‘You died in April 1965, a month before your fifth birthday. You were probably dead long before Mum downed her third gin with Porky Rawlings.’
Seven year old Susan is alone with her younger brother when he dies of an overdose. The guilt informs the rest of her life. When it threatens to destroy not only her but her relationship with her baby, she must revisit her past to discover the truth. The outcome is as wonderful as it is horrific.
‘Don’t, Mark,’ I said as you grabbed Mum’s bottle of ‘sweets’, but you weren’t used to doing as you were told. She let you do whatever you wanted. Besides, you were too busy to listen to me. When you couldn’t unscrew the lid, you wrapped a tea-towel round it just like you had seen her do countless times before. I’ll never forget the look of triumph on your face when you finally got the top off.
‘Mum will be angry,’ I warned.
‘Don’t tell. Cross your heart and hope to die,’ you said. You were concentrating hard on removing the cotton wool stopper and tipping the pills into your hand. Too many for you to hold, you dropped some and watched as they skittered across the floor.
‘Ssch! That’s a bad word, Mark.’
‘Daddy says it,’ you replied, showing me your treasure. The sweets looked lemony, like they might taste of sherbet. Where was the harm? After all, Mum took them all the time and she was fine, sort of. Perhaps she said they’d make you ill because she wanted to keep them all for herself. I reached out to take one, my fingertips just brushing the smooth surface.
‘Dare you, Susan.’
‘No,’ I told you, standing back, knowing how cross Mum would be when she found out. ‘I’m not playing.’
I’d like to tell you what happened next but I can’t, Mark. Whatever it was, is hidden, masked by too many memories. It’s the reason I’m talking to you; I need you to help me discover what went on.
As I waited for Dad to come home, the only sound was the ticking of the clock, its black hands unstoppable, moving unstintingly around its hard, miserable face. I will never forget the exact moment he got home. The little hand was on the eight and the big hand just past the nine when I heard his key in the lock. Then I saw his face, which was one enormous gaping mouth when he spotted you on the floor and me curled up next to you, like a dog.
‘Mark’s asleep and he won’t wake up.’
‘What happened?’ he yelled from the hole in his face.
I wanted to tell him, I really did but the words were stuck. I pointed to Mum’s ‘sweets’ scattered across the scratched Linoleum like yellow polka dots. Fists clenched into weapons, eyes wild, Dad stood in the doorway, staring down at you. I had seen him angry many times but never like this. He ran over to you, looked like he was going to kneel down but then walked away. He paced the room, his eyes on you the whole time. I started crying, begging him to do something to wake you up.
‘Shut-up!’ he cried dashing into the hall. I thought he was phoning for help but I didn’t hear him speak to anyone. After what felt like forever, he came back and flung himself down beside you, forcing his fingers into your mouth. When he brought them out they were covered in slime. He wiped the stuff on his trousers, then pinched your tiny nose between his thumb and forefinger and put his mouth over yours, like he was about to give you a kiss. You still didn’t wake up and I watched in horror as he placed his massive hands on you, completely covering your chest, pushing down gently at first but when you didn’t open your eyes, pumping harder and harder, faster and faster.
‘Don’t!’ I screamed running over to try to pull him off you. ‘You’ll hurt him.’
‘He swatted me away and put his ear to your chest. Nothing. Silence. More silence than I had ever heard.
Advertising copywriter, comedy writer, performer, lecturer – Joan Ellis has been them all. With a full-time job in a top London advertising agency and a new baby, she did what any right-minded woman would’ve done and set up a comedy club. She even appeared on the same bill as Jo Brand. Once.
A career highlight was casting a black and white moggie as Humphrey Bogart for her award-winning cat food commercial. Other great performers who brought her words to life include Penelope Keith and Harry Enfield.
As a lecturer, Joan taught comedian Noel Fielding all he knows about advertising before encouraging him to showcase his creative talents on a wider stage.
Working for The Press Association, she tutored Wordsworth’s great-grandson in the art of copywriting: Buy a host of golden daffodils and get a blue one, free!
Suffering from swine flu and sweating like a pig, she moved from London to the Isle of Wight where she lives on cream teas with her beloved husband, daughter and two cats.
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Website THE CRIMINAL MIND BEHIND MY KILLER THRILLERS There I was happily writing chick lit when along came a killer who turned me into a thriller writer.
It took a murderer on a train just ninety minutes to make me switch genres. Ninety minutes of being subjected to his take on being in prison. Ninety minutes of enduring all the grisly details of the crime that put him behind bars and ninety minutes of the barbarism that kept him under lock and key for far longer than his original sentence.
I didn’t dare move for fear he’d pull a knife on me.
When he finally got off the train, I sat there stunned, feeling defiled and dirty. I hadn’t asked to hear his sordid tales but he’d told me all the same. Having listened to them, his words were engrained on my brain.
Meet Ben from my first psychological thriller: THE KILLING OF MUMMY’S BOY. He wore the badge of convicted criminal with pride. Ruthless, terrifying and amoral, no one could accuse him of being boring. What better character for a novel? In a heartbeat, I’d crossed to the dark side, the more I wrote, the more hooked I became on every twist and turn.
Having written one thriller and loved every minute, I couldn’t wait to start the next. The plot for GUILT quickly took hold as I began to explore this toxic emotion. Like a nauseous gas, it seeps into every crack, destroying lives. Such power, yet it only exists in people’s minds where it passes it from person to person like an infectious disease, with no one willing to take the blame.
GUILT is one woman’s attempt to get the better of it and see off the feelings of shame that dogged her life since the death of her younger brother.
GUILT explores a side to human nature that is uncomfortable to confront yet lurks below the surface: the evil, the cruel and the wicked. Yet, no matter how bad the crime, there is always the possibility for hope and redemption.
Win one of five copies of The Killing of Mummy’s Boy (pdf) or a $12 Amazon gift card! Six winners. Open WW. Enter 2/16/15 – 3/16/15.