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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A week to go… and Vengeance will be mine

I know, it’s almost a steal from Mickey Spillane’s book title, Vengeance is Mine! (1950) – the third Mike Hammer novel. The exclamation mark is Spillane’s though it doesn't always appear on the cover.

And of course he borrowed it from the Bible – ‘Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, and I will repay.’ (Romans 12:19)

Two other variations crop up in the good book:

‘To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.’ (Deuteronomy 32:35)

And Hebrews 10:30 more or less reiterates Deuteronomy.

It’s a popular quotation employed as a book title, although I'd guess that in every case the vengeance isn’t left to God but to the books’ characters.

My book, Sudden Vengeance, published on 20 May by Crooked Cat Publishing gets its title from an Alexander Pope poem, Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady (1717); he wrote: ‘On all the line a sudden vengeance waits, And frequent hearses shall besiege your gates.’ This poem also has the line, ‘Is it, in heav’n, a crime to love too well?’ which has cropped up a few times too, certainly as an earlier variant in Shakespeare’s Othello, Act 5, scene 2 – ‘loved not wisely, but too well…’
Here’s a quotation from Sudden Vengeance:

Joe Rothwell was known as a drunken bully throughout the entire neighbourhood of Spithead Estate. He was about five-ten in his rank-smelling socks, sported a perpetual five-o’clock shadow, and his belt-overhanging belly advertised his liking for Whitbread beer.

            Nobody usually looked into his dull brown eyes for more than a fleeting second, because he was prone to take offence, exclaiming, “What-you-starin’-at?” just before his fists flailed out. But if anyone had been brave or foolhardy enough to look into Joe Rothwell’s eyes, they would have glimpsed, deep within, a hurt and frightened child.

            Perhaps the elfin Irene had managed to fathom these depths when they were courting. Possibly he appealed to her mothering instinct, which in her plain timidity she interpreted as love. The unplanned pregnancy and her ex-boxer father precipitated their marriage and, shortly after the birth of their son, Justin, and the fatal brain-haemorrhage of Irene’s dad, Joe took to the bottle with a vengeance.

            From Justin’s birthday on, for the last eight years, Joe beat Irene for the slightest perceived transgression in his booze-fogged brain.

            Fortunately, their son avoided Joe’s violent outbursts, even though he often unwittingly caused them. Irene took the brunt intended for her child.

            Friends and neighbours pleaded with Irene to leave Joe. Yet it was easier said than done. Since she was seventeen, she’d been emotionally tied to him. The house was rented. She had no money of her own, no work experience, and no relatives to fall back upon. And she had an eight-year-old child to consider. She’d stick it out. Things might improve. But in her heart she feared one day soon he would kill her.

            Recovering consciousness, Joe felt dizzy, the blood rushing to his head. The pain in his skull made him nauseous. He opened his eyes and vomited, spluttering and spitting, the vile outpourings spreading all over his face and up his nose.

            Christ, I’m upside down!

            Coughing, squinting through wet lids, he realised his arms were tied behind his back. He shivered with the cold, which was not surprising as he was naked, suspended from a pedestrian overpass on the Spithead Estate.

            It was still night, the few streetlamps that had survived vandalism offering a weak yellow glow. Night. Now he remembered. He’d been stumbling home from the pub when a dark shape loomed up in front of him. Then blackness, nothing...

            His ankles ached with the weight of his body. One leg seemed numb. His heart hammered as he worried about his circulation. Didn’t gangrene set in or something if you–?

            “Hello, Joe.” On the grassy embankment alongside the flyover was the same black figure, arms folded, the trilby cocked over the brow, shadows concealing the face.


So, it would seem Irene had loved unwisely and too well. The black figure is a vigilante who doesn’t take kindly to wife-beaters. The book blurb reads:

When justice fails, a vigilante steps forward

In the broken Britain of today, faith in the police is faltering. Justice and fairness are flouted. Victims are not seen as hurt people but simply as statistics.
Paul’s family is but one example of those victims of unpunished criminals. In the English south coast town of Alverbank, many others are damaged and grieving. It cannot go on. There has to be a response, some way of fighting back.
A vigilante soon emerges and delivers rough justice, breaking the bones and cracking the heads of those guilty individuals who cause pain without remorse.
Who is the vigilante?  He – or she – is called the Black Knight. The police warn against taking ‘the law into your own hands’. But the press laud the vigilante’s efforts and respond: ‘What law?’
Will the Black Knight eventually cross the line and kill?
Paul and his family seem involved and they are going to suffer
[This book is an improved reprint of A Sudden Vengeance Waits, previously out-of-print]
Please watch this space for further announcements about Sudden Vengeance (without the exclamation mark!)

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