I am very excited to be on the Book Tour for Shaking Hands with the Devil by Bryan J Mason. This black comedy thriller is set in 1989, and was published in September last year by Pegasus Publishers. Today I am giving you the book blurb, an extract from the book, and a little information about Bryan J Mason himself.
Also, you might like to know that Shaking Hands with the Devil has been nominated for the Last Laugh Award, for the best 2021 humorous crime novel, and the Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award, for the best 2021 crime novel by a previously unpublished author. The winners of these awards are being announced at the CrimeFest Gala Awards Dinner in May 2022 – so fingers crossed for Bryan. Find out more about this event at https://www.crimefest.com/
‘WE ARE ON THIS CASE LIKE A BONER FIDO BLOODHOUND… AND MY MEN ARE BARKING AT THE LEASH’
In this darkly comic novel, Clifton Gentle is an ordinary man without much to distinguish him. Not much, that is, apart from being a serial killer who is leaving bits of his young male victims scattered around North London.
DCI Dave Hicks is the larger than life policeman determined to catch him. His attempts to find ‘the nutter’ through a combination of spoonerisms, personal abuse and a belief that something will turn up don’t go well. All that turns up are yet more body parts.
In a sleazy London dogged by growing squalor and an IRA bombing campaign in the last days of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, the gruesome murders spur an over-the-top media and merchandising frenzy.
The hunt becomes an increasingly personal one and a race against the clock as Clifton, Dave Hicks, a would-be victim, and a copycat killer each try to uncover what – or who – they hold responsible for their own problems.
Shaking Hands with the Devil – Extract
Yes, the nutter was still out and about, yet here he was — the greatest detective in the country and what was he doing? Bleeding poncing around, trundling back and forth, fetching and carrying for an old woman when she could quite easily get up and do it herself. ‘Flu,’ she said. What was wrong with a simple cold, but of course it always had to be flu nowadays, didn’t it? Dave’s lower lip curled slowly but surely upwards, almost covering the top one completely by the time he met the first set of traffic lights just as they turned red.
There was a slight pang of remorse. Perhaps he was behaving a little uncharitably? It was true that Mum usually did all of his shopping and cleaning and laundry, so why shouldn’t he step in just this once? Quite simply because he had much more important things to do. If he was an ordinary run-of-the-mill sort of chap, it might be different, but he had a tremendous responsibility. For the past three days he had appeared on a plethora of television and radio news programmes, telling the nation what he was doing in the hunt for the nutter, and now here he was setting out to get fillets of fish (not TOO bony), and jars of jam and pickle (big Not little Teeny ones) for his old mum. It just wasn’t right. If the nutter knew what he was up to he’d laugh himself stupid. That’s if he wasn’t completely off his bleeding head already. None of the greats had to contend with this sort of thing; you couldn’t very well imagine Sherlock Holmes nipping down to Tesco’s for a packet of teabags, could you? Dave got to the shops and began to park in a spare space outside the greengrocers first of all, but a white minivan nipped in just as he was reversing. He wound down his window.
‘What do you think you’re doing?’ he shouted at the emerging driver.
‘Telling you to fuck off,’ the driver replied and strolled into the shop. Hicks thought of arresting him for the profanity, but knew it wasn’t worth the bother.
‘I’ve got bigger fish to try,’ he said to himself.
After a fifteen-minute search for a space in the expensive multi-storey car park he finally managed to squeeze into one situated beside a concrete pillar and succeeding in slightly scratching the side of one door and dislodging a bumper.
‘I’ll tell them it was done chasing someone,’ thought Hicks, ‘and get the boys in the station to get the repairs done in the machine shop.’
He retraced the route along the high street to the greengrocers. Mum had been most insistent about getting all the fruit and veg there.
‘They don’t have such nice stuff at the supermarket; best to get it all fresh at Hanratty’s. He always has the best and he’s such a lovely man.’
Once inside, behind a gaggle of old ladies, Hicks noticed that the man who’d stolen his parking space and sworn at him was serving customers. People referred to him as Mr Hanratty. Dave got into a muddle behind one woman, unsure of which type of oranges to get and subsequently lost his place in the queue, only to then forget to buy any at all when he was served at last. Fortunately, he hadn’t been in the police service for years to no avail. Fixing evidence was second nature.
‘Bugger it,’ he thought, ‘I’ll get them in the supermarket — once the nylon netting’s taken off, she’ll never spot the difference.’
He was forced to take the shopping back to his car in stages as both flimsy plastic bags split open and leaked onions, tomatoes and, ironically, leeks along the pavement. The tomatoes were nearly all squashed anyway, having been stuffed by Mr Hanratty right at the bottom of the bag under five pounds of potatoes. As it was, Hicks had to stash one of the bags on the ground floor of the car park, right by the lift shaft, while he devoted all his attention to the most ruptured bag. It was the sort of thing they’d taught him on police training courses at Hendon called ‘damage limitation’.
Arriving back at ground floor level after hurling the bag of bruised fruit into the boot of his car, he discovered that his hidden bag had since been uncovered and kicked open by some youths and its contents had been strewn about the place, with some resting in what looked suspiciously like a pool of urine. He heard voices calling out obscenities as he stooped to pick up whatever could be salvaged and thrust the remnants into his coat pockets. Walking around the corner and trudging gloomily up the few stairs into the supermarket itself, Dave was beckoned towards the antiseptic embrace by the Mecca of the Western World. Stepping forward gratefully, he was received within.
Whereas outside all seemed to be dirt, decay and filth, inside the supermarket it was always clean, fresh, bright and comfortably within the sell-by date. The neon lights and irradiated food saw to that. Inside the store there was no crime, no pestilence and no shortage of wealth. Life could be had cheaper, in greater variety and with less effort than ever before. That was the wonder of shopping the U Like 2 Save way. As the advertising slogan said, ‘It’s all served up on a plate!’ or at least it would be if you could find everything and get it home.
About Bryan J Mason
Bryan J Mason wrote his black comedy about a serial killer in the late 1980s, but reluctantly put it away in a drawer after his agent narrowly failed to get it published. He concluded that he was a failed author, so might as well be a failure at something else instead. However, every ten years or so he dug it out and read it and each time he did was surprised to find that he still found it funny. He has now managed to get it published after making some changes, including firmly placing the action in the late ʼ80s and early ʼ90s for today’s reader.
He has worked as a brush salesman and rent collector, made sound effects for BBC Radio and been a tax inspector and occasional actor. He writes regular theatre reviews for StageTalk Magazine and Bristol 24/7.
He is a member of the Crime Writers Association and currently working on a new novel featuring a Jewish detective investigating a series of serial killings in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, called An old Tin Can.
Bryan lives in Bristol with his wife and has two children in their twenties.
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All the best, Emma