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Gareth Spark's picture


By Gareth Spark in Arrest Us

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An American deserter with a crooked past takes on the underworld of bomb-ravaged London to avenge the murdered girl he loved.


Nick Sweeney's picture
Nick Sweeney June 18, 2014 - 5:06am

Good pacy story set in London in the Second World War amid the backdrop of bombing. The story marks a policeman's sometimes confused role in such circumstances, looking at an individual crime in a world full of overwhelming violence. Good characters, and the backstory for the two main ones makes them very plausible. I won't give any details, as it's so short I want to avoid spoilers, but the story shows that a lot of violence is mainly to do with male pride and notions of honour - very much among thieves in this case, though not in one another's interest for a change. 

EdVaughn's picture
EdVaughn from Louisville, Ky is reading a whole bunch of different stuff June 18, 2014 - 5:13pm

Great story, Gareth. Man, that first line was a good one, hooks you right in the eyeballs. You've got a great voice. Has a very old school noir style I thought. The story had somewhat of a slow burn pace, with an action packed ending. Good stuff, man. 

Liam Sweeny's picture
Liam Sweeny from Albany, NY is reading Country Hardball June 21, 2014 - 4:31am

Sweet story. Love the pace and the solid ending. Action-packed, but not all action. Great back-story on John Lee, not to give it away, but he's a strong character. Thumbs up from me!


guf's picture
guf June 22, 2014 - 9:03am

Hi Gareth,

Well done! I read this as a great "Foyle's War" episode. You end scenes skillfully with the ball in the air and the reader wanting more. The one point I stumbled on was the suggested time shift that seemed to stay in the story's present time. This section would have been clearer to me had it been its own paragraph:

He tried not to think of Jane, and failed again.
  They were making a run for it when the air-raid sirens screeched into life. Dixon had it all figured out; head west, get over to neutral Ireland somehow, then the world. Maybe not home, maybe not for a long time, but he didn't care so long as he had her. He was 30 years old fighting other men's wars, when all the time, he figured, he should have fought his own.

Who is the "you all" in "You all are late" immediately following? Suggests plural.

The ending bummed me out. I like that the hero didn't win, that felt appropriate, but the gloating pimp winning seemed wrong. I wanted Strathclyde to kill/arrest him somehow.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 23, 2014 - 3:10am

Nice. There were a couple of sentences that didn't quite work, but this is a tense and arresting story.

Tess Makovesky's picture
Tess Makovesky June 23, 2014 - 7:44am

I liked the historical background - World War 2 is a setting I haven't often seen used in noir stories before, oddly.  Also loved the way the American character 'sounded' different to the Brits.  The ending sent a shiver up my spine but worked perfectly for me - it is noir, after all!

Sonia Kilvington_2's picture
Sonia Kilvington_2 from I live in Cyprus from the UK originally is reading The Bird Eater - Ania Ahlborn June 26, 2014 - 8:31am

A veryery entertaining read! I enjoyed the style and pace, although it was the description which impressed me the most.

Gareth Spark's picture
Gareth Spark from Whitby is reading The Bayou Trilogy June 29, 2014 - 10:22am

Thanks for the great comments all. Looking forward to reading/commenting on a few stories myself once I get home from work (and have access to a PC!) Appreciate it all. Thanks!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 3, 2014 - 12:47am

You had me at bomb-ravaged London.
I love the setting, and I think London during the blitz has so many untold stories about it. There is so much nostalgia about the time, everybody talks of the blitz spirit, but it wasn’t like that. I’ve looked into crime during that era previously during my history studies, and it’s good to see someone use that backdrop as a story.

The only part where you really used artistic licence is in having Dixon drive through central London. Even at the height of the blitz, he’d have never been able to get through without being stopped, not into that area of London where the bombing was heaviest. With all the paranoia going through London about German spies, they were very careful.

The area you pick is interesting. You mention Bond, Wardour and Queen Streets in particular. The first two were relatively unscathed (from memory I think there was one bomb that fell on Old Bond Street), though Queen Street was peppered as it was so close to St Paul’s. Soho wasn’t badly hit. I’m impressed with the way you’ve picked a part of London that is instantly recognisable, and yet fits pretty well historically.

I’m a little torn on the change of perspectives. In such a short story we really don’t get to know either man well enough, and I just wonder if it would work better if written completely from Strathclyde’s point of view. Dixon’s love for Jane is a redeeming factor, but it would probably have more impact if we see his past first, leading up to that love. Keep Dixon more of a mystery, have him presented to the reader as bad man first, then slowly reveal he didn’t kill the woman he loved, and that he’s seeking revenge on the man who did. As it is the end switches perspectives and it’s a couple of muddied moments when you really want clarity.

Good story, and solid thumbs up from me.

Aidan Thorn's picture
Aidan Thorn July 6, 2014 - 1:57am

Another great story from you, Gareth. You set a scene like no other, using imagery that few would even think of and yet it paints the picture perfectly. From the first few paragraphs I was settling in ready for a novel to take shape, I think there's a great novel in this story. Reminded me a bit of Philip Kerr's WW2 noir - but with better writing.

Todd Morr's picture
Todd Morr from Colorado Springs CO is reading Notes From the Internet Apocalypse July 15, 2014 - 8:36pm

NIcely done. Great ending.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 26, 2014 - 12:02pm

Really great job. You did a nice job  describing the setting. This bit comes to mind

"Smoke consumed the eastern sky, rising from countless fiery homes and blood-wet streets."

Your style is well thought out and you have a very strong voice.

"Must have followed you, boy, must have trailed you in that blackout figuring to kill you in the raid and got scared or run off after he stuck that little girl. Left you alive John Lee and that'll be the biggest mistake he ever made." This part stuck out as having an exceptionally gritty noir feel to it.

I think you have some of the best handle on description I've seen so far, taking long, full descriptions and managing to keep them from being flowery or distracting. There are many passages that felt strong in this way to me.

I think that Dialect can be one of the hardest things to do well in a story and can really kill things if done incorrectly.  I knew almost immediately that you had intended for Pearl to have a Cockney, or northern English accent even before the "guv'nor"; in fact, you might not even need that bit.

Your ending is well done, but the shooting does come quickly and seems almost abrupt. I can't offer anything as critique. Very nicely done.