Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I’m pleased to be hosting Jonathan Whitelaw author of HellCorp who has been kind enough to offer both a guest post and an excerpt from the book.
- Paperback: 360 pages
- Publisher: Urbane Publications (5 July 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1911583727
- ISBN-13: 978-1911583721
- Amazon UK / Amazon US
Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime.
But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…
It wouldn’t really be Halloween without The Devil, would it? I mean, not really. He is, no matter what your persuasion, the embodiment of evil after all. You might even say that it’s his version of Christmas. Or something like that. I don’t know, I’m a tinpot philosopher at best.
What I do know is that I had an absolute blast writing him in my new novel HellCorp. And if you think that’s a flimsy pretext, wait until you read the novel.
I jest. But seriously, please do read the novel, it would make me immensely happy, not to mention proud and also feel pretty cool about myself. See what I did there – guilting you into heading to Amazon and ordering a copy. I guess I learned a thing or two from my main character.
In short, HellCorp sees The Devil want to go on holiday. But first, he’s challenged by God to solve the murder of a man who took 40 years to die. Packed and jammed into human form, it doesn’t take long before he’s up to his pitchfork in trouble amongst us mere mortals.
I actually started writing HellCorp in the week leading up to Halloween. And the ghoulish, grisly season has its paws all over it as a work. I’ve always found something creepily fun about this time of year. Despite being a big scaredy-cat and a total cowardly custard. Seriously, I’m the worst person you could ever watch a horror movie with. The irony, of course, that I would spend my time writing about devils, demons, black masses and general bad egged-ness isn’t lost on me. Maybe it’s a kind of therapy. Who knows. I’m a tinpot psychologist too.
As a writer, I’ve always found this time of year to be a hotbed of creativity. There’s something about autumn, the change that the world is going through that just rings bells with me as a writer. Maybe it’s because I’ve had all year to come up with story ideas. Maybe it’s because there’s a new year on the horizon. Maybe it’s because I’ve got deadlines to keep and have run out of excuses to procrastinate. Who knows? But regardless, it’s still a pretty cool, special time that I find very productive and enjoyable as a writer.
And this year has been no different. While HellCorp is preparing to enjoy its first Halloween out on the shelves, I’m busy working away behind the scene on its sequel. No spoilers from me though, you’ll have to read it and get back to me, hopefully begging for more. In which case I’d kindly direct you in the way of my publisher, the always fabulous Urbane, who I’m sure would love amazing feedback on how great one of their authors is! Doesn’t do me any harm, I promise.
But seriously though, writing HellCorp was an absolute joy. I always wanted to write crime but never had the guts or gumption to do so. It was only when I grew tired of the cop on the edge and anti-hero trope so associated with crime novels that I really started thinking about what I could do. I figured that the ultimate antihero would have to be bad, badder than bad, badder even than to the bone. And really there was only one person in the whole universe that fit that bill. Once I had Old Nick front and centre, the story really grew from there. And like I said, it was a total joy to create, punish, push around, reward and love the characters within its pages.
So I hope you all have a lovely Halloween. Don’t eat too many sweets and always make sure you know what wizard or witch it is you’re kissing. And please do enjoy HellCorp as much as I did writing it.
And… just to whet your whistle. Here’s a short extract from the opening of the novel. Just to give you a little tease. It’s very devilish of me I know.
Excerpt from HellCorp.
The chimes of the great clock rang out across St. Peter’s square. The place was empty and quiet, save for the clangs of the ancient metal bell. A trio of pigeons fluttered in the colonnades that lined the square, scaring a dozing guard. Midnight had arrived in The Vatican City.
High above the plaza, the Pope sauntered into his private chambers. He locked the door, making sure he tucked the key back into the pocket of his vestments. It had been a long, endlessly infuriating day. They were all getting to be like that.
He let out a long, resigned sigh. His stomach didn’t feel right, like there was a balloon inflated inside. He rubbed at the sagging meat and winced.
Stalking across the room, he felt something shift. He paused, leaned on one foot and felt his buttocks clench.
A loud, stretched out sound rang out around the office. When he was finished, he relaxed, finally relieved.
“Mamma mia,” he batted away the air from in front of his face, the smell a little overpowering.
At the far side of the office was a window that looked out onto the square. He hurried over and let in some air. A cold wind breezed in through the open panes, sending papers flying from his desk.
The hairs on the back of the Pope’s neck stood on end. He turned to watch the files scatter. Something wasn’t right. He could feel it. You didn’t spend your life in the church and not know when there was foul play at work.
Outside, the bells kept going, now on their seventh chime. It was late and he knew he should go to bed. He rubbed his old face and blinked. Maybe just one little drink before bed. What harm could that do? If the most powerful clergyman in the world couldn’t treat himself now and then, there was something severely wrong with the world.
Inspired by his new thought, he trotted over to the huge, mahogany desk that dominated the opposite wall. Sliding out a drawer, he produced a bottle of single malt whisky, a cut crystal glass and a packet of cigarettes.
He pulled the cork from the bottle free with his teeth and poured a large measure. He sniffed the liquor before downing it in one swallow.
The rich, smoky taste made him bare his teeth. He licked his lips before pouring another. There were certain luxuries that came with being pontiff. A choice of rare whiskies was just one of them. Hand rolled cigarettes were another and he drew one out from the box. He lit the end, inhaled and basked in the rich taste.
Only in these few quiet moments did he afford himself some pleasure. Never in public. The good Catholics of the world wouldn’t approve of their saviour drinking and smoking as he did. But he was only human after all. Being Pope was just his job, it wasn’t who he was.
“Oh, I wish you would stop with your tin-pot philosophy,” came a deep voice from nowhere.
The Pope froze, his arms and legs stiff. He looked about his empty office, clutching tightly onto his whisky glass.
“Che ha detto che?” he said, voice barely breaking a whisper.
There was no response. His heart was racing, faster than it had in years. His head was swimming a little from the Scotch and his mouth had gone dry. Suddenly all the mystery and mysticism he had been preaching for years was flooding back into his mind.
Being The Pope and talking about God, miracles and the universe was one thing. Experiencing it first hand was something completely different.
“Really, you Catholics, you love a bit of drama,” came the voice again. “It can get a bit tedious at times, don’t you think?”
The Pope was frightened. He pushed himself up quickly from behind his desk, slamming his knee into the hard mahogany. His crystal glass dropped from his hand, shattering as it hit the hard wooden floor. It was an antique, irreplaceable. He bit his tongue and hobbled towards the door, cursing under his breath.
But before he could reach the handle, a figure appeared before him. A swirling, dark shadow stretched out from the creature’s presence, a blackness that seemed to go on forever emanating from its centre.
About Jonathan Whitelaw.
Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster.
After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste – with everything in between.
He’s also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC and STV.
HellCorp, from Urbane Publications, is his second novel following his debut, Morbid Relations.
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