Paul Crilley, a Scotsman who has been living in South Africa since the age of eight, has secured a two book publishing deal with Hodder, a major publisher within Hachette UK.
Crilley is an experienced scriptwriter, computer game writer and YA author with two fantasy and action-adventure series to his name. The two novels to be published by Hodder, however, will be different to his previous work. The novels are described as “a cross between Ben Aaronovitch and Lauren Beukes” and takes his fantasy writing in a new direction: crime.
Poison City – the first of the two books, set to be released in October next year – will be Crilley’s debut adult novel. In this book we are introduced to the brilliant world of Gideon “London” Tau, a detective (one might go so far as to call him a magician) in Durban, South Africa’s Delphic Division. (The South African Police Service’s supernatural police squad.) Tau is a man with a traumatic past that he channels into his job, and the day after he investigates a brutal murder, his beloved boss, Armitage, is also found dead – in the same horrific fashion. It will take all Tau has – including a demon in the form of a foul-mouthed, alcoholic talking dog and Armitage’s reanimated corpse – to solve the most baffling case of his career. And maybe save the world while he’s at it.
For this week’s Fiction Friday we give you an excerpt from Poison City, for a taste of Crilley’s riveting writing.
The first thing the dog does when I walk through the door is sniff the air and say, “You forgot the sherry, dipshit.”
He stares at me, the color of his eyes shifting between jaundiced yellow and soul-of-a-serial-killer black. He knows I hate that. It’s his lazy-ass way of saying, ‘You open that mouth it better be to say Sorry, dog. I’ll get right on it, dog.’
That’s how he insists on being referred to. Just ‘dog’, or ‘the dog’. I’ve tried giving him a name, but he’s not having it.
I drop the rucksack filled with bullets on the kitchen floor. “I’ll get it later,” I say. “Got stuff to do first.”
He growls, then whines and tilts his head to the side, trying to cover all possible responses to my failure to act as an enabler to his alcoholism.
I give him the middle finger.
“You know what?” he says. “I hate you.”
“Love you too, man.”
“Come on, London. You know I need my afternoon sherry. What’s so important you couldn’t stop at the liquor store and buy me a bottle? You got a date? Have you joined a cult? Is the circus in town? Tell me so I can laugh derisively in your face.”
I sigh. You know all those cute dogs in the movies you saw as a kid? Jock? Benji? Lassie? Well, the dog is nothing like that. He’s the complete opposite of that. He’s the dog equivalent of a pervert in a dirty raincoat, sucking meths through a loaf of bread while watching porn and cackling to himself.
But we’re used to each other. Kind of. And as long as I keep him stocked up on OBs, (Old Brown sherry – the cheapest, nastiest stuff on the market), he’s golden.
I pull out a stool, park myself at the kitchen counter. “We think we’ve found out who’s taking the kids.”
That shuts him up.
Someone has been stealing kids from the townships. Kids who haven’t gone through their naming ceremonies yet. Eleven in the past three months. The families went to ORCU – that’s the Occult Related Crimes Unit of the South African Police Force – and they in turn passed it on to Delphic Division. Because let’s face it, ORCU is a waste of space and the closest they’ve ever gotten to the supernatural is daring each other to say Candyman three times in front of the mirror. ORCU is the public face of the country’s supernatural police. Delphic Division is where the actual work gets done.
The families of the missing kids thought it was a tokoloshe, but I thought differently. That’s why I requested the case. The ages of the missing kids, the way they just… vanished into thin air…
It was them. It had to be.
After three years, they were getting back in the game. They thought it had all blown over, that they were forgotten.
But not by me.
Never by me.
“Come on,” snaps the dog. “You know my bladder can’t take this kind of suspense. Who’s the naughty thief stealing little kiddy-winks?”
The dog stares at me then erupts into wheezy laughter. Which in turn descends into a horrific coughing fit, making him sounding like an asthmatic coal miner with lung cancer.
“Seriously?” he says, when he finally gets his breath under control.
“Would never have pinned that on him. Didn’t think he had the imagination.”
Babalu-Aye is the orisha of disease and illness. (An orisha is what we call a Tier-One supernatural. The word is supposed to refer to the Yoruba gods, but over the years it’s become the catch-all term for anything… other: gods, demons, nature elementals, whatever. There are other Tiers below the orisha, but they’re the biggest pains in the arse.)
Everyone thinks of Babalu-Aye as this mild-mannered old god called upon by the sick to make them feel better. Only thing is, that’s not the whole story, because Babalu-Aye likes to cause disease as well. Which he does quite often, apparently.
“You know where he is?”
“And… what? You’re going to just walk in and take him on?”
“No choice. Another kid went missing yesterday. Might still be time to save him.”
“Doubt it,” says the dog cheerfully. “Come on. Forget it. Let’s go out drinking instead. Drinking is good. Hunting Gods is bad.”
“Can’t. The Gods are bad enough as it is. I’m not going to let him think he can just snatch kids whenever he feels like it. Let one get away with it, they all start getting ideas.”
“And tell me. Is this little escapade on the books or off?”
I hesitate. Delphic Division’s budget is being squeezed by pencil-pushers in Parliament, and my boss, Armitage, is under pressure to only take on ‘high-return’ cases. Whatever the hell that means.
But that doesn’t stop Armitage. Oh, no. She just surreptitiously passes me the case file, taps her nose, and tells me to, “Take care of it, there’s a good lad.”
Plausible deniability is just one of the super-fun phrases I’ve learned while working at Delphic Division.
But I don’t mind. Not this time. I’ve been waiting for this chance for three years now. It’s the only reason I stayed on at the Division, when it would have been a hell’ve a lot easier to just sink into the drink and let oblivion take me.
The dog plods forward and sniffs the rucksack at my feet. “What’s that smell?”
“Yeah? Well Tinkerbell’s got cancer or something, because that stinks like a match factory and a methane farm fucked each other and had ugly babies.”
I ignore him, reaching into the cupboard by my knees and pulling out my antique double-barrel sawn-off. It’s a thing of absolute beauty, filigreed and silver-plated. I won it in a game of poker with Mathew Hopkins, an utter psycho who started hunting witches in the 17th century. Last I heard he was still alive and doing his thing over in Russia.
I take a box of shotgun shells from the rucksack, crack open the gun, and slot two into place. I put the remaining six in my pockets.
The lead shot inside the shells has been removed and replaced with petrified dung balls courtesy of Aka Manah, a Zoroastrian demon who’s currently tenth in line for the throne of Hell. It’s Aka Manah’s job to take care of naughty demons down below. He’s Judge Dredd to their Mega-City One citizens, and every part of him can kill an Orisha.
Even his shit.
I really wish I had more shells, but at two thousand rand a pop, these have already destroyed my operational budget.
I shove the sawn-off inside the rucksack. There’s another box inside, this one filled with thrice-hexed 9mm silver-plated rounds. I slot them into the magazine of my Glock 17, shove the pistol into the back of my trousers and toss the leftover ammo back into the bag. There are a few other little surprises in there as well, but I’m hoping I won’t have to use them. They’re not exactly… low-key.
I turn my attention to the dog. “You coming?”
“What about the Covenant?” he says, giving it one last try. “You can’t just go around killing gods. Armitage should know fucking better than to even ask.”
He actually has a point there. The Covenant is the agreement made centuries ago between mankind and the Gods/monsters/Supers/Orishas/whatever-the-hell you want to call them. It runs along the same lines as Mutually Assured Destruction, where both sides know that if one faction kicks off the whole world will burn. There’s a book the size of a telephone directory filled with supernatural laws we’re all supposed to stick to.
The operative word here being supposed. If everyone obeyed the law I’d be out of a job.
“Just have to make sure I don’t get caught,” I say. “You coming or what?”
The dog sighs. “Got no choice, do I? If you die, who’s going to buy me my sherry?”
“That’s what I love about you, man. You’re all heart.”