Review of This Ragged, Wastrel Thing Book One of the Sonaya Nights Trilogy By Tomas Marcantonio Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis 

After serving eleven years in The Heights for the murder of his childhood sweetheart, one-eared vagabond Daganae Kawasaki is finally free. But beneath the neon glare of a sprawling Sonaya, he soon discovers the backstreets are bursting with strange new shadows. Confronting plucky street orphans, bitter biker girls and down-and-out expats, Dag is swiftly embroiled in a fresh homicide case – and finds his murky past isn’t done with him yet.

This Ragged, Wastrel Thing is the first instalment of the Sonaya Nights trilogy; a new dystopian noir series set in the fictional city of Sonaya. Deep in The Rivers, through the winding web of neon alleys, we follow our troubled protagonist, Daganae Kawasaki, as he scours the streets to uncover the truth behind his eleven-year stint in The Heights. But will his search for answers in the dingy basement bars and seedy homework clubs finally distinguish friend from foe, right from wrong, or will he uncover more bitter untruths than ever before? Will he finally find freedom from the pain of his past or will new revelations ignite a lust for revenge? Discover a new voice in modern noir fiction and join Dag on his painful pursuit for salvation and sake.

Review

First of all this book is hard to put into a genre as it seems to have a mixture of everything, from government conspiracies to detailed world building that immerses you within its every detail. The world of Sonaya is a world of shadows, and bottomless pits containing the worst kind of human if you can call them that. Sonaya is a forgotten state of a futuristic rebellious Japan. A dark backwater of horrific crimes and even deeper corruption that runs rampant throughout its streets. Its the backdrop to Tomas’s story and as the narrative developed this world took on a mind of its own from the blood stained pavements of the Rivers, to the black-market drug fuelled dens of The Warren. Tomas made sure that the reader lived every element in beautifully descriptive detail. Sonaya feels as real as any city in our world. I enjoyed it so much that I paused at certain paragraphs to reread them simply so that I could see the picture being painted in my mind all over again. The way in which Tomas wrote Sonaya was like a nuclear warhead going off in your senses. It sent waves of electricity crackling over my skin causing goosebumps Sonaya is alive. You can’t get enough.

The story is told from the perspective of Daganae Kawasaki. A recently released convict who has served eleven years for the murder of his girlfriend. He’s released from The Heights. Sonaya’s most notorious prison and his crime is legendary. He wants to make up for lost time and that means one thing trouble. Before he was imprisoned he was a respected police officer and his girlfriend was a shoe in for major of Sonaya. However the night of her murder his memory is hazy. Clouded with regret and alcohol can it be trusted? Should he really of served eleven years for murder? Did he really kill her as he remembers or was there somebody’s else agenda at play. These are all questions he hopes to answer as they are all he’s thought about since the cell door closed eleven years ago. As he returns to his old haunts and reunites with shady old friends and a questionable gang of biker girl vigilantes.

He gets to work on rewriting his past. However as Daganae falls deeper into the clutches of Sonaya’s dark side he begins to discover an entirely different vision of events from the ones he remembers from several sources. Ones he can trust with his life, and others that are out to kill him at the first opportunity. Everyone in Sonaya seems to wear a mask or has a long buried secret that is beginning to surface, and Daganae always seems to be at the centre of them. The cast of characters that he encounters throughout this multi- layered story is a tapestry of deceit.

My favourite has to be Jiko. A fiery red haired biker chick who takes no shit from anyone. She knows the dark streets of Sonaya like the back of her hand. Her involvement with Daganae is complicated. Their paths crossing in another life for both of them. However as the story developed you couldn’t help but begin to fall for their father-daughter kind of relationship. Both have their vulnerabilities on show. Their relationship is a rare light in the darkness that is Sonaya.

This book is a beautiful mash up of grim noir and Japanese flare with the beating heart of motor-head vigilantes. Its the Sons of Anarchy meets Sin City. I for one cannot wait to see what Tomas has in store for us next. This is a highly polished debut and receives five stars.

Pre-Ordering The Book

Has my review grabbed your attention? If so then why don’t you pre-order now on the link below.

This Ragged, Wastrel Thing by Tomas Marcantonio: Available for pre-order now!

About the Author

TM 1

Tomas Marcantonio is a novelist and short story writer from Brighton, England. He graduated from the University of Sussex with a degree in English Language and Film, and his fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, both online and in print. Tomas is currently based in Busan, South Korea, where he teaches English and writes whenever he can escape the classroom. You can follow him on Twitter @TJMarcantonio.

 
I received an advance proof copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This doesn’t effect my views.

 

Review of Shallow Creek from Storgy Books Written by Dan Stubbings

Review

After being such an avid reader of Storgy magazine. I was intrigued to discover what the crew of devilish dark minds that run the publication had in store for us from their annual short story competition. I am pleased to say they haven’t disappointed. Enabling readers to face their fears and go into a world entirely of their own making. The Storgy team challenged us to drip our toes into their eerie playground of Shallow Creek. A town with a past many hadn’t survived all we were given through the generous invite of the mysterious Mallum Colt was a character, a location, and a special item that had to be involved at some stage throughout your story.

This blank canvas of options has allowed for unique and original tales to be born. With writers constructing their haunting babies along the way. Diving far into this imaginary town in search of its hidden treasures. This collection is a masterpiece and does the world of story and imagination proud. So strap yourselves in while Uncle Dan tells you all about it.

Sometimes when I open a collection of short stories, I find myself reading out of order. This is usually due to several different reasons it maybe because a certain writer is present, and I have read their previous works and want to see if they have expanded on an existing world or character, or it could be something as simple as a title of a particular story catches my eye. However, with Shallow Creek I found myself glued from the first page to the last.

The reason why this was the case with Shallow Creek is because I experienced something that hasn’t happened since I read Interview with a Vampire for the first time. Every story ignited a fire within me that forced me to absorb every word, dissect every paragraph, and begin my own investigation into every plot twist as if I were an expert detective sent to close an unsolvable crime.

The beauty about this anthology is that even though it keeps a steady pace maintaining your interest throughout. You don’t feel as though you are missing any important details or discarding themes that may become significant later on. Ross, Tomek, and Tony the editors have done an incredible job of assembling this intertwined narrative that exposes us to all corners of Shallow Creek from Devil’s Gorge to the asylum. Introducing readers to a cast of charismatic characters that you hope to never meet in a dark alley by the time you finish your fingers are bleeding with excitement.

What makes this collection stand out in the never-ending sea that is the horror and supernatural genre is the themes that have been highlighted within the context of this spooky old town.

One story I couldn’t stop reading was Behind These Eyes by Alice Noel. A haunting story told through the eyes of multiple characters that centres around the illness dementia. However not all is as it seems and the story takes on a sinister twist. Alice opened an insight into the loneliness and terrifying world of dementia in a way that I haven’t encountered. Weaving threads of deception that make you question whether you ever truly know a person? By the time I finished my hands were shaking.

Arrowhead by Daniel Carpenter was another that stuck with me long after I had finished reading. Its my favourite story within the collection. For me it just has everything mysterious characters, intrigue, and that sense of mystery that allows it to transcend several dimensions of the horror genre. Told through the eyes of a dead-beat Lenny. We are taken into a world of addiction and obsession that gets under your skin. As more of the narrative was revealed you closed your eyes. I adored how Dan was able to fully submerge me into the world he had created in his mind. It was that one story that when I finished I had to reread it straight away just to revel in its mastery. Bravo Dan Bravo.

I am not going to discuss every story in the collection as I would be here all night. There is however one final gruesome tale I want you all to know about. A story called Backwards by Adrian J Walker. A murder investigation with an ending I didn’t see coming at all. To say I was afraid by what Adrian produced wouldn’t even begin to cover it. I will say this though whatever you do don’t read this one in the dark. It reminded me of a demonic cross between Jack Reacher meets the Walking Dead.

This collection has all the aspects that makes me love this genre. From creepy murder mysteries to abandoned shacks in the middle of nowhere. It has something for every reader of the weird and wonderful delving deep into the masters of collective narrative from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice. Yet at the same time creating a fresh perspective on what is achievable within the unexplored depths of the dark.

It receives five stars. Congratulations to all the writers you have constructed something totally unique. I adore Shallow Creek and hope to experience countless visits.

I received a copy from the publishers in exchange for an honest review this doesn’t affect my views.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Story- Erased Written by Daniel Stubbings For Storgy Exit Earth Contest

Blood had long been forgotten, all that mattered now was ink.  It was all that mattered ever since he had vanished clutching my arms, begging me not to let him go.  I can still see the fear in his eyes as his body turned to dust like all the others. Blood was just a trace of our old lives, flashes of a world before the erasing had begun. That was five years ago and still, I harboured the scars.  Those scars had lead me to a place I knew all too well, cloaked in darkness, a place where I had truly learnt what it was to be what they called drawers. Bending my knees, I slid down onto the stone floor, pressing my back against the wall as I peered into the darkness. A cold prickle going down the back of my skull as a face emerges from within. Covered in scars, eyes deep emerald, a grin spread across its lips, begging me to remember. Who was it?

A cold sweat ran down my spine. I stood and walked over to a set of old Chester drawers. A dull light shone in from two small windows just above eye level, hidden from the outside world. A grey, steel spiral staircase leads up to other parts of the house. The basement is small and damp, multicoloured geckos running along the walls. A battered grey mattress covered in plain white sheets acted as my bed, positioned tight against the wall. A full-length mirror hung above the headboard reflecting back a self with rows of leather bound journals piled high, covered in dust. Each one numbered and dated, giving me a timeline of when this all started; dreams, nightmares, and keeping track of the erasing.

I pull open the drawers and peer inside two leather bound journals stared back at me reaching down I turn the pages of the first one I come to. It is filled with random sketches, unfinished stories, and details of each event. I push it aside, grabbing the other flicking to its final few pages, tracing my fingertips over the wolf’s head on its spine, its silver eyes whispering within my mind. Stirring my blood, forcing millions of images to flow across my eyes the hairs on the back of my hand stand on end, wind whistling through my ears. I stare down at my hands blackening from heat radiating from the journal, it was coming…… it was here….. what I knew as the ink. I turn, throwing the journal against the wall, my skin tingling as red flames pulse through veins. A shadow crossed my face as I looked into the mirror. My mouth is suddenly dry like a dessert; I lick my lips as the air crackles around me like the atmosphere of an electric storm.

The muscles in my arm tense as I focus on the ink surging through my veins.  taking a deep breath I try to remember every detail of my dream. My eye develops a muscle spam out of my control as the ink spreads underneath my skin, glowing a deep purple as it rises to the surface. I stared at my reflection; my eyes are tired and sore. A voice whispering in my mind. This is what you are, what you have become….. you’re a drawer. Quickly, I placed my fingers over the mark, two silver eyes within a black wolfs head and pressed firmly down. The response was instant, violet ink erupted from my fingertips. Tears ran down my face like acid, eating away at my flesh, and scraping against bone, as my dream began to appear in front of me. A pair of piercing amber eyes framed in a flat ebony face, stared at me as I begin to guide it onto the papers of my journal. My skin tears with every stroke a piercing scream breaks across the air; my legs give way forcing me to the ground. Lifting my head, I peer at the journal.

There it was….. my dream, my nightmare, lording over me as if it were a king.  A smile creeps over my lips, as I inspect my body. Deep purple slashes run along my arms, parts of my flesh have been melted away. Vapours of black smoke rise, pools of dark black ink surround my feet and hands as a thin line of sweat covers my forehead. A shiver gurgles down my spine; I try and stand but my legs collapse from under me. My eyes are haunted with fear as I turn and look into the mirror seeing dark shadows pooled in its corners. A wide grin across their dark, featureless faces, all laughing at me, all saying the same thing….. “More ideas are coming and you’re running out of time. I push myself up and run towards the stairs, taking them two at a time only stopping for breath when I reach the top. Grabbing the door handle I throw it open allowing a blinding white light to escape that pierces my eyes.  I step into a large living area and before I have barely taken two steps, I collide with a tall gentleman.

He dressed in a long grey overcoat interrupted by shabby dark hair and a pair of old biker boots strapped to his feet, all accompanied by deep ruby tattoos covering his neck and legs. Partial drawings of buildings, weapons, and scripture from important speeches throughout history adorned his body. His voice was husky…..“Nice to see you, there’s no need to fall at my feet.” He laughed as he held me up allowing me to catch my breath. He walked me over to an old wooden table, surrounded by two sturdy leather chairs with each of us taking a seat. His long shabby hair covered his eyes. “What are you doing here Reggie, were not supposed to meet until tomorrow?” A fresh cut leaked blood down his left cheek. “I heard some rumours, details that might be of interest to you” he said nervously. Last time you came to me with so called information, it just added more questions to what we already knew. We both know you are just in the same position as me so show me your arms Reggie.” His eyes scanned the room checking all the doors and windows. “Why do you need to see my arms Jin?” growled Reggie as he clenched his hands into fists. “Easy there Reggie, I just need to check something out, you know we are both drawers?” Have you been having any impulses lately?” Reggie just stared into space tapping his bonelike fingers against the wood.  Leaning forwards, she stared into Reggie’s eyes, a deep, piercing look. “Okay Jin, I do have some drawings you need to see.” Thoughts raced through Reggie’s head as to what drawings, he was thinking on his feet?  After an uncomfortable silence Jin responded, “Okay Reggie, let’s see them”.

Reaching inside his coat, he pulled out a battered, old leather-bound journal, larger than hers but in the same style, then placed it down on the table. Pulling up his sleeves as he often did, his tattoos moved spontaneously as if they were alive. I reached out and traced my fingers over them and felt a humming energy building that forced my eyes to change to a deep blue. Surges of emerald flames danced up my arms blackening my flesh. I quickly pulled back into my seat; this was an energy I had only felt once before. He was going to a place drawers should not seek.

Grimacing pain slowly etched across his face, his mark had dissolved, his protection was gone. “Reggie! what have you done?” I screamed. His lips curled into a cruel grin, his eyes manic with fury. “You know what I’ve done Jin, you know where I have been.” The colour drained from my face as his eyes turned a milky white, the heat radiating off him in waves pushing me backwards. His skin rippled emerald flames cutting into his bones as the tattoos fought to break free. Listening to his final words as he stared at me with soulless eyes he muttered, “Jin, it can’t be erased otherwise our world has no meaning, all the events we’ve experienced will be erased forever. We embraced it, you know what we did?” he whispered. The flames took him into the shadows blinding me for a moment as I slowly moved to open his journal. “This will only add to your burdens” I thought to myself as I fought to resist the temptation.

I hadn’t even heard her approach as she glided across the floor in front of me. Her hair glistened with silver flashes of time woven into a tight indigo ponytail that swayed down her broad back. Her dark oval face was deformed by two parallel scars that sliced through her full black lips, like a shadow trailing in her wake. She glanced back every so often as she moved towards an ivory seat. Her eyes were strangely hidden offering no insight into what she may be thinking; who was she I wondered?

Grabbing Reggie’s journal, I turned to the last entry; it was of a woman, the description matching her perfectly. It must be her; surely it couldn’t be anyone else?

I didn’t move as she glided back towards me, her eyes still hidden. Staring down at the picture another name began to rise from the page burning in golden fire. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the fierce light before I recognised the outline of a name….Keira! Kiera!

As Kiera moved closer her eyes emerged, they were a piercing deep amber. I recognised her as the girl I had seen in my dream. What was she doing here? “It’s good to see you Jin” she whispered quietly. “How about you listen for once, and forget what you just saw on that last page?” She flicked her wrist, threads of golden ink emerged from a vortex in her outstretched hand, wrapping around the journal and igniting it in a ring of deep orange flames. The intense heat burnt my hands; I was beyond being comfortable so reluctantly, dropped it onto the floor. I edged backwards resting against the table, the ink moving in parallel lines underneath my skin. “Who are you?” I asked uncomfortably. “How do you know me and why were you in my dreams?” The questions stumbled out without me pausing for an answer. My hands were shaking uncontrollably as I tried to disguise my increasing anxiety. Kiera laughed at me and began to run her hands through her hair “I am Kiera, I know you well but you know that already, I am in your dreams but you have seen me before. Think carefully Jin and ask yourself, “What am I?” I know you have heard my name before…….” One question merged into another as I felt myself becoming frustrated at my inability to work it out.

I systematically searched my memories but tiredness began to overcome me. Finally, something clicked……. “You’re an imaginative.” I whispered at first before rising to a piercing scream. “That’s right Jin I am” her eyes instantly going black. Her shadow spread like a wild fire engulfing us both. Quickly I shut my eyes trying to focus on what I could hear but it was too late.

A wave of coldness washed over me that grew with every heartbeat, spreading up my arms and legs. Tentacles emerging from within searching for my eyes as a foul-smelling fluid rose in the air.  I twisted and turned, screaming, trying to break free of its embrace. I dug my nails into my skin trying to force ink to the surface. “Jin, what have I told you? I would only add to your worries”.  Keira’s voice sounded menacing as I fought to keep my eyes shut from her piercing finger nails cutting into my eyelids. My ink slipping away, my energy fading, the dream had been too much; talking with Reggie had been too much. I had felt that energy once before, the energy I felt surging through Reggie was all flooding back entering my head as a distant memory resonating back to that day, back to him. I soon realised that I had been here before, I’d seen this all before. “Glad to see some of it is coming back to you” said Keira.  “Why don’t you open your eyes? We are here now”.

At first, I was hesitant but slowly I opened my eyes. Keira was staring back at me but her shadow had vanished. Her arms cradled around me like a baby, her eyes blurred with tears. As she lowered me to the floor she whispered, “Sorry about that, it was the only way I knew”. “What do you mean it was the only way you knew?” I screamed. “Really Jin what do you think it was?” She replied fixing me with those deep amber eyes as she stood behind me, her image coming in and out of focus as she lifted me to my feet. “I am not sure but I am sure I felt it before in a time away from here” I said nervously. “I can’t answer that for you, why don’t you look all around?” she whispered. Taking a deep breath I turned my head. I was surrounded by mirrors with a dull blue light coming from a source unseen. I stared into one of the mirrors looking past my reflection and focusing on Kiera. One of her eyes had turned black and had sunken into her skull, her hair had changed to charcoal black. Her scars vanished leaving behind full red lips, she smiled squeezing my shoulders “Don’t worry’’, I look worse than I feel” She giggled. “All will be revealed shortly”. She said moving towards a dark corner.

I noticed we had company, their back facing me in the room, a hood concealing their identity. Kiera glided in just behind them and whispered something in their ears. Even before she spoke I heard the words in my head “She is here so what do you want to do?” There was a pause…. “It is time Kiera, she has to know leave us.” Kiera turned giving me a brief smile and wave as she faded back into the shadows.

All around went silent as one word erupted from the figures lips, “Erased.” Suddenly stone began breaking underneath my feet as the energy built. An orb of yellow light surrounded the figure, blinding me for a moment as it stretched out its arms towards the mirrors. I watched in horror as mirrors grinded against the stone floor, cracks forming over their surface sending shards of glass in all directions, cutting my face and hands. Black droplets of ink hit the floor as wind whistled around me pushing me down turning me onto my back I lifted my head and quickly scanned the room. Nothing much was left but for a tunnel lined with bright white candles. In a moment, the figure took me by the arm with a tight grip and dragged me towards it, each candle spontaneously lighting seconds before we approached it.

A hot wind touched my skin blowing grit into my eyes. The air turned humid making it hard to breath but the figure pulled me through the dark tunnel, shimmers of light guiding us to some unknown destination. “Where are we going?” I shouted looking up at the figure but it remained silent, tightening their grip menacingly. As we grew near to the end of the tunnel a large, round stone chamber came into view with a strange red light flowing across it walls. The figure loosened their grip around my arm and took my head into their hands turning it clockwise towards the wall. Despite my fear I couldn’t look away, my eyes widening as I took it all in. The walls were covered in drawings and images of jungles burning to the ground with rivers flowing blood then turning to dust. Statues had been decimated and lay randomly across the ground.

I stared at the figure intensely, “What is all this?” I asked. It took a moment before answering in a hoarse voice, “You remember now don’t you, you know what happened?” I stared again as it pointed to the middle of the room. I turned my head and could see a girl; she was laid down on a black dentist’s chair, strapped securely by brown leather straps. Black orbs of liquid dripped from her lips. The figure released me, its face still concealed by their hood. I rose slowly unsure of how to proceed…..”Why does all this feel so familiar? Why do I know this room?” I began asking myself.  I ran my fingers through my hair and walked forward peering down at a female presence, her skin covered in deep black scars oozing ink from within. Her eyes were now a piercing emerald green and blank of any emotion, her clothes ravaged and torn from her body. Clear tube like structures stemmed from her forehead pumping a solid blue liquid around her brain. As I approached slowly she sat up fixing a stare at me with her eyes. “Welcome home Jin” she whispered reaching her hands out towards me.

I edged back unable to take it all in. “What do you mean welcome home?” I shouted peering into her eyes as something troubled me at the back of my mind. She smiled and replied, “Really Jin, you been gone too long.” I grabbed her by the shoulders shaking her, demanding an explanation.  I turned to my left and peered into the shadows watching intently as another hooded figure began to emerge. Reggie smiled at me with a crooked grin, Kiera turned away as the hooded figure pulled back their hood revealing themselves. His long black hair, thin face and bright blue eyes gave me a friendly smile. I screamed at them repeatedly “What are you? What are you?” expelling air from my lungs as I dropped to the floor exhausted. I looked into the mirror and saw the face I had been dreaming about night after night. Scars shaped like crosses on my cheeks, emerald eyes, misshaped head and ink surging through my veins.  I suddenly realised It was me strapped to the chair talking to myself, crawling at my flesh as screams echoed through my skull.

My dreams finally made sense as the memories flooded back. Screams thundered through the base of my skull causing my eyes to ache….what had I done? Why was I here? Why could I only remember the ink? Sobs rocked my body as James came and hugged me “Don’t worry, it didn’t hurt, were all just broken memories” he whispered as he kissed my forehead. He gave me one last hug before joining Kiera and Reggie as they faded back into the shadows.  I laid back looking up at the images as they merged into one. I stood alone in a sea of bodies, a tidal wave of ink covering their skin; the mark of a drawer branded across their arms glowing in a violet light.  I looked above the images, slowly realising there are some words written in my own hand burning in a pure white light. I read them several times before I understood. Jin Drawer your ideas ended our world, you’re the only person left. I closed my eyes and cried myself to sleep I was never leaving this place. What had I become?