Today I am super excited to bring you a Halloween special guest post from Jonathan Whitelaw author of Hellcorp
This is definitely one to check out!
Sometimes even the Devil deserves a break! Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime. But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…
Check it out on Amazon or if you have Kindle Unlimited download for free!
Halloween is a very magical time of the year. It’s when the real world and the supernatural combine to create this strange, exciting atmosphere that’s enjoyed by all ages. There’s literally something for everybody at Halloween. If you’re a young kid you can dress up like your favorite heroes. If you’re a student you can dress up and go out partying. If you’re an adult you can add a touch of class for some swanky Halloween themed ball. And if you’re a pensioner, you can turn out the lights and pretend you’re not home. Like I said, something for everyone.
As a writer though, Halloween has provided plenty of inspiration for my work over the years. Apt, then that my new novel – HellCorp – is about The Devil. Old Nick might want a holiday but things are never that simple for him. And when God challenges him to solve a murder, soon he’s up to his pitchfork in trouble.
The supernatural has always fascinated me and that’s one of the reasons I wrote HellCorp. I’ma huge fan of crime fiction but I’ve always felt that we’re running out of ideas for anti-heroes and cops on the edge. How many more times can we read or watch an alcoholic, workaholic, holic-o-holic? I resolved that if I was going to write a crime novel I wanted to put my own stamp on things. And that brought me back to my love of the supernatural and mythological.
The Devil, therefore, seemed like a perfect choice for a main character. While I was brought up in an agnostic household, I did get a broad education in all the religions of the world at school. I respect everybody who find solace and something from religious dedication and HellCorp is by no means a preachy book. But instead it’s an ode to my love of the mysterious and rich tapestry of cultural and social history of storytelling down through the ages.
It’s also quite a good laugh… at least so I’m told. The tricky part of having somebody as ghoulish and, well, devlish as a character like The Devil is that most people know who or what he is. So I really wanted to make him my own kind of Devil. He’s snarky, sarcastic and sadistic. But he’s also highly intelligent, strong moralled and determined. And the dialogue and scenes he shares with God are among my favourites in the novel.
Which brings me on to a particularly funny story I remember from writing the book. It was Halloween week and my now wife rang up as she was coming home from work. We both work full time, I juggle being a journlaist with being a full-time writer. But I’m normally home before her. This evening, as the dark nights drew in, there was a chill in the air as the Halloween spirit took a hold of us all. She called me and asked me to put the dinner on.
Now, in my defence, I maintain that I was gripped, enchanted if you will, by the aforementioned Halloween spirit. He had a stranglehold on me, so much so I didn’t think straight. My answer was
thus: “Sorry darling, I can’t put the dinner on. I’m writing dialogue between The Devil and God. They’re talking about the end of the world. Sorry.”
I should point out at this stage that my wife has the patience of a saint. She would have to to put up with me! And bless her, she didn’t shout, scream, bawl or divorce me – despite having very good reason not to. Instead she came home and cooked dinner for both of us. For the record, I’ve cooked dinner every night since the book was finished.
Above and beyond the jokular nature of that Halloween story, my wife has been a wonderful supporter of my writing. Both of my published novels are dedicated to her and there’s a reason. I wouldn’t be anywhere near to where I am today without her. So I think she forgave me… I think so anyway.
But enough of my blabbing. I’m sure I’ve bored you more than enough by now. I thought I’d end with a very short extract from HellCorp. It’s a scene with The Devil and Dr Jill Gideon – the human who helps him in his mortal investigations. He’s in human form, they’ve fled from the hospital where the good doctor works, and they’re getting to know each other. Have a happy Halloween!
“Come in, don’t mind the mess,” said Jill. She stepped through the door and started gathering up dirty towels and pairs of pants that were strewn along the hallway. The Devil followed her at a distance.
“My dear,” he said, wafting away the smell of damp from his face. “I was at the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah, the start of the flood, Woodstock in 69, 79, 89 and 94, although I did miss the 1999 version, spot of tummy trouble. Believe me, Gideon, whatever forsaken mess your flat is in I’ll be able to handle it…”
He trailed off as he entered the living room. In the centre of the room was a large, cast iron bathtub. Cardboard boxes were piled high within its chipped sides, books spilling out over the top like the froth of a pint of beer. The Devil caught himself staring and closed his mouth.
“I told you,” said Jill. “Don’t mind the mess.”
“What…” he pointed at the bath.
“Oh that, yeah, don’t mind that,” said Jill, skipping over to the bath. She threw the pile of dirty washing over the stack of boxes and books, trying to hide it. “Yeah, I’m going through a bit of a transition at the moment.”
“A transition?” The Devil scoffed. “It looks like a bomb of sadness and depression went off in here and wiped out the whole place.”
Jill sucked her lips and threw down the last of her towels. She took The Devil by the arm and forced him back into the hallway. She didn’t stop until they were in the kitchen, throwing him towards the windows.
“Steady on, would you,” said The Devil, rubbing his arm. “You know, you said I had a bad attitude. Maybe if you tidied up a bit here and there and didn’t shove people around, you wouldn’t be living with a bathtub in your living room. Did you ever think about that?”
She didn’t answer. She grabbed the kettle and filled it with water. When it had started to boil, she fetched two mugs and threw a teabag in both of them.
“I take it you drink tea,” she said.
“I’ve been known to,” said The Devil.
A sharp pain was racing through his jaw. The swelling was beginning to take shape, the whole lower left side of his face gradually getting bigger. His body hadn’t been made mortal for twelve hours and already it was in worse shape than it had been in twelve centuries. He cursed his luck and he cursed Him.
“We’ll have a cup of tea and then see to that,” she pointed at the blood patch in his gown.
“Shouldn’t you do that first,” he said. “I mean, I’m no doctor or anything, but this seems to be bleeding an awful lot.”
“How do you feel?” she asked.
“You mean apart from eternally pissed off, surrounded by all the worst aspects of creation and continually dumbfounded by humanity’s stupidity?”
“Apart from that,” she said.
“I’m actually in quite a bit of pain. Not that I talk about it of course.”
She stepped forward and took his face in her hands. She moved his head from side to side, tracing the swelling around the base of his jaw.
“I don’t think it’s broken,” she said. “Which is a minor miracle.”
“Ahem,” he coughed.
“Sorry. That wound though, in your side, it’s going to need more stitches and I don’t have any anaesthetic.”
“What else is new,” he groaned.
The kettle clicked, steam spewing from its spout. The Devil seemed a little surprised by this. He stepped over, cautiously, to the device and peered at himself in the chrome finish.
“You alright there?” she asked.
“No, I’m not,” he said, pulled the skin down from beneath his eyes.
He checked both cheeks, prodded at the swelling and bared his teeth. Finally, he let out a defeated sigh.
“Really, you would think He would give me something a bit more helpful to play with,” he said.
“What do you mean?” she asked, pouring the tea, she stirred in some milk and handed him a mug.
“This,” he pointed at his face. “It won’t do at all. Look at it, it’s all lopsided. I’m used to being handsome you know. Not like this, not like a shaved ape.”
“Beauty is only skin deep,” she said.
“Ha!” he snorted, taking his cup. “I assume this is still the same.”
He slurped quietly, raising his little finger as he did so. It took all of Jill’s effort not to laugh, her grunting causing him to level a look of suspicion at him.
“Are you alright there?” he asked suspiciously.
“Yes, fine,” she smiled.
“You know, if I wasn’t so blinded by agony, I’d say you were laughing at me.”
“Me, laughing? Not at all.”
“Well wipe that stupid bloody smirk off your face and sew me up.”
He stormed off into the living room, leaving her behind. She shook her head and left her tea. He was a demanding patient but not the worst she had ever had.
“I’m waiting!” he shouted.
“Alright, fine!” she yelled back. “Honest to god.”
“I thought I said I didn’t like you mentioning Him?”
“Yeah, something like that,” she fired back, pulling her doctor’s bag out of a cupboard near the door.
Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster.
After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste – with everything in between.
He’s also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC and STV.
HellCorp, from Urbane Publications, is his second novel following his debut, Morbid Relations.