Tag Archives: mystery novels

Casual Causality 1

Since I posted excerpts from my pair of ‘Silent’ books recently, I thought, “Bugger it: I’ll give ’em a taste of my ‘Causality Merchant‘ books too!” So here I am, hoping you’ll spare a few seconds to peruse a snippet from this book…

Oh yes, if you didn’t know: I also write under the pen name of Clive Thunderbolt. Well I did: I might again too. It all depends on whether I can bother to get my arse into gear and write the third book that I started in 2016 or whenever it was. Unlike the ‘Silent’ books, this pair of e-books have third person narratives, which (in hindsight) might have been a mistake. I think it’s so much better if the character is telling the tale in his or her own words. But it’s too bloody late now: I wrote this (and it’s sequel) years ago. Here’s the excerpt…

Later that evening, in the drawing room, Wozniak and Marcus reclined together upon a large, sumptuous sofa. Soft music played; and because the evening had become a little chill, Wozniak had a small fire crackling in the hearth.

Marcus was sipping at her whiskey and soda. She stared into the dancing flames. Upon the nearby coffee table an almost empty whisky bottle perched. Wozniak, one arm around Marcus, lay against the arm of the sofa, with her head reclining upon his shoulder. In his hand he also held a glass of whiskey. But his was full, and had remained so for most of the evening. Though he appeared to Marcus to be at complete ease and at peace with the world, this was an entirely false impression – just as Wozniak had planned it. Where Marcus had drunk freely, Wozniak had been more circumspect. Where Marcus’ cognitive abilities were being impaired by ingestion of alcohol; Wozniak’s remained fully intact. He had quickly realized that if he was to discover anything about the activities at Carstairs Research & Development, it would require every advantage he could think of, and then some. She was smart and as sharp as a razor, and he wondered if alcohol could truly blunt it.

He broke the silence:

“Work must be really agreeing with you lately: that’s two days on the trot that you’ve come here full of the joys of spring. What gives?”

If he’d expected her to open up to such a gambit, he was to be sorely disappointed.

Marcus waved an admonishing finger at him, “Ah-ah-ah; remember the old war-time maxim: Walls have ears.”

Wozniak remained good-natured about the setback. It was still reasonably early: the situation wasn’t irredeemable.

“Hey,” he seemingly complained affably, “I’m not talking shop here: I’m just…well maybe I was just a little.”

“Of course you were.” Marcus slapped his free hand playfully.

Under normal circumstances Wozniak would have backed off at this point: but today he needed to press on. He had nothing to lose after all.

He took up the mantle again. “Hell, Kate, can you blame me? Look at me. I sit here all day dreaming up stories that just don’t come – whilst you go gallivanting about doing who-knows-what, and having a hell of a time doing it. I’m going stir-crazy, Kate: tell me something I don’t already know. Tell me something of your life. If I can’t experience it first-hand, at least let me enjoy you recounting it to me. Let me get involved in some way. Tell you what – I’m a pretty smart fellow: bounce some ideas off me.”

Marcus pulled herself upright. She placed her drink upon the coffee table.

“Peter Wozniak,” she began sternly, “anyone who knows anything about you – knows that you are a fantasy and S.F writer. Since I’m someone who knows something about something, I know exactly what you’re up to – and that’s looking for inspiration: and you don’t care where you find it.”

Wozniak couldn’t find argument with this summation. So he said, “Is that such a bad thing? It is my stock in trade, you know.”

“Yes it is.” Marcus responded adamantly. “Exactly. And what happens when the powers that run Carstairs Research and Development see one of your shows on TV? They’ll say, ‘Hello, hello, hello – now where did he get that idea from? I wonder who might have told him about that little project. Might it possibly have been that lovely Doctor Marcus?  We know he’s been slipping her a length or two. And he did ‘phone the office that time…’ Am I right?”

Wozniak adopted his most indignant pose. “No, you’re not: It’s not like that at all!”

Marcus laughed out loud at his hurt expression.

“Come on, Peter, please – let’s have a little honesty here: you’re like a Nineteen Seventies reporter from the Washington Post: what wouldn’t you give for a good story? I’m sure shagging the arse off me wouldn’t be deemed above and beyond the call of duty…”

Wozniak’s face showed amazement. But it wasn’t Marcus’ words that caused it: it was the inference.

“You mean there’s actually a story to be had?” He grinned and narrowed his eyes.

He then joined in with Marcus as her laughter increased. He wasn’t even put off when he received a playful slap around the face – with the line, “Peter Wozniak – you are incorrigible!”

She then punched him on the shoulder – spilling his whisky down the front of his trousers.

“Oh deary me!” She exclaimed through a fit of giggles, “I’ve gone and made your nice clothes all wet.” Her hands delved into his moistened groin, and started tugging at his zipper. “We’ll have to find a place in the washing machine for them. Now let’s see – how do we get them off?”

But her inebriation made her fingers fumble, and Wozniak was able to fend her off with ease. He took her hands in his:

“Oh no you don’t, Doctor Marcus.” He scolded. “Not until you tell me what’s made you so damned cheerful. Come on, you: spill the beans, or you’ll go home tonight a spinster.”

“You do realize that your ghastly threat constitutes emotional blackmail, I hope?” Marcus replied as she regarded the tall man through narrowed eyes. “I could have you shot, or something equally unpleasant.”

“Oh yes.” He grinned, “But when needs must, even the perfect gentleman must lower his standards.”

Marcus regained her whisky – all the better to ruminate over Wozniak’s words. After a few moments she winked.

“Well as long as it’s not only the aforementioned gentleman’s standards he’s lowering.” She whispered.

And with that Wozniak was certain he had won the day.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

As with many of my books, this one was originally published several years previous to the copyright date, but was updated that year and re-published to coincide with the sequel. I can’t say that it’s nice: a lot of people get killed. But that Peter Wozniak is a good guy: you’ll like him. Naturally the e-book remains available (though I’ve discontinued the paperback) at Lulu.com and other outlets both major and minor.

The Causality Casualty

A few years ago – maybe four or five – I began writing the third in my ‘serious’ Causality Merchant series of sci-fi mysteries. Half way through the third draft I tossed it aside and (instead) took on the mantle of the “world’s premier earplug author”*. I keep promising myself to pick it up again and give it a second chance; but, somehow, it just never seems to happen. So, to this end, I’ve decided to give myself a metaphorical kick up the arse and try to produce some inspiration to continue. And what better way than to test out a snippet from the first book…

If the response from readers is good enough, I just might give it another try. Here it is – selected purely at random. Hope you enjoy it…

It was an hour later when Janice passed by the Study window, en route to the sideboard. Her timing was such that she witnessed Wozniak ease the slightly battered sports car into the driveway. He then drove it from sight around the end of the house. She found the packet of Band-Aids she was looking for in a drawer, and quickly made her way into the hallway, where she opened the front door – leaving it slightly ajar.

A half-minute later Wozniak slipped into the house. As carefully as his big frame would allow, he crept to the kitchen door, which Janice had also deliberately left ajar for him, and paused to listen.

Katherine Marcus was sitting at the table as Janice gently applied a Band-Aid to a small wound upon her forehead.

“There, that should keep the bugs at bay.” Janice said in a satisfied tone.

Katherine was clearly still suffering from a degree of shock – as well as a splitting headache; but she still managed a smile of thanks to Janice.

Janice may not have believed that this Katherine Marcus seated before her was in anyway different to the Katherine Marcus who verbally abused her on an almost daily basis; but if the woman was going to play the role of innocent victim, Janice was all for going along with it – just to see how far the other woman was prepared to go. Why Marcus was doing this to Peter remained a mystery to her: But if her friend and employer needed his help – and clearly he did – she was prepared to go to pretty much any length to be there for him. To this end she regarded Katherine with a friendly demeanour as she placed the kettle upon the stove.

“I expect you’d like a nice hot cup of tea after that nasty bang.”

“Sorry…?” Katherine tried to find a name.

“Janice Gale.” Janice replied with a smile upon her face. “I’m the housekeeper here: The ‘woman who does’. Do you take sugar in your tea?”

Katherine appeared confused.

“Tea?” She inquired through a puzzled expression.

It’s a good act’, Janice thought, as she smiled sweetly in response. Out loud she said, “Perhaps you’d prefer coffee? It’s only instant I’m afraid: the coffee machine sprang a leak weeks ago, and I haven’t got round to mending it yet.”

Katherine appeared grateful at the suggestion:

“Coffee would be wonderful. Perhaps you have something for pain too? I have a headache the size of Wycksford.”

Janice’s eyes narrowed at the mention of the imaginary village. She knew for certain that the illusionary village of Wycksford did not exist; and Marcus must surely know that she knew.

What is this woman up to?’ She asked herself. Then a sudden thought struck that caused Janice to feel very uncomfortable in her presence. ‘Heavens: Maybe she’s schizoid: She could be as mad as a March hare!’

“Certainly,” she said in the most matronly manner she could muster, “but I don’t think I have any aspirins: would paracetamols do? You’re not allergic, or anything?”

Katherine shook her head. “I don’t know what paracetamols are. I might be allergic to them. I don’t know. I suffer quite a few allergies you know. Are you sure you don’t have aspirins? I think my head’s about to explode.”

“Well I could look in the bathroom.” Janice replied – uncertain if she should leave the strange woman alone in the kitchen. “There might be an old packet lying about in the cabinet. Just wait here a moment; I’ll take a look.”

Janice quickly exited the kitchen – where she found Wozniak skulking in the shadows of the hall.

“Did you see that?” He whispered as he made sure that the kitchen door was closed securely behind Janice. “She’s never heard of something as dull and ordinary as paracetamol: surely that must mean something.”

Janice brushed past him toward the stairs.

“She’s never heard of tea either, apparently. What does it mean? It means that she’s probably suffering from concussion. Now I’m going to see if I can find some aspirins. Then I really think we should take her to a doctor.”

Wozniak pounced upon this.

“Then you think she’s behaving oddly too?”

Janice started up the stairs.

“I always think she’s behaving oddly: she’s an odd woman. But she could also be play-acting, or suffering from some form of schizophrenia. But whichever it is – that head wound is real enough.”

Wozniak pursued Janice up the stairs, speaking louder with every step:

“I saw you jump when she mentioned Wycksford: doesn’t that suggest something?”

“What?” Janice stopped upon the stair for a moment. She was becoming frustrated with a situation – the like of which she had never experienced before. She felt ill equipped to handle it sensibly anymore. This was definitely ‘Wozniak Territory’.

“What does it suggest?” She snapped. “Nothing: that’s what. Of course she mentioned Wycksford.” She said desperately. “She invented the damned place!”

With that she continued upon her way up the stair, and entered the bathroom. There she began going through the contents of the vanity unit.

“No, Janice; you’re wrong:” Wozniak appeared at the head of the stairs. He shook his head. “She mentioned Wycksford because to her it’s a real place. Somewhere she knows well. Home perhaps. The way she described her headache suggests that it’s quite a big place too.”

Janice emerged from the vanity unit clutching a foil wrapper containing just two tablets.

“Look I don’t care right now.” She said. “I’m going to take that woman these last two aspirins in the house; and then perhaps we’ll take a little air in the garden. I take it you’ve hidden the car sufficiently well?”

“In the garage.” Wozniak replied whilst letting Janice past. “I’ll watch from the window.”

“Whatever.” Janice spoke curtly over her shoulder as she descended the stair.

I’m pushing too hard’, Wozniak thought to himself as he heard the kitchen door open, and Janice’s gentle voice offering Katherine the aspirins; ‘Just let the facts speak for themselves’.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

This book, and it’s sequel, are available at Lulu, iBooks, Amazon and Barnes & Noble (see sidebar or relevant page beneath the header) and most other e-book stockists. The paperback is available at Lulu.com.

* Quote from a work colleague who is a supportive follower of my earplug escapades and who has often supplied me with the raw materials required to shoot the pictures. i.e earplugs.