Lock & Load, the first Ryan Lock short story, is now available as a Kindle ebook at Amazon. It's also on sale at Kobo, and will be available shortly at all 50 Apple iBookstores, and in Nook format. The trade paperback is on its way.
The very talented Joie Simmons, whose work can be found here, has completed the e-book and print cover for the very first Ryan Lock short story, Lock & Load.
Here is the e-book cover:
Great job, Joie!
It's in final proofing and formatting stages. In the meantime, here is the next chapter....
NEXT TO THE word bodyguard, Ryan Lock's least favourite description for his profession had to be bullet catcher. Although sacrificing your life to save the person you were protecting was the ultimate price you may have to pay, close protection work was more a matter of intellect than muscle. In a world that mostly attracted what his former colleagues in the British Royal Military Police's elite close protection unit dubbed 'thick-necked twats', Lock saw himself as more of a problem solver than hired muscle. Right now he was headed to Los Angeles to deal with a rather obstinate Antipodean problem who went by the name of Jason Durham.
"Man, I could get used to this," said Ty Johnson.
Lock glanced over at his six foot four African American business partner as he stretched out his long legs and waved over a member of the private jet's crew to freshen up his drink. Next to Lock, his fiancee, Carrie, was busy tapping away at her Mac Air, their yellow Labrador, Angel, asleep at her feet. She looked over at him and he smiled.
"You okay, cowboy?"
He leaned in for a kiss. "Better than okay."
Across from them, Ty rolled his eyes. "You two are disgusting."
"Not jealous are you, Tyrone?" Carrie teased.
"Hey, don't even go there, sister."
"I dunno, prison together? I've heard the stories about how that goes. And it's not like I'm saying there's anything wrong with it," she teased.
Ty tutted his disapproval, put his headphones back on and went back to reading his magazine. For his part, Lock was glad that Carrie could find some humour in what had been a terrifying experience for both men when they had recently gone undercover in Pelican Bay Supermax in Northern California.
"You're bad," Lock said, feigning seriousness.
"I know," she said brightly, returning to her work.
Lock dug out a folder of papers outlining his and Ty's latest job and began to review them for the third time. It all looked pretty straightforward – an easy, well paid gig that would tide the business over and pay for his and Carrie's wedding.
The principal – the term used in close protection circles for the person you were actually protecting – was a young actress called Summer Clements. The problem was a highly unpredictable movie star boyfriend called Jason Durham. Durham had grown up in Australia and built his career on a carefully cultivated tough guy image. From what Lock had gathered, the bar for tough guy status in Hollywood wasn't that high. He also suspected the relationship was partly one of convenience. While Summer's career was in the ascendancy, Jason's was a little rocky. He'd had two recent stints in rehab, several arrests, and obviously had, what in modern parlance had come to be termed as, an anger management issue. Lock thought of them more as asshole management issues.
Summer's representatives had contacted Lock directly, making him a susbtantial offer for what amounted to a week's work. Not only did they want their young client protected, he also suspected they wanted Lock to offer a longer term solution by explaining to her ex by whatever means he felt most appropriate that the relationship had indeed ended. Saying yes had been a no-brainer.
Lock and Ty could be highly persuasive in such situations and they both could use the injection of cash. Plus, free first class travel and a pretty heavy stipend that included hotel accommodation and a separate place for Lock and Carrie (a beach house in Malibu owned by the actress) hadn't sounded too shabby either. More than that, if there was one thing that Lock didn't have any time for it was guys like Jason Durham. Over the years he had seen the havoc wreaked by men who abused their partners, and while he wasn't sure what the long term solution was, he was happy to make the world a little better one asshole at a time.
As Ty went to collect their rental car, Lock waited with Carrie. She had a get together planned with a former colleague who had relocated from New York to Los Angeles a few years ago. That would leave Lock free to go meet Summer and get a better feel for what he was dealing with.
He slipped a hand around his fiancee's waist. Their relationship hadn't been without its bumpy patches, most of which were related to his work, but he still felt like the luckiest man alive. Carrie was beautiful inside and out, a strong woman who knew her own mind yet hadn't allowed her career as a news reporter to render her cynical about the rest of the human race. He couldn't wait to begin their life together. They already had the dog who was busy trying to eat the end of the lead and now they could go for the rest of the package; the house with a white picket fence, and kids. They'd both had a life spent on the move. Now they craved some quiet domesticity.
As Ty pulled up in the rental, a black Range Rover, Lock helped a taxi driver with Carrie's luggage and kissed her goodbye. He waited until the cab was out of sight, put Angel in the back, and clambered in next to Ty who took off at speed as they headed for West Hollywood.
The first short story featuring Lock and Ty is on its way. It will go on sale shortly as an e-book, and then in trade paperback. About The Story
Fresh from a stint
undercover in Pelican Bay Supermax prison in Northern California,
close protection operative Ryan Lock and his business partner, Ty
Johnson, are in Los Angeles, tasked with protecting a young Hollywood
actress from an abusive movie star boyfriend who refuses to accept
that their relationship is over. But as Lock knows only too well, and
Ty is about to learn, keeping someone safe from harm can be harder
than it looks, and damage can come in unexpected forms.
This short story can
be read separately, as can each full-length novel in the Ryan Lock
series, but for readers following the books in order, the events
described here take place between the second book in the series,
Deadlock, and the third, Gridlock. See the book page of the website for all four books in order with links.
A little like Lock, I am incapable of doing things the easy way. I have wanted to write a short with my central characters for a long time now, but couldn't come up with a story that worked, and believe me I tried. It had to be something that worked for existing fans of the series and for new readers. Then I remembered the paragraph or two in Gridlock about why they happened to be in Los Angeles. In a few paragraphs near the start of that third book, I gave you a thumbnail of events, but did I? So that was my challenge writing this for readers of the series. I already told you the ending, but I didn't really. It took some careful reverse engineering but I hope I delivered.
And here's the opening chapter:
his hands tightening around her neck, choking off her air supply, and
leaving black shapes clouding her vision, Summer Clements was too
damn scared to think about the irony of being strangled to death by
her boyfriend. After all, this was precisely how their relationship
had started. The difference was that the first time they had been
She had met Jason
Durham on the set of a movie called Killing Dawn and their
first scene together had called for their characters to have a
blazing row, at the end of which he strangled her to death. Although
it took place near the end of the movie, for scheduling reasons it
had been their first time working together. The art house movie's
low-budget hadn't allowed for any rehearsal time and he had only
become available when a studio film he was due to shoot had fallen
through at the last second due to his drinking
problems. Now, six months later, with no crew standing around, or
cameras rolling to capture the moment for posterity, and no director
to call cut, it was happening for real.
The fingernails of
Jason's right hand dug deep into her neck and he squeezed harder,
pinning her against the wall. She could feel a breeze tumbling in
through the sliding glass doors of the beach house's lower deck, but
she was no longer sure whether the roar she could hear in her ears
came from the Pacific or the surge of her own blood.
Jason stared at
her, pupils pin prick black against the widescreen backdrop of the
lights of the Queen's necklace, the curve of coast that ran from
Point Dume in the north through Malibu and all way down to Rancho
Palos Verdes in the south.
Through the glass she saw the blinking red dots of airplanes taking
off from LAX, and she wished that she had been smart enough to listen
to her friends' advice and jump on one of them instead of taking his
word that he'd never lay a finger on her again, a promise that he'd
broken on two previous occasions.
This time had
started like the others. They had been out at a nightclub on the
Sunset Strip – Jason trying to do his best to convince the town
that he could still roll with young Hollywood even though he was
pushing fifty up a hill – and her saying hello to a young producer
she had worked with a few years back had led to Jason punching the
guy and them being asked to leave.
He had fallen into a
sullen silence for the rest of the drive north along Pacific Coast
Highway, which should have been warning enough. At the house she had
gone to get a drink from the bar.
“Do you want
one?” she asked him.
waiting for you to answer my question, Summer. Did you want to fuck
She knew what was
coming next. Her hand shook as she pulled a long stemmed wine glass
from one of the glass bar cabinets and poured herself some Pinot
Noir. That was one of the other habits she had picked up since
hooking up with Jason – a bottle of wine a night habit to chase
down the Ambien she took to get herself to sleep.
answering it because it's stupid. Okay, Jason? It's stupid. Too
stupid to give you an answer.” She took a slug of wine, thinking
this was it, she had finally had enough and no amount of bended knee
apologies or flowers or heartfelt love letters would change it. “How
many times, Jason? I'm with you but I'm not going be if you
keep behaving like this.”
She could see him
in the reflection of the glass bar cabinets as his eyebrows furrowed.
“If I behave like this? We're not talking about me here.
We're talking about you.”
He was off on a
tear now, his voice bouncing off the walls with that Australian
accent she had thought was so cute when they had met and that now had
the same effect on her as someone drawing their nails down a chalk
“Do you know how
many women I have throwing themselves at me every single time we go
She rolled her
eyes. “I said hello to the guy.”
“Sure you said
hello, but that wasn't what you meant.”
Maybe he would
sleep it off. She picked up her wine glass. “I'm going to bed.”
She walked around
the bar and towards the set of stairs on the far side of the duplex
which led to the master bedroom. As she passed him, he grabbed her
wrist. She tried to shake him off but his grip was too strong.
“I mean it. I'm
done talking about this, Jason.”
He froze, his eyes
closed. After what seemed like minutes but was probably only a few
seconds, he reached up and swiped at his face. “Well maybe I'm
His lips thinned,
his eyes opened, and she knew he had lost it. His let go of her wrist
and grabbed at her neck. She clawed and scratched at him as he
grabbed her with one hand around the throat, and pushed her towards
the wall. The more she tried to fight him off, the harder his grip
became until she couldn't breathe.
The black spots in her vision grew bigger and merged into a giant
When she came round
she was lying on the floor and he was sitting on the couch on the
opposite side of the room. His head was bowed and he was sobbing,
fingers kneading his scalp. “I'm so sorry. I
get jealous. I can't help it. You're so beautiful and I see guys
looking at you and I can't handle it.”
He got up and
started towards her. He reached down and helped her to her feet. She
was still too weak to do anything so she let him, but she knew she
had to get away from him, for good this time.
The new Ryan Lock thriller goes on sale August, 2nd. It will be available in hardback and e-book in the UK and paperback and e-book in the US. A Spanish language version will be available later in the year.
It was eight o’clock on
Friday evening and the bars and clubs that ran the length of State
Street were already filling up. Three frat boys wove an unsteady
path out of the James Joyce Irish bar, before collapsing in a
good-natured heap on the sidewalk where one of them grabbed his
two buddies in a fraternal headlock. Outside the Velvet Jones
nightclub, a bouncer carded two young co-eds, making a big show of
examining their no doubt fake IDs before unclipping the red
rope and letting them inside. He watched as they wiggled past
him and into the club.
Up and down the town’s
main party drag, the same scenes of mostly good-natured youthful
debauchery played themselves out, as they had done every year for
about as long as anyone in the wealthy California beach community
Charlie Mendez stood on
the corner of State and West Haley and surveyed the scene. He
plucked a fresh cigarette from the pack of Marlboro Reds tucked
into the rolled-up sleeve of his T-shirt, dug out a Cartier
lighter from the front pocket of his jeans and lit up. He
pulled the smoke deep into his lungs as he continued to scan the
street. A crowd of girls passed, one, a long- legged brunette,
turning to smile at him. Charlie gave her his best
California-surf-bum smile in return and ran a hand through his
thick mop of blond curls. She giggled and looked as if she was
about to say something to him, but her friend grabbed her elbow and
pulled her back along the street.
Charlie took out the
small digital camera he always carried with him for just such
opportunities and called after her, ‘Hey, beautiful! Smile!’
The cheesy line and the
picture-taking would have earned most men of Charlie’s age a raised
middle finger or a look of disgust, but Charlie wasn’t most men. In
his late teens and twenties, he had been good enough to work for a
time as a model in New York, and despite his lifestyle, his looks
were still merely faded rather than entirely departed. His hair
and teeth were perfect, and his face, beaten by sun, sand and
surf, was rugged.
The girl blushed,
whispering something to her friend, then walked on with the rest
of her group.
He gazed at the image
on the screen. She must have been startled by the tiny flash
because her eyes were closed. It gave him a shiver of anticipation
for what might come later.
These were the nights he
lived for. There were many things he loved about the town where he
had grown up, but perhaps none was greater than the opportunities
it afforded a man like him. Every year the seniors left, and every
year the freshmen arrived. The town was in a state of constant
transfusion and replenish- ment. But Charlie remained
constant. Watching. Waiting. Choosing his moment. Always ready to
add to his collection.
He glanced at his
wristwatch, a very un-surferlike five- thousand-dollar Rolex
Oyster Submariner. The night was young. He would go home and get
things ready. Then, around eleven, he would return to see what
the rest of the evening held for him. Tomorrow the students would
begin to drift away, and over the following few days Santa Barbara
would shift from college town to tourist town. The people who lived
in LA or San Francisco but kept summer homes in the area would
arrive. Couples. Families. None of them any use to him. They would
crowd the beach he surfed every morning and generally make his life
That meant he had to
make tonight count. He had to make it special. Tonight would
have to sustain him through the long, lonely months of
summer before fall semester when fresh meat arrived.
He turned and walked
back to his car, a low-slung red Aston Martin convertible. He jumped
into the driver’s seat, gunned the engine and took off, heading
northwards up the coast, eager to set the scene for what lay ahead.
Sixteen Months Later
Los Angeles, California
Heart pounding, Melissa
Warner pushed her way through the crush of bodies towards the
front of the stage. Almost directly above her, a sweet-faced black
kid, dressed in baggy jeans and an LA Lakers top, was singing
about bitches and hoes while two similarly attired DJs worked the
decks behind him. Either side of the rapper, a dozen female dancers,
in bondage gear and lingerie, gyrated in apparent ecstasy as the
words poured forth.
Y’all know that hoes
and bitches, They only after one thing.
Two spotlights zigzagged
across the mass of bodies filling the arena. The bass pounded so
hard from the speakers that Melissa could feel the floor beneath her
moving in time with it. The rapper grabbed his crotch with one hand,
and waved a roll of dollar bills in the other. The crowd of
mostly white suburban teenagers screamed and hollered their
endorsement of the lyrics. Lyrics that reduced their sisters and
mothers and girlfriends to what exactly? To prostitutes. To people
who served only one function. To pieces of meat. Stay focused, she
Remember why you’re
here. To find him.
Not that he had been an
easy man to locate. Far from it. But she had stayed doggedly on
his trail, ignoring everyone around her who had told her it would
be best if she let it go. And now her persistence was about to pay
off. He was close by. The man who would bring her justice and, with
it, the chance finally to move on with her life.
She scanned the
barrier, and the line of muscular, T-shirted security guards.
There was no sign of the man she was looking for. She pushed her way
to the side of the stage, ducking under flying elbows and pushing her
arms out, like a swimmer, to create gaps in the wall of flesh that
The press of bodies
against her made her feel sick and light- headed. She was gasping
for breath, but the air seemed to hold heat and moisture rather
than oxygen. Then, just as she was starting to worry that she
might pass out, she found a space and she was out of the crowd.
A lone security guard,
wearing a Triple-C tour shirt (it stood for Compton Clown Crew)
and a laminated picture ID hooked to a black silk lanyard, stood
next to the crush barrier. Beyond him, a wooden black ramp led
towards the backstage area. Melissa dug out her cell phone and
pulled up the only picture she had been able to find of the man.
She showed it to the security guard. He looked at it and shrugged.
‘Don’t know that
dude,’ he said.
‘But you must,’ she
pressed. ‘He’s in charge of security.’
‘Not here, he ain’t.’
‘No, I mean security
for the band.’
He gave another shrug.
‘I don’t know nothing about that.’
She stood on tiptoe and
tried to get a glimpse of the backstage area. The security guard
shifted his position, blocking her view. He had damp patches of
sweat blossoming under his arms. She caught a whiff of body odour
and her stomach churned.
‘You want to get
backstage, huh? I can arrange it. Get you in to see the artists too,’
he said, with a nod towards the stage. ‘Gonna cost you, though,’
he said, staring at her breasts.
She took a step back and
closed her eyes, trying desperately not to cry. If only he knew, she
thought. If only he knew what his leer- ing was doing to her. If only
he could experience a tenth of the pain she felt.
She opened her eyes, but
his attention was elsewhere now. He was on a walkie-talkie, barking
instructions and staring at the crowd.
She turned to see people
scattering in all directions. Music was still pouring from the
speakers but the rapper had stopped rapping and now he was at
the edge of the stage, one hand raised as if to calm the crowd. ‘Be
cool, people. Be cool out there.’
Following the security
guard’s gaze, Melissa could see panic taking hold as clusters of
concertgoers scrambled in all directions, a shoal of fish parting at
the approach of a predator.
She strained to get a
There must have been a
half-dozen of them: young, male and Hispanic, they wore blue hats
and bandannas – gang members. They pushed through the crowd,
throwing punches and kicking out at anyone within striking
distance. A kid, no more than seventeen, took a fist to the
face and went down. Three of the gang members swarmed him, kicking
him in the head and body, grabbing other people in the crowd to
steady themselves and give their blows more purchase.
At the edge of the group,
a lone gang member stood perfectly still and watched the beating
with cold detachment. He was smaller than the rest but he seemed
the most in control. He called to the three delivering the beating
and they stopped.
He raised his head and,
as he did, Melissa saw that it wasn’t a male after all. A young
girl had been leading the rampage. She looked around, perfectly
calm in the middle of the mêlée as, on stage, the group made
its retreat into the wings and security guards poured over the
barrier in a futile attempt to restore order.
The gang leader
glanced at the stage. Her gaze settled on Melissa and their
eyes met. She raised a hand and extended her index finger,
pointing Melissa out to the others.
In that moment, Melissa
knew this was no random event. They were here for a reason. As
she was here looking for him, so they were here looking for
her. She began to edge away until she felt the cold metal of the
crush barrier at her back.
Now the gang members were
shrugging off whatever resistance they were meeting, and starting to
move in her direction. Melissa felt a wave of terror wash over her
as the girl leading the gang lifted her T-shirt to reveal the dull
black handle of a gun.
The sight of it snapped
Melissa back to the present. She looked around for an escape route.
Twenty yards away, she saw it – a single-door fire exit.
She sprinted towards
it, not daring to look back. If she could get through the door, she
could reach the parking lot. If she could make it that far, she could
jump into her car, and get away.
Her quest abandoned,
Melissa Warner burst through the door and out into the warm Los
Angeles night. She had to stay alive long enough to find him. What
happened to her after that didn’t matter.
In his line of work,
Ryan Lock was constantly vigilant for two things. The first was
the absence of the normal: a security guard missing from his post,
a blank corner of an office, which had previously housed a
security camera, a silent junkyard normally patrolled by a
bad-tempered Dobermann. The second was the presence of the
abnormal, something strange and out of place: an unfamiliar car
appearing outside a school at pick-up time or a newly installed
manhole cover on a parade route.
That evening, as he
scanned the crowded hotel lobby, which was filled with revellers
attending the after-show party for his latest clients, a
double-platinum rap group called Triple-C, Lock spotted
something that fell, most definitely, into the second
category. Unnoticed by the rest of the partygoers, a young woman
stepped gingerly from the barrel of the gleaming gold revolving door
into the hotel lobby, and stopped, eyes darting around,
searching someone out.
In and of itself, her
arrival was hardly worthy of note. The defining feature of
Triple-C’s after-parties was the number of young women in
attendance. They tended, he had noted, to out- number the men by
at least six to one. But no one looked even vaguely like the
young woman walking through the press of bodies towards him.
For a start, their hair
was perfectly coiffed instead of damp and matted on their foreheads.
Their eyes sparkled with life, or excite- ment, or too much alcohol,
while this young woman’s were like a doll’s: black and
lifeless. And none of the other young women crowding the
lobby had blood pouring from her abdomen, running down her
legs and splashing, like thick scarlet raindrops, on to the hotel’s
white marble floor.
As she staggered across
the lobby, people fell silent. Cocktail glasses and champagne
flutes hung in suspended animation inches from lips. Eyes
widened in disbelief and horror. People stepped back,
unconsciously clearing a path, as the blood continued to pour
from her belly, leaving a trail on the marble.
As the silence washed
behind her, the only person to react was Lock. Taking off his jacket,
he half turned towards his best friend and business partner, the
six-foot-two African American marine Ty Johnson. ‘Get the guys
upstairs into the suite.’
There had been a
disturbance at that night’s concert, a series of brawls among the
crowd, possibly gang-related, and he was taking no chances. Ty did
as he was told, quickly marshalling the rap group and their
management towards a bank of elevators. Their movement punctured
the silence, and a babble of incompre- hension filled the void
as Lock went quickly to the young woman, reaching her in four long
Her shoulders were
hunched and she was shivering. She flinched visibly as Lock
reached out to her. He could see the pain pinching her face as he sat
her on a nearby couch as gently as he could, hushing her whimpers
with words of reassurance.
Blood was oozing through
a hole in her shirt and he could see where the fabric had charred.
A gunshot wound – clear as day. Just the one by the look of it.
He balled up his jacket and pushed it hard against the wound. She
screamed as he pressed, talking to her while he tried to staunch the
A male receptionist
had made his way over to them, lips puckered in apparent
displeasure at the sight of so much blood on his formerly pristine
marble floor – and now the designer couch. He nodded from the girl
to the door, indicating, Lock assumed, that she belonged outside.
He met the man’s eyes with a level gaze.
That was all it took.
Lock’s stare was frightening. He had blue eyes that burned with
rage at lives lost or taken.
The receptionist flushed
‘Call nine one one,’
Lock told him. ‘Tell them we have a gun- shot victim and she’s
As the receptionist ran,
Lock looked around the lobby at the last of the stragglers. There
was a knot of glamorous party girls in their twenties who had
backed against a wall. He shouted across the lobby, ‘Ladies,
check your bags and see if you can find me a tampon or a sanitary
They stared at him,
‘Check your purses,
goddamnit,’ he repeated, raising his voice. A willowy blonde in a
black cocktail dress pulled out a pack of tampons. ‘Will these do?’
‘Perfect. Bring them
here,’ he said, waving her over with his free hand.
She tottered towards him
on high heels, holding a still-wrapped tampon at arm’s length
between thumb and forefinger.
‘Take the wrapper off,’
Lock barked, ‘and see if you can find me some hand sanitizer.’
An Asian girl with the
group piped up, ‘I have some.’
‘Good. Let me have it.’
Lock turned back to the
victim. ‘Okay. I’m going to take the jacket away, and then I’m
going to have to take off your shirt so I can pack the wound. I’ll
be as gentle as I can but it’ll hurt.’
She looked up at him, her
eyes tracing the contours of his face, like a finger running over
a road map. Her pupils widened a fraction and life seemed to
return to them.
Up close, he could tell
that she was younger than she had first appeared. Nineteen. Maybe
twenty at a push. Her skin was pale and sallow. She had small,
delicate features, and bright green eyes. Her hair was a deep
chestnut brown, almost auburn.
Finally she nodded. He
looked at the blonde who had given him the tampon. ‘What’s
your name?’ he asked.
‘Ashley,’ said the
‘Okay, Ashley, I’m
going to need you to hold her jacket where it is for a moment.’
‘But I . . . the
blood . . . What if she, like, has something?’ Ashley
Lock fixed her with the
same gaze he’d used on the reception- ist. ‘If we don’t do
this, she is going to die right here in front of us. So, please,
just do as I asked.’
She complied. He cupped
his hands and the Asian girl pumped four squirts of sanitizer into
He rubbed it in. ‘Okay,
Ashley, you can move the jacket away now and give me that tampon.’
She did as she was told
and Lock began to peel away the cotton shirt from the edge of the
wound. It was maybe a half-inch in diameter, bad but not the worst
he’d seen. It looked as if the bullet had stayed inside – better
than there being an exit wound and two places to lose blood. He
pulled out the blue cord of the tampon and pressed the other end
into the wound. Almost immediately it began to expand as it absorbed
the blood, puffing out and filling the hole in the girl’s stomach.
Blood seeped from the edges of the wound but just moments before it
had been pouring out.
He glanced at the desk.
The receptionist had the phone at his ear. ‘They’re on their
way,’ he called.
‘How long?’ Lock
The receptionist went
back to the phone.
Lock worked the numbers.
Where had the girl been when she was shot and how long ago? Life or
death would be separated by seconds rather than minutes.
‘Mr Lock?’ she said,
tears welling in her eyes.
She knew his name. He
tried to place her. Had he met her before? He didn’t think
so, but something about her was familiar. Had she been at the
concert earlier, maybe at the stage door? Over the last month he had
seen some pretty elaborate stunts to grab Triple-C’s attention,
not to mention that evening’s near-riot.
‘You were looking for
me?’ he asked her.
Her chin fell on to
her chest. ‘They tried to stop me,’ she stuttered.
‘Who? Who tried to stop
‘He sent them. He
wants me to stop looking for him. But I won’t.’
The hairs rose on the
back of Lock’s neck. He scanned the crowd, which was slowly
drifting away, their backward glances a mix of disgust and
curiosity. No one stood out. No one appeared to be a threat.
‘Who?’ he asked her
gently. ‘Who does?’
Her lips started to form
a name but no sound came.
‘Is this person after
She shook her head, the
deadness settling back in her eyes. ‘You have to catch him.’
Lock’s patience was
fraying. ‘Whoever you are, whatever this is about, I’m not a cop.
I don’t catch people, I keep them safe.’
‘That’s why it has to
be you,’ she said.
‘Why what has to be
me?’ he asked.
‘The one who brings him
She was talking in
riddles. Every answer she gave led to more questions. ‘Bring who
‘Joe tried. But they
‘Joe? Is that the name
of the man you want me to find?’
‘It’s not fair. He
should be in prison for what he did.’
She stared at Lock and a
sudden intensity flared in her eyes, like the last burst of a
candle flame before the wind snuffs it out.
‘You’re my last
chance. If you don’t catch him and bring him back, they’re
going to kill me.’
Lock kept the pressure on
her wound as best he could. The fire was dying down. She was
blinking. If he didn’t keep her conscious, he would lose her
before they made it to a hospital. He had to keep her awake, and the
best way of doing that was to keep her talking. ‘Listen, let’s
start over, okay? Can you tell me your name?’
Her eyes focused. That
was good. ‘Melissa,’ she said.
A tiny victory. ‘Okay,
Melissa,’ he said. ‘I’m going to come with you to the hospital,
and on the way, I want you to tell me every- thing. But start at the
beginning. Can you do that for me, Melissa? Can you tell me your
story all the way through? If you do that, and I feel I can help
you, then I promise I will. Do we have a deal?’
Lock turned back to the
receptionist. ‘ETA?’ The man looked at him blankly.
‘How long until they
‘They said ten
Lock did the math. If the
EMS ambulance had deployed from the hospital, that would mean
at least another ten minutes. In twenty she’d be dead.
He scooped the girl
into his arms and ran for the door, struggling to stay on his
feet as his shoes slipped on the bloodied floor.
On Sunday at quarter to eight in the morning, my father died. He was at home with his family. He had been ill for some time but in his final days the deterioration was fast. We were extremely close and I am heartbroken that he's gone but hugely grateful that I had this man as my father.
His story is a remarkable one. Born in 1931 into a working class family, economic necessity meant that he had to leave school at fourteen to go and work as a laborer in the local saw mill. Hard, back breaking work for someone of that age but in those days there was no choice.
A job working as a checker on the railways followed and with it came a growing political awareness and involvement with the trade union movement. It was through the unions that he won a scholarship to Newbattle Abbey College to study under Edwin Muir before going on to Oxford, and Strathclyde, ultimately gaining his PhD and a teaching job at Stirling University. His first book, the seminal work, The Rousing of The Scottish Working Class, was published in 1979 but before then he had made a name for himself by being the only faculty member to support student opposition and occupation of the campus buildings in protest at a visit by the Queen. It was one moment, along with fighting hand to hand battles with the fascists when he lived in London, and being described in the House of Commons as being 'to the left of Lenin', that he was most proud of. His autobiography was entitled Making Trouble. He also blazed a trail when it came to documenting the history of working class women in Scotland with his book Women and Popular Struggles.
He was an international socialist with a strong love of his country. He hated totalitarianism in all its forms - state communism and Stalinism was as much despised as fascism. He saw a system of privilege and patronage and class bias around him that was deeply unfair and led to so much wasted talent.
JD as we called him, as well as Jim, Jimmy, and plain Dad, was a prolific scholar - producing dozens of books. He was still working on a new biography of Irish republican James Connolly until a few weeks before his death. My earliest memories are of waking to the sound of the flying keys of his manual typewriter. He wrote as he lived - boldly, and with passion, unwilling to be cowed and always ready to stand up for his family and those who had no one to stand up for them. He had made the decision early on in life that you could go for the easy option and live on your knees or stand on your feet. He stood on his feet. It cost him dearly at times but he never once complained about the consequences.
He was a remarkable man who has left a proud legacy. I loved him. I still do. I'll miss him every day.
The full Ryan Lock series is available for Kindle here:
These links will also take you to a page where you can link to print and in some cases the audio versions of the series. The Devil's Bounty (Lock 4) is out in August - links coming soon, including to Waterstones, WH Smith, Asda (Walmart) etc.
We now have an official release date for the fourth thriller featuring Ryan Lock and Ty Johnson. The Devil's Bounty will be released by Bantam/Transworld in hardcover in the UK, and will also be available internationally (with free shipping) here on the 2nd of August this year. The paperback of the third book, Gridlock, is slated for release on the 6th of July.
As with the rest of the series if you haven't read any of the other books then don't worry, you can jump straight in with this one. They all function as stand-alones.
This time, Lock and Ty travel south of the border in pursuit of a wealthy serial date-rapist who has skipped bail in California, and who is being sheltered by a powerful, and extremely violent Mexican drugs cartel. But, as with the other books in the series, all may not be as it first appears. As readers have come to expect there is lots of fast-paced action with plenty of twists and turns. And let me tell you, as a man used to protecting his Principal, Lock makes for one hell of a bounty hunter!
Okay, so that's the pitch. But what, as one of my old screenwriting teachers at Columbia used to ask, is it REALLY about?
For me, it became a book about violence against women, and beyond that about the reaction of society, and more generally men's reaction, to how women are treated. Like a number of crime writers recently, I am mining the epidemic of violence in the border area of Mexico, and more particularly the thousands of mostly young, working class women who have been abducted, raped and murdered in the area that Ed Viullamy calls Amexica. It's an area at the cutting edge of globalisation (i.e. somewhere multi-national companies can pay a Mexican worker a tenth of what they'd have to pay an American worker), a place where the murder rate dwarfs that of Kabul and Baghdad, a land convulsed by spasms of horror that show no sign of abating.
The research shocked me - especially some of the documentaries, including the graphic, City of Lost Girls. You can read the headlines in the newspapers but underneath are stories of unimaginable torment, especially for those families who have lost daughters and sisters. This isn't a Ugandan warlord who isn't even in Uganda anymore, this is right on America's doorstep, and it is arguably being driven by the seemingly ill-fated War on Drugs. It's unarguably being driven by America and the West's appetite for illegal narcotics. Crucially for the story, it's a part of the world where you have no idea who you can trust.
So, that's a little about The Devil's Bounty. Oh, and what does the title mean? Well, for that, you're gonna have to read it.