Disco Evil: Dead Man’s Stand

Dead Man's Stand is a horror fiction by Rod Marsden.Excerpt: Lightning bolts lit up the sky and there was the harsh sound of thunder. The sky was in various shades of red as if it had been bruised, even horribly beaten by the lightning. Only the moans coming from the ground drew Paul away from this spectacle. When he did look down, what he saw was even more disturbing.

There were heads on pikes. They were left-over from a great battle. The question now was: had they fallen in their ranks or had there been a grand sweep of the surrounding villages after the dust had settled? A wolf sniffed at one of the heads and moved on. It stopped at another to pee. They were female, these heads.

A wind got up blowing gravel everywhere until the red sky was dark with grey debris. Then the clouds of filth parted and the moon in its yellow fullness shone down on the carnage below with its muted, non-judgmental light.

There was an appropriate frigidity to the barren landscape. Some war had obviously ended and of the victors only Paul could be seen. But what had he won? Where were the other victors? Surely he could not have slaughtered so many all by himself. There were at least a thousand heads on spiky poles gathered around his position and none of their bodies were lying about. The heads were in neat clusters. Some dripped blood while others were past that sort of thing and turning blue.

“Forgive me!” cried a blond head with long flowing hair. He suspected the woman it had once belonged to had been tall, elegant and arrogant. Of course, now with fortune having gone so badly against her, she was anything but tall or elegant and even her arrogance was gone.

It was then Paul realized he had a shovel in his hands and there was no one with a complete body in shouting distance to say what he could or could not do with it. There was no one to stop him from smashing the talking head.

Then another head cried out: “Save me!” It was followed by a chorus of heads wanting the same thing. Their eyes followed him. It was a novel idea what they wanted but how do you save someone who is minus things like hands, arms, stomach, legs, and feet?

He moved on past the grim clusters without so much as a single word to them. Every once in a while his own eyes rested upon a particular face but he didn’t feel much like either hurting them more than they’d been hurt or, for that matter, rescuing them from a condition of fate they’d probably brought on themselves. He threw away the shovel.

The land was red but darker than the sky. There were patches of gray. It was without vegetation. Not a single tree stood. Yet in the distance there was something. It looked like more than just another collection of rotting skulls. Whatever it was it moved and he was attracted to the movement. The general stillness was making him uneasy.

He went down into a deep valley where there was a pool of brackish blood and up onto a gray knoll where the object that had caught his attention from afar was made clear under the rosy glow of nearby torch light.

It was a crucified woman decked out in white flowing robes. Like so many paintings that got it wrong, the nails went through her palms and into the wood. Miraculously, she was not able to free herself no matter how she struggled and her weight would not simply remove her from the overhead beam as gravity dictated. The nails in her feet completed the picture.

Her crimson hair rippled in the warm breeze as did what passed for her clothing. She had small breasts and long legs like a dancer. There was a spear up against her cross; she was trying to point to it with one of her fingers. Her breathing was labored. It was obvious she’d been crying.

“Please help me!” she begged. “Please!”

She wanted him to run her through with the spear to end her agony. He was tempted but could not comply. She was there for a reason and until he knew the reason he wasn’t about to act. For all he knew she was a criminal who was getting what she deserved.

“Ask whoever put you there,” he told her and left.

He wondered why he hadn’t done something for her the way he would have when he was a kid. Then it came to him that he liked her helplessness and her misery. Such helplessness and misery reflected his own or at least it reflected the way he had felt at various discos. For once someone else “one of them!” would not be saved. For once someone else who could have been brought back into the bosom of humanity wasn’t going to be and he was glad.

Paul came to a blacksmith’s establishment where a big man was pounding down on the skull of a rather stressed-out woman in her late teens. He was using a hammer made for making horseshoes. She was pleading for him to stop but with a pleasant smile he continued. Then he saw his audience and stopped to wipe sweat from his brow.

“Top of the morning to you,” he said to Paul as if he had been busy making footwear for horses and could do with a bit of a rest.

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Review(s)

Review by: Neil K. Henderson
Dear Rod,
Finally getting the chance to comment back on DISCO EVIL: DEADMAN’S STAND. Sorry for the delay, but I’ve been right up to my eyeballs – and to some extent still am – in finishing my Agamemnon McPhee project which as I said last time I hope to do for 09/09/09, since there are nine books, the last book has nine stories and the title of the last story ends with Nine. Well, here it is 06/09/09 and I’ve got two days to spare with only a few loose ends to check. This is a good time to pause and write to you. I must say, DISCO EVIL…certainly kept me entertained and helped me unwind in among editing sessions for HALIBUT! SANDWICH!, the aforementioned final book. The very fact that you have found a publisher is an incentive to me, as I’ve written my entire series without seeing a word in print. I recently had a disappointing brush with a vanity press, but escaped with just the tip of my bat-wing nicked by a star knife (all healed now).
You have certainly taken an interesting angle on vampire culture, with not only the uncompromising contemporary setting, but the “moral code” adhered to by your anti-hero. Indeed, the entire novel has a “both-sides-to-the-story” aspect which leaves one finally unable to take sides. As in life, no one is either all good or all bad. You make this point repeatedly, and stress the need for mutual understanding and cooperation. This indeed comes to pass not only between the Secret Compass and Rising Sun Group, but with Muslim and non-Muslim Australians. Some things take longer – I don’t think Miles Henry would ever have been able to sit down and chew the fat with Paul Priestly (deceased). This might even be an area you could explore in a future novel – some kind of attempt at reaching peaceful co-existence, via group discussion sessions and specially set-up blood banks (a bit like Methadone programmed for heroin addicts). Then again, it would need to be done in a way that protected the vamps from any kind of harmful religious overtones – while still making the living less appetizing.
I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed being transported around the globe for bat’s-eye view of human existence in recent and present times. I like the way you handled differing timescales, with life going on as normal in humanity while Paul  maintained eternal youth. The only fault I found with this was that it didn’t leave enough scope for in-depth vampire adventure on those travels. That’s an unavoidable problem, I suppose, since too much time spent with Paul would imbalance the structure of the novel. He did at least have some exciting near misses with the forces of Life and Order. I have to say, I didn’t fancy his chances with those MacLean fellas one bit. I haven’t actually spotted them myself, here in Knightswood, but I suspect that skirmish took place up near Lincoln Avenue – you’d need to be a nutter to go up there at night.
The private clinic paralleled a big private hospital in Clydebank – a town just outside Glasgow and bordering directly onto the northwest side (i.e. close to Knightswood). I think it’s actually funded by Middle Eastern interests. Your Knightswood version could be seen as a legally unobjectionable equivalent. Did you know the main library in Glasgow, and for the whole West of Scotland, is called the Mitchell Library? It’s a huge building with classical columns outside. I bet the vaults are deep too. We also have a Central Station, though I don’t think it’s built on a graveyard site. Then there’s Pitt Street, home of the Strathclyde Police headquarters. (Is your Pitt Street real, or did you name it after Ingrid?)
Anyway, I’ve had a ball reading your book. I found myself drawn into your fictional world and engaging with your characters in a way that says plenty for your descriptive skills. I hope you have great success with it, and that it leads the way for many more.
All the best,
Neil

Rating: 3 Cups
He vowed this would be the last time he stepped into the disco club, The Blue, but Paul Priestly never guessed how right and wrong he was. So many rejections can make a man do some crazy things, but when that man becomes a vampire, the world better stop and take notice.

Never one to take the easy route, Miles Henry becomes one of the elite undercover operatives for the Secret Compass. Their mission is to eradicate the vampire vermin from the earth. However, his mission is much more personal, and he vows to take out the one vampire who murdered his niece.

Paul admits to making a multitude of mistakes after his turning, but he cannot understand the personal vendetta the Secret Compass seems to have against him. He moves constantly to avoid their attacks, and over the span of many years, he circles the globe. The close calls happen with frightening frequency and still Paul manages to escape, much to the frustration of Miles and the Secret Compass. Miles knows his age is catching up with him, and if he cannot fulfill his personal vow, he can only pray that his great nephew will continue the fight.

Understanding and enjoying the axe that Paul has to grind against the jockettes of the world is just not quite happening for me. He seems to go off half-cocked most of the time, and it is hard to either feel sorry for him or have a sense of justice when he rids the world of nasty people. As for the majority of content in this book, world history seems to be the reigning theme, the detail of which is well researched and delivered with a true sense of imagination and knowledge.

Lototy
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More

Review by Lyn McConchie:
This is a nice little horror tale set in the era of Disco. In a way it reminds me of the growing sub-genre of taking a famous old novel (Jane Austen seems to be current favorite) and adding horror. In this case the author (an Australian) has taken disco and added vampires. The book is partly set in Australia as well, and it embodies all the themes of that country’s disco era.

I shouldn’t praise it too highly, unofficially I was one of the editors, because Rod, a long-time friend, asked me to look through it for obvious errors, and I did so. (What? pass up a chance to read a good book before it’s officially published and get the copy free? Never!) But friendship and unofficial involvement aside, this book is well written and a lot of fun to read.

The story starts in The Blue, a disco club, frequented by a most unpleasant woman who enjoys being that way. Paul enters the club and she sneers at him before another woman approaches. Paul thinks he’s going to get lucky and he is, depending on your definition of luck. He is about to become one of the undead and after that his life will never be the same.

Paul, having considering the possibilities, his past life, and some of its miseries, is setting out to change things. Not just his own life, but the lives and attitudes of a large number of other people. He is about to become a crusader, trying to impress decent behavior on those around him. A losing battle, but he is going to make an impression before it ends and he does.

A good read. And a word for the publisher, they did an excellent job, good layout and presentation, artwork, and the book binding. You could do worse than to go to their website and see what else they have available for sale.

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