The Queue

Currently in the works is another international thriller, Siberia Calling, which reunites Dr. Joly Goodpasture and Viktor Krylov, the co-protagonists of Bushmaster Fall; and an Easter fable illiustrated by the author.

A quick look at the opening pages of Siberia Calling:

Chapter One
One sees these Fellows advancing through the fog, tiny figures dark against the snow, the shore ice. They are not hunters. Hunters come in silence, quiet and cunning as wolves. They sting from as far away as the eye can see.

Mother was stung and died.

And Sister. O, Sister!

One has felt the stings, but did not die, being great and strong and filled with hatred of the hunters. Of their kind. One keeps far enough away that the stinging things, insects or tiny birds or stones or whatever they are, grow tired of flight and drop to the ice or into the sea.

Before, the hunters came with their dogs, who were unafraid of bears. Now the dogs are mostly gone, like the former silence.

Now these Fellows arrive as they have today, riding to the ice edge on noisy, lifeless things, wreathed in stinking grey vapor.

Their cunning has dried up as well. These Fellows are just a chattering herd, barking and howling in their peculiar way, unable to keep still.

They have become poor things. They are weak and clumsy, and easier to hunt than seals. They discard their pups, more than One can count, naked and dead, in the wilds. These tiny creatures are not even fully formed, and have a bitter taste, so that One shuns them. But One now and then hunts the adults. One studies their dwellings as One studies a hole in the ice, where all but the fish must rise to breathe.

One sees their comings and goings. Night falls, the world vanishes in cold fog. A few lights appear. One strolls into their territory. One speaks to a dwelling, shakes it. The light fades. One hears frightened breathing within, where a few Fellows press together, trapped in a foul-smelling haze of fear.

One selects a middle-sized Fellow, drags it out into the pure cold snow, away from the stink of the others, away from the structures, into the wilds. It screams and thrashes about until it is killed.

Fellows are not good eating, all bone and gristle and layers of false hide. They are as insubstantial as dead birds, just bones and feathers. They have hardly any blubber, although the liver can be heavy with fat. One never eats the whole Fellow. That is for the birds and foxes and other bears, who are One’s only true companions in this world.

But Fellows are a vengeful species. These today, they are not hunting. They are looking for the bear who took a member of their clan into the wilds and ate him. They advance with their clamor, busy making noise. Their scent rides the fog. One detects the sharp odor of the foul water they drink that makes them useless and crazy and spoils the taste of their flesh. One smells their soiled outer hides, which are the hides of others, not their own. One smells their rot.

Now One waits just beyond their ability to sting, but within sight of them, so that they see, and follow. The hunters know better. But not these Fellows. As they come closer, One slips into the dark water. One dives beneath the ice, then rises at some distance to breathe. The Fellows are well out on the ice now. One hears them becoming uneasy.

One dives. One swims beneath the pane of ice supporting them. It is so thin that One can see their little round feet, clawless, like the feet of ducks, in agitated motion, this way, that way, always moving farther from the shore. The ice bows and splinters with a sound like falling trees.

One rises just enough to breathe, then back to work, diving deep, then turning like a breaching whale toward the duck feet. One strikes the ice and feels it break.

Fellows spill into the cold sea. For a time they struggle like feeding mackerel on the surface, but then the life seeps out of them. They sink, drawn down and down by their heavy false hides, trailing bubbles. Their eyes stare, bulging. Their mouths open and close like the mouths of fish hauled out into the air. They are finally silent. The winter sea has stopped their noise. The stinging things fall away into the abyss.

One drags a Fellow onto the ice. He is not much, but, especially in these peculiar times, he is better than nothing. It is quiet again. The only sounds are the cracking ice and the snap of little bones.

Chapter Two
“Polar bears,” said Goodpasture. “Must have been herds of them up there in your day, Viktor. Thick as buffalo on the steppes.”

“Not in Leningrad, Joly,” Krylov replied. “And I somehow missed being sent to Siberia.”

“Lucky boy. Well, I haven’t seen one in the wild either, and for some reason I began thinking about that. It became an empty place inside me which, latterly, began to fester. So one day I said to myself, Joly, old son, they’ll soon be gone, extinguished, like everything, and you won’t have seen one outside a zoo. So then I began to wonder how I could fix that.”

The two men faced each other across a low circular table whose marble surface was strewn with crystal bowls of olives, pickles, mixed nuts, a moiré of condensation rings, and a scatter of brightly colored plastic cocktail swords. Goodpasture picked up a yellow one, held it to the light. Then he turned to their waiter, a thin, melancholy heron of a fellow in his sixties who’d been at the Hotel Sacher’s Blue Bar for as long as anyone could remember, and would die there. “More swords, more swords,” Goodpasture called, flourishing the tiny weapon.

Selected Works

Fiction
A former RAF squadron leader and Russian nuclear safeguards inspector try to thwart a decades-old Iraqi scheme to re-infect the world with smallpox.
An editor named Randall strives to succeed at Dawn Books, part of Dawn magazine’s media empire.
An international thriller, a moving tale of love and deception, beautifully told.
A mysterious rain of radioactive material poisons Bolivia’s coca crop. “Outstanding thriller.”
Publishers Weekly
American operatives stalk the world’s first molecular microchip in communist Bulgaria. “Extraordinary on every level.”
London Daily Telegraph

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