Exclusive extract from SR Wilsher’s novel, ‘Mint’

August 15th 1976

The daylight is ending as I return to the shop, the dregs of the sun in the top windows of the taller building opposite. I let myself in with the key handed back to me with my personal belongings yesterday. A brown-box time capsule, too big for my belongings. My watch, the keys, and a couple of pounds in loose change. I have the clothes I’m standing in, and my life in my pocket.

I’m surprised the key fits. My life had changed so little in prison, it left me imagining the rest of the world spinning away from me. In reality, not much has altered here either.

I expect an empty shop; the rolls of cloth sold, the buttons lost, the shop fittings looted. Brace myself for dust and dirt and the death of this place an equivalence of my mother. Instead, it manages to rescue what little light is hanging around at this hour to shine with the electric rainbow of brilliant material stacked with clashing disregard. From floor to ceiling, the shelves hold the history of her life here. She floated around the rest of the building like she didn’t quite fit, yet her feet anchored themselves here. She had lifted the rolls deftly without concern for their bulk, rolled and worked on the cutting table with swift confidence. When I was small, I liked to come here and sit on the stool behind the counter while the shop lived its life. Or I had until the teenage world called and I ceded the seat to Sam.

The wooden till drawer under the counter is empty.

The kitchen in the ground floor wing on the back of the building is small and basic. It exists behind the curtain of the shop theatre, and has therefore been accorded less attention. It had once been my favourite space, so much had gone on here. Long talks and raucous laughter. The cold, damp bathroom beyond the kitchen remains my least favourite place.

The cream enamel oven is a freestanding unit she bought on tick, cheerfully tripping to the Gas office once a month to make the hire purchase payment and get her book stamped. A rectangle of fifteen red quarry tiles is set on the floor in front of it. I’m better able to imagine the glass dish she once dropped and smashed than to picture her kneeling on the floor with her head inside trying to bring her life to an end. Any image of her refuses to form.

I fill the steel kettle from the cold tap hanging from the wall above the square sink and plug it in. The cutlery, crockery, and the coffee are in their place. There’s little in the fridge, and what’s there has turned. I empty the milk into the sink and the food into the bin.

I go upstairs to the other place we congregated, the small corner on the first-floor landing with the ragged sofa in front of the spindly-legged television. I recall her watching the old black and white whilst sitting amongst a mound of sewing. A newer colour television sits outside of her room in front of the now more-ragged sofa.

We had come and gone from here as a family, while the layout prevented us living as such.

Her bedroom is shadowed yellow from a sun at dusk sky, and I turn on the weak ceiling bulb. The room is unchanged. The familiar big flowered wallpaper, and the vaguely complementary pulled taut orange candlewick bedspread. The faded-lime carpet had been old when I was a child. A dress and a coat on hangars are hooked over the wardrobe door, open because it’s overfull. An emerald green dress lies across the foot of the bed, as if she selected it for her own laying out. The dressing table is as cluttered as I remembered. The room as if she stepped out moments ago.

The suitcase on top of her wardrobe contains the clothes I left behind. Only clothes. I told her to get rid of everything else. Fresh starts demand such decisions, and she promised. She understood my life hadn’t been one of sentiment.

Lara’s bedroom on the back of the house overlooks the neighbours’ shadowed rear yards. What’s left of the daylight helps make out the neat flower borders of the wool shop, and the stacked marble and granite of the Stonemason’s. Beyond, is an enclosed wasteland of tufted grass, mounded mud, and broken concrete. A dangerous playground, or potential money-spinner? The reason Freeman wants the shop.

On her bedside table an open book lies face down. Crossing the Water. On the plain white wall above the bed is pinned a film poster of The Exorcist. On the adjacent inner wall an Aladdin Sane poster partially covers a Bay City Rollers one. The shift from unembarrassed child to self-conscious teen. The single wardrobe holds some clothes. This room is less occupied than the other.

Her record player is on the floor beneath the window. Half a dozen albums lean against the wall, kept in place by a small tower of 45’s. On the turntable is a warped and dusty Chi-Lites single. I close the lid to prevent more dust spoiling the machine.

I don’t go into the windowless attic room, taking it all in from the doorway. I try not to see the small access door to the eaves, but I can’t not. It’s occupied my mind for too many years.

It’s Sam’s room now. With the ceiling too steeply pitched for a wardrobe, the furniture is a chest of drawers poorly painted in purple, and an unmade mattress on the floor. Above the dresser are a few ragged images badly torn from magazines; A Clockwork Orange, Slade, Roxy Music. The walls are time-spoiled white, the inner wall half painted in a deep red gloss. The manic brushstrokes peter out halfway to the door, as if whoever has ill-preparedly run out of paint, or grown bored with the effort. Either likely with Sam.

I choose Lara’s bed. The least poor choice. I like the block of darkness of the huge furniture store in the street beyond the open land. A high plain wall not unlike the outer bulwark of a prison. I appreciate the absence of noise. Freedom has vanquished the night shouts and the background hysterics of incensed men.

I leave the curtains, allowing the poor light from a small-town to channel across the backyards and into the room. I open the window onto the sultry night. The heady build of heat through a long dry summer has made rain a stranger, and I long for its return, ache for a refreshing downpour.

The empty drawers in Sam’s room, and the missing clothes from this one, suggests they’ve moved out. I presume the absence of life means they’re with their father.

I’d spent nine years among the vilest of men. Yet I’d never experienced the level of terror in prison that had been generated by the man I’d grown up with. A man worse than any of them. Coming home means facing him. I’ll go in the morning.

You can read a review of SR Wilsher’s novel ‘Mint’ here

Beverley Learns to Type

EXCLUSIVE EXTRACT FROM MINE by Alison Knight

You can read a review of ‘Mine’ by Alison Knight here: https://pajnewman.com/?p=497

In this scene, Jack comes home from work to find his teenage daughter, Beverley, teaching herself to type. She’s an unmarried mother to baby Kerry and is already finding full-time parenting difficult. She decides to look for a job. After all, her mother goes out at work, so why can’t she?

On Friday afternoon, Jack let himself into the house and whistled. The only response was a soft tap-tapping from the kitchen. 

            He walked down the passage and opened the door. Bev was sitting at the kitchen table with Lily’s old typewriter, a book open beside her. She was looking at the book and typing, a frown of concentration on her face.

            “Hallo, love.”

            She jumped a mile.

            “Shit!” she yelped. “Don’t do that!”

            “What? Walk into me own kitchen? What you doing?”

            “Baking a cake, what does it look like?”

            “Then you’re a lousy cook,” he grinned.

            Bev giggled. Jack knew she could never resist her old dad’s jokes.

            “Any danger of a cuppa?”

            She rolled her eyes and got up to put the kettle on.

            “Where’s the baby?”

            “Upstairs in her cot. She finally decided she was tired.”

            He walked round the table and looked at the paper in the machine.

            The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick btrim

            “What’s a b-t-r-i-m?”

            “It’s an old man what sneaks up on you.”

            “Ah, I thought so.” He sat down. “So, you’re learning to type?”

            “Yeah. I’m using Mum’s old book. It’s easy. Or it was till you scared the living daylights out of me.”

            He held up his hands. “Sorry, love. So, how long’s this been going on?”

            She shrugged. “Not long. I got bored, so thought I might as well do something useful.”

            “Something useful, eh? Like doing some housework to help your mum out?”

            She leant against the sink and gave him a look, just like Lily. What was it about his girls and those stroppy looks?

“Something useful for me,” she said. “So I can get a job.”

            He frowned. “There’s plenty of time for that. You’ve got Kerry to think of first.”

            Bev huffed and turned away, spooning tea into the pot, muttering to herself.

‘The Lie She Told’ – Exclusive Extract for PAJNewman

Courtesy of Catherine Yaffe, PAJNewman is delighted to be able to bring you an exclusive extract of The Lie She Told – You can read a review of the novel here

All Kate wanted was a peaceful life.

All Ryan wanted to do was destroy it.

Kate and her son Joe have created a new life for themselves in the Highlands of Scotland and she couldn’t be happier. That is until she picks a stranger up from the side of the road that turns out to be a figure from her past. Will all her secrets be revealed?

“Ryan?” She asked, risking a glance sideways

“Haha, I wondered when it would dawn on you”

“What the hell..how..” Kate was speechless. She’d last seen Ryan on the final day of the court hearing, hanging around outside on the court steps. As memories slowly clicked into place she went through a series of emotions. Her hands started to shake, heart pounding she moved from recognition to anger in a split second.

She swerved violently and pulled haphazardly onto the side of the road.

“What the actual? What are you doing here?” she removed her seatbelt and despite the lashing rain opened the car door and got out.

“Get out of my car now!” she yelled above the cacophony noise that swirled around the hills of the Highlands.

Ryan leaned over into the driver seat and shouted something, but Kate could only see red as rage, shock and fear took over.  

“I want you out of my car now!” she screamed again, shaking with anger.

Reluctantly Ryan did as she demanded and stepped into the monsoon,

“Kate, come on, don’t be like that”, he headed around the front of the car towards her.

She backed away,

“Oh no you don’t, stay away from me Ryan”

Ryan carried on forward, relentless, “Kate, what’s wrong with you?”

“Stop it Ryan, I don’t have to listen to anyone, anymore. I am not the same naive victim that you knew back then, and I will not listen to your bullshit”

Purchase Links 

UK –https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lie-She-Told-peaceful-destroy-ebook/dp/B08BPJCV77

US – https://www.amazon.com/Lie-She-Told-peaceful-destroy-ebook/dp/B08BPJCV77

Author Bio – 

Catherine Yaffe is a former freelance journalist, magazine editor and digital marketing agency owner. Catherine has previously written non-fiction books on Digital Marketing before following her passion for writing crime novels full time.

The Lie She Told is the first in a series of books that challenge the status quo of relationships and makes the reader question how well you know those around you.

Catherine lives in West Yorkshire with her husband Mark and their 2 cats Jenson & Button (she’s also a F1 fan!)

Social Media Links – 

@catherineyaffe (Twitter)

https://www.facebook.com/CatherineYaffeAuthor

Instagram cat_yaffe_author

www.catherineyaffe.co.uk