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Friday, 7 April 2017


AFTER 'BELFAST BACKLASH' (Book blurb below)



Teaser opening chapter to a planned sequel:

Private investigator Sticky Miller and his sidekick Limp Donnelly, after a sabbatical following the “Belfast Backlash” episode, fancy getting back to work.  A new client forces their choice of assignment somewhat……


Itchy anus.  One of life’s most irritating niggles is an itchy anus, especially if it is difficult, impossible or impolite to reach the troubled area for a good old man-scratch.  This was one of those annoying times.  I looked over at Donnelly. He hadn’t said a word to me for nearly an hour.  I looked up to the leprechaun whose backside acted as my front door key holder.  He hadn’t spoken to me ever.  I wondered if he was prone to suffer from an itchy arse.  I wasn’t aware of the condition in folklore tales amongst the little people and I quickly knocked the idea on the head that Google would find the answer for me.  But, in this crazy world of nerds and geeks, I would put money on someone, somewhere reading this and going online to satisfy his or her curiosity.  The makings of a craic/crack joke buzzed around in my head, but I let it go.  It was turning into an unusual day, even for a re-energised private detective raring to go after the incident dubbed by Donnelly as our “Belfast Backlash”. 

In the aftermath of that tricky and very dangerous case, the blether forecast predicted a shit load of shit raining down on us, especially on me.  I cooperated with the police and the whole thing took its course.  Whatever I said, it worked.  I was cleared of any wrongdoing, a relief and a miracle since I had crossed the line by some distance on several occasions chasing down the bad guys.
I had taken a few months off to find a new place to live, still with a decent view of Belfast.  I had rented a cottage on the west coast for a couple of weeks, living on pots of stew, beer and an intellectual diet of Seamus Heaney and James Joyce, earphone entertainment from Christy Moore and Liam Clancy, and relishing the absence of a telephone. Peace is only peace when it’s pure peace.  I had also re-read the complete works of the late poet Eddie Hennessy, a difficult thing to do with tears in my eyes, but in homage to my late idol, it had to be done.  He died in a senseless homicide in the “backlash” episode and I only hoped that I had done him justice in tracking down his killer.  I needed to read his work slowly, without interruption and then let his memory rest.  I had always known that his writing was flawless but I owed it to him to confirm not least to myself that it was also beautiful. 
Steffi, the girl I had met in Hamburg during the investigation into Hennessey’s murder, had not turned up in Belfast as she had promised.  I felt disappointed but in a life riddled with romantic disappointments, I dusted myself down and moved on. 

The flat hunting had been a pain in the neck but I found one on the third floor of a new block.  It had a great view.  I could barely afford it but I wanted it and I reckoned the hefty payments would be an incentive to force me back into the daily grind. I wanted to get back on the streets.  I wanted to reacquaint with my city again. I liked to see the outline of Belfast in the mornings and it’s twinkling lights at night. This morning seemed to be perfect.  The sky was blue and the air was clear, an ideal day to look for work.  A psychologist on television had lectured a poor guy on the need to find his mojo.  I had no idea what a mojo was but I got the guru’s drift.  In this town it’s more about saying to yourself or have someone say to you: "Catch yourself on".  In other words, get on with your life, and on this beautiful morning, life had felt good, better than it had felt for a long, long time. 

I got out of bed ready to grab the day by the lapels and give my career a shake.  I let my friend Limp into the flat in the hope that while I showered he would brew up a pot of fresh coffee and spike it with something special to give it a zing. I got out of the shower, dried myself off, wrapped a towel around my waist and stuck my head out the door to see if Donnelly had taken the hint to grind, percolate and give the impression that he would make a half-decent barista in Costa-packet Coffee one day.  That was an hour ago.

As I stared at Donnelly, I could not remember him being so quiet for such a long time. He was more the bubbly type, like me, quick with one-liners and general chitchat.  A quiet Limp was an unusual thing indeed.  Perhaps the gag over his mouth had something to do with it.  The gag over my mouth had silenced me but there was nothing he or I could do about it.  Quite literally, our hands were tied.  Hence the itchy anus and no way of getting to the itch. 

A big man holding a gun sat in an armchair and looked us over.  I am certain he hadn’t blinked once in all the time we were rendered immobile and silent.  He was probably in his early sixties, smartly dressed and as intense as Robert de Niro in any gangster movie. He was wearing a flat cap and his face sported a goatee beard.  He looked serious because he was serious.  I twisted a bit in the chair to ease my irritating backside. The big man jerked slightly, alert to my wriggling.  He pointed the gun at me, squinted a long, lingering look in my direction and finally broke the silence.
“So, are you going to help me find the three fuckers who double-crossed me out of a ton of money or am I going to have to pebble-dash the walls of this dump with your blood and guts? “
I was inclined to take issue with him about calling my new flat a dump when Noel Edmonds popped into my head.  I could hear him offering me deal or no deal.  I looked at Limp and he looked at me.  In a conversation of shoulder shrugs, eye movements and finger waggling, he advised me what to do.  I nodded like a toy dog with a wobbly head on the back ledge of a family saloon.  The big man stood up.
“I’ll take that as a sign that you don’t want the redecoration option.”

(To be continued)

'Belfast Backlash blurb:

“I was checking off the names of various characters in my head, ticking and crossing as I went through the litany of all those with whom I had come in contact in the previous ten days; Eddie Hennessy, genius and murder victim; John Devlin, rogue, living out his last days in peace; Bog O’Byrne, thug and now motorway bridge support; Brendan Bertram, sweet old man with enough to say and more to tell; Bingo and P.J., idiots on crutches; Joan Jones, a tragic, lost opportunity to be the love of my life; Steffi Ellerbrock, a beautiful surprise out of the blue; Jackie Strong, infamous piece of scum and still to account for his risible life; Dave Robinson and Billy Strong, dead men walking…………” Private Investigator Sticky Miller and his resourceful sidekick Limp Donnelly investigate the death of a poet. In the process, they get involved with gangsters and other shady characters in Belfast and beyond. With little fear of action, no fear whatsoever of puns and a penchant for pontificating, bullets, one-liners and words of wisdom fly in equal measure in this hard-boiled, explosive crime story.

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