relationship (and maybe more besides). I don’t want them to meet during some arranged get-together because there are many such incidents where Joel has to talk to a number of different people in a formal setting. I want this one to feel random. But what is good random, and what is bad random? I suppose the bad random is cliché. So out goes the collision in a corridor (especially if she’s carrying a mountain of papers), or the mild flirtation in a lift, or an argument over the last taxi in the rank.

I suppose to a certain degree all genre fiction is contrived (perhaps crime fiction above all) which is where suspension of disbelief in readers becomes important, but writers can smooth the path to some extent by clearing out the obvious moments of coincidence, and any laboured or far-fetched sequences. A scene that is hard to swallow will yank the reader out of the well-oiled, absorbing story you’re striving to create.

Getting characters away from each other is equally important, especially if you’re writing a horror novel, but again, you have to manage it credibly… Okay guys, there’s an axe-wielding psychopath out there somewhere… let’s split up!

Next stop… Shudehill


I have a July deadline. But due to various commitments, my writing time has been cut to two days a week. Luxury, I hear you cry, and you’re right. I’m not complaining. I’m not moaning. But it means I’m having to be a bit more proactive in terms of what I get done and when. The first two days of each week I spend in an office on the Oldham Road working on a Secret Project™. Initially I enjoyed the reading time I was getting – 40 minutes there and back on the Metrolink tram – but since the start of the year, and that summer deadline sharpening its claws on the strop of my paranoia, I’ve used that time to write instead. A subtle little Moleskine won’t cut it, however. Great for notes, not so great for full-on composition. So I’ve given in to my inner writing fetishist and now I take a leather document wallet around with me, filled with good quality paper and – why not, Goddammit? – a lovely fountain pen loaded with an exotically-coloured ink. Once I bested the self-consciousness that came with scribbling away on an A4 pad in a packed tram carriage, I was fine. I’m averaging a good three-to-four pages a day. It’s worth the occasional funny look. And if I mutter at the same time it means I get a seat all to myself…

The Unblemished

A good review of The Unblemished from The Eloquent Page…

“Few writers have the ability to genuinely unsettle me but Williams has succeeded here. Put it this way – up until last night it has been decades since I have had to take a break from reading a book because it was creeping me out. If you consider yourself a horror fan and haven’t read The Unblemished you need to remedy this situation immediately. Be warned though, once you read something you can’t unread it. This one will mess with your head.”

The full review is here.