A big welcome to the Blog Tour for Bang Bang, You’re Dead by Evan Baldock. This was quite a surprise Blog Tour as I hadn’t expected it. As you can see my name on the banner is my old Twitter name, I hope people can still find me.
I was planned for a review, but as I only had one day to read and many other plans that day, I couldn’t finish it, so look forward to the complete review soon. For now I have a small-ish review for you all as I read 20% already. I also copied the first chapter from the book so you all also have an excerpt to read. And of course, I managed to find some author information and book information.
THURSDAY 12TH NOVEMBER 1998
Gloria Jones peered through the November drizzle at the couple loitering in the shadow of a doorway across the road, and recognition dawned. She knew them. Drug users, and violent ones at that. She became immediately uneasy—only too aware that, at nine o’clock on a dark night, she would be an easy target for them.
The couple were both white, in their early twenties and as thin as stray cats. The doorway was littered with crack cans, used syringes, discarded cling-film wraps that had once contained crack cocaine or heroin; there was the smell of human excrement and small pools of urine. Luckily, they were busy, and oblivious to Gloria’s presence.
“Fucking hold on will you, I’ll get a decent vein in a minute,” the man shouted, his strong Scouse accent grating on Gloria.
His jeans and underpants were around his knees, while his girlfriend was yanking a tourniquet tight around his left thigh. In her left hand she was holding a syringe filled with light brown liquid.
“Here y’go,” she said, handing him the syringe. And, as she did, Gloria noticed a large weeping ulcer on the back of the woman’s wrist, which looked horribly infected. The man plunged the syringe into his groin, causing a thin spurt of blood to splash up the side wall. When he’d finished, he removed the syringe and handed it to his girlfriend, who injected the remainder of the contents into her left arm.
Gloria felt angry, physically sick and frightened. She’d witnessed similar things before, but none at such close quarters, and none so close to home. Unable to control herself, she exploded with fury.
“You disgusting animals! We have to live around here with your bloody mess!”
The girl span round to confront Gloria, her face contorted with anger, the veins standing out on her forehead. Her lank, greasy hair was dirty blonde, shoulder length, and parted in the middle. She held the syringe in her right hand like a dagger. A drip of blood from the end of the needle fell to the ground, and mixed with the rest of the mess.
“Piss off, you nosy old bitch! One more word and I’ll stick this in your fucking face!”
She stepped out of the doorway, towards Gloria.
Terrified, Gloria backed quickly away and ran the twenty metres to the front door of Robinson Court, the block of flats where she lived on New Compton Street. Her trembling hands fumbled to get the key into the lock of the communal door. Once safely inside, she pressed the call button for the lift, which took her up to her third-floor flat where she slammed the door, and felt relief flood over her; she was safe.
Making her way into the lounge, she turned on the electric fire and collapsed onto her favourite comfy green armchair. Gloria loved her small, comfortable flat in the heart of the West End where she had lived since her daughter had married and moved out; it was her refuge as well as her home. She looked around her, at the faces of her family smiling at her from the photographs on her mantelpiece, and instantly felt comforted.
This wasn’t Gloria’s first brush with local low-life. Two weeks previously she had been attacked at a cashpoint in nearby Charing Cross Road, when a man had grabbed her by the throat until she handed over the fifty pounds she’d just drawn out. She’d only just regained her confidence after that attack and felt grateful that she had managed to get away from trouble this time. Her heart thumping hard in her chest, she began to weep.
It’s not fair! she thought over and over. People shouldn’t have to live like this! I hate them! I really fucking hate them!
One hour, two cigarettes and three cups of tea later, Gloria was still furious, but had calmed down enough to phone her daughter Sandra, who lived with her family on a smart, new estate in Newcastle. She liked to keep in touch with her daughter; she had lost her son, a heroin addict, ten years previously, and her alcoholic husband shortly afterwards to liver failure.
“I’ve had enough Sandra! I’m fed up with the drug dealers and robbers round here.” Her voice shook. “I don’t feel safe walking the streets anymore. One of them threatened me with a syringe on my way home tonight.”
“Bloody hell, mum! Are you OK?”
“I was absolutely terrified! I hate them.”
“Calm down, Mum. At least you’re not hurt.”
“I just wish the police would do something. It’s getting worse and worse around here. Most people living on the streets are fine, but a few can be a nightmare. They don’t give a shit about anyone except themselves, and they’re getting more and more aggressive.”
She went quiet for a few seconds, before adding quietly, “I wish they were all dead,” her voice shaking with emotion.
“Come on, Mum. They’re still human beings, you don’t mean that.”
“Oh yes, I do! They’re not human beings, they’re the scum of the earth! If they were to all die tomorrow, no one would shed a tear round here.”
“That’s a terrible thing to say!”
Gloria knew her daughter was right. She drew a deep breath.
“I know, and there was a time I’d have hated myself for saying it. It’s funny, I never used to feel like this, but right now I mean every word.”
After ten minutes of getting her feelings off her chest and offloading them onto poor Sandra, Gloria felt much better. She said goodbye and hung up. It was late, and after her traumatic experience, she was looking forward to bed. Lighting up a cigarette, she stood next to the open lounge window. Gloria always did this when she smoked, no matter what the weather was like, no matter how cold it was. She hated the smell of cigarette smoke in the flat, and made a silent promise to herself to give up before her 65th birthday, in a few weeks’ time.
Leaning with one hand on the windowsill, she felt a small pool of condensation cooling her fingers, reminding her that the windows really needed replacing. Gloria’s flat looked out over St Giles Churchyard. To her right, she could see through to St Giles High Street, and to her left Phoenix Gardens, a small, pretty park. Gloria loved the view from her window. She knew how lucky she was to have trees and flowers to look out on, living in London’s West End. In recent months, though, it was all too often ruined by the sight of drug users gathering in groups, waiting for a dealer to arrive.
The regular huddle of users, rough sleepers and beggars were in their usual spot, about eighty metres away from the window where Gloria stood. Leaning forward to stub out her cigarette in an ashtray, a small flash of light caught Gloria’s eye to her right in the middle of the gathering, followed immediately by a loud crack that made her start. This had happened several times in the past couple of weeks with people setting off fireworks, especially bangers. Christ, bonfire night was a week ago, and they’re still mucking about.
But when she heard a girl scream, and a man shouting, Gloria peered more intently through the rain streaked glass. She could see people gathered around someone lying on the pavement. This wasn’t in itself unusual, because there were frequently heated arguments within the group, and scuffles often ended in violence. She’d seen it all many times before.
A shout went up: “Feds! Run!” A stocky black man wearing a dark baseball cap broke from the group and darted across the road toward an alleyway along the side of St Giles Church. As he entered it, the man temporarily disappeared from Gloria’s view behind buildings. Within seconds, two uniformed police officers ran across the street pursuing him. Looking across towards Phoenix Gardens, Gloria watched with bated breath, her eyes fixed on the other end of the alleyway. She knew there were two right angle turns in the alley, the first to the right, the second to the left, meaning he would have been briefly out of the officers’ view as he made those turns. Sure enough, the man hurtled out of the alleyway into Stacey Street, and Gloria thought she saw him lob something over a fence into an area of Phoenix Gardens that was closed off for repairs.
The police officers ran from the alleyway after him, and within seconds the chase had disappeared from her view, down towards Shaftesbury Avenue.
Gloria moved her nose slightly away from the window, as her breath was beginning to mist up the glass. Her mind was racing. Had she seen the man throw anything? If so, what could it have been? Drugs? A knife? Stolen property? She had no idea. It might have been nothing important at all. He could have just been throwing away something so that he could escape from the police faster: a bottle, a can of drink, anything. Thinking about it for a few minutes, she decided not to report what she’d seen to police that evening. She didn’t want to appear stupid or waste their time if the item turned out to be something perfectly innocent.
Continuing to scan the area for a few more minutes in case anything else happened, Gloria was interested to see that the police attention in St Giles High Street had caused the gathering to miraculously disappear. A wave of tiredness washed over her, and she closed the curtains before heading off to bed.