CRIME SUSPENSE THRILLER (Adult 18yrs+)
For those readers who love a contemporary crime suspense thriller adventure, we are excited to introduce you to THE SEVENTEEN COMMANDMENTS OF JIMMY SEPTEMBER by S.R. Wilsher. The reader’s discretion is advised and an 18yr+ reader is strongly recommended.
Author: S.R. Wilsher
Release Date: December 2013
Genre: Thriller suspense/crime, contemporary, adventure
Length: 264 pages
Warlord, ‘General’ Jimmy September believes he is a great soldier and teacher, destined to lead his people to a better future. In order to fund an upcoming war, he kidnaps five multi-national aid workers from a refugee camp in West Africa.
When the governments of the nationals involved refuse to pay a ransom, Mark Samuel, finance director and father to one of the hostages, misappropriates three million sterling of company funds to secure his son’s release.
As he battles his way through a hostile environment and unhelpful officialdom, struggling to hold on to the money long enough to save his son, Mark Samuel discovers a reason to succeed more important than securing his own future.
He noticed them the moment they stepped into the carriage. It wasn’t the clothes they wore, nor their age or skin colour, or even that they were noisy that drew his eye and kept it on them. It was the way they moved and the places where their hungry, agitated eyes settled.
It was early in the morning for the commuters clinging to the roof rails pretending not to notice the young men pushing past, late in the night for the edgy and chemically restless lads. Their voices were raised, their language coarse and threatening as they barged and glared. The uneven switching between laughter and abuse, unpredictable and irrational, created a palpable fear in the carriage.
The lead one was lean and rangy, stood in a way that made his teenage frame appear bigger, and with it was the sardonic half grin of a boy who thought of himself as more hunter than prey.
The first one was tugged back on his sleeve by the second youth, then the slightest of nods. The other two youths hung back by the doors. They were unsettled and twitchy, brought mildly to heel by the knowledge that they were still vulnerable to the rule of law.
The first two regarded their victim for the smallest of moments before stopping and separating. They positioned themselves either side of someone out of sight of the watching man.
Across the aisle of the bucketing carriage was a free length of rail, so he stepped across to see more clearly.
She was a young girl, no more than twenty with long brown hair tied back in a ponytail. Her clothes were clean, smart and new and on her lap was a large soft leather bag. She wore earphones connected to a mobile phone that preoccupied her.
He recognised their intention because he had nearly been like them; could pinpoint the day it had changed for him. The grazed knuckles and the terror he had put into someone else’s eyes had hollowed out his stomach and dumped from him the anger he had been toting for years.
That had been twenty-eight years ago and Mark Samuel was now forty-five. The boy he had once been had faded in his memory. Ruth always liked to claim she had saved him, but he’d already changed paths by the time he met her. She wouldn’t even have looked at his old self.
He wondered when it might happen and what he could do about it if it did: whether he was prepared to do anything when it did.
He did not consider himself a brave man, not in the same way that he had felt indestructible when he was their age. Yet he would have choked on the label of coward. If he’d been forced to choose one word to describe himself, and through his life he had tried many for size, he had reluctantly come to realise that there was only one that fitted properly now. He had become a careful man.
He had a careful job in a careful part of the world and had enjoyed a careful marriage that he had always imagined would take him through to a careful old age. Or he had at least until nine months ago when he and Ruth had agreed, with very little heat from his side, that they had gone as far as they were likely to ever go in their marriage and they had arranged their own careful divorce. He hadn’t wanted it, but neither had he worked very hard to avoid it.
The girl had put her mobile back into her bag and was looking at the underground map pasted to the curved roof. Was she preparing to get off? She didn’t seem aware she was being watched. Or she was behaving like everyone else in the carriage and pretending the young men didn’t exist.
The next stop came and the iconic roundels flashed by the windows as the train slowed rapidly. She looked at the signs, the youths looked at her and he looked at all of them.
Mark considered what he could do. He regretted the loss of youth, the certainty and the recklessness with which he would have once intervened. Now they wore the shield of invincibility, while experience had given him the frayed cloak of self-doubt. His middle-aged self was unlikely to come off best in a fight with four fit young men.
Now, he feared, he would most likely only have been able to prevent something happening to the girl if it had required an explanation of managing change in large organisations, or accounting in multi-nationals.
Yet it wasn’t enough for him to stand there and pretend he hadn’t seen. Too much to perhaps challenge them, enough maybe to lodge misgiving. They would act not think, and he too needed to do the same, to behave without too much thought because he could easily persuade himself to do nothing.
The girl didn’t stir as the train stopped. The restless youths swung between disinterest in her and over acknowledgment of each other. The woman who had been sat next to the girl rose from her seat. Mark knew that if he was going to do anything, it had to be before the girl got off the train, before the youths could get hold of her.
He stepped along the aisle, feeling self-conscious as he pushed himself into the centre of an event he had only been a spectator to moments before. He sat beside the girl. She did not look at him.
He had no words in his head to use. Each sentence he thought of would only scare her. The moment he told her what was happening she would react. She would look at the men, she would flee the train, or she would not believe him. He had no way of knowing how that might change things. There were too many variables for him to control, too many ways in which the situation might deteriorate.
She sensed his gaze and glanced at him. He tried his best fatherly expression and smiled at her. The look she threw back at him was short and unforgiving. She didn’t want him to invade her bubble.
Mark smiled again and pointed at her bag. He leaned away unthreateningly. The gesture made her reluctantly reach up and pull out one of her earphones.
“It’s my daughter’s birthday soon, I thought I might get her a bag, I wondered where you got yours.”
“Covent Garden,” she said unhelpfully. She had taken him from one pigeonhole and put him into another equally as unflattering, and her reply was terse as she looked away quickly.
He sat back in his seat and looked directly at the lead youth. He knew he had some advantages. As a careful man he was also unexcitable, rarely betraying his emotions. He knew how to convince someone he was more than he was. In more than one negotiation his ability to look someone in the eye and not cave in had worked in his favour.
He might be middle aged, and his joints might ache every morning and the man who could once run a hundred metres in well under eleven seconds may have perished but he knew that, despite his heightened awareness of his own vulnerability, on the outside he looked something else.
He thought of his daughter, the girl who had so valiantly claimed on his behalf that the running to fat was still muscle and had announced that the implacable version of his face that frightened her friends made her feel safe. She had only been half-joking and he had only been half-offended. He knew he looked stern even when he did not feel it.
So he stared back long enough to create uncertainty in the young men. He could see that they were wondering how this affected things. He looked at each in turn, for too long. In a bar it might have begun a fight, but he wanted them to know he had connected them, that he had recognised the reason for their sudden downturn in activity.
The first youth flexed his arms and shook his legs. It was a loosening, threatening gesture meant to convince Mark that he was in trouble.
Instead, Mark smiled and he saw the consternation on the opposing face. It was brinkmanship, no more no less. He hoped it was enough.
The train slowed for the next station. The girl stood and moved to the doors without looking anywhere but ahead, turned her back innocently on the scene. Mark stood with her. It was not his stop but he followed her anyway.
He passed within inches of the first youth. He was taller and wider than the youngster but he had dropped the smile, now was not the time for goading.
He saw the question on the face of one of the others waiting to be answered by the lead youth. They were unsure where this was going to go.
He watched for any sign of movement and, as he passed, he switched his gaze to their reflections in the blackened windows.
The youths watched him go and stayed on the train.
Mark sat on the platform and waited to resume his ride to work. He knew that what he had done was futile. He would not be there for the next victim they chose. Still, he felt he had been the best white knight a careful man could be.
The Seventeen Commandments of Jimmy September is my third book and was intended as a departure from what had gone before as I still searched for my own style and voice. After years of struggling with my two earlier stories, with rewrite after rewrite as I tried to interest agents, self-publishing allowed me to get them out of my system and move on.
With that departure I found that I actually liked trying different genres. So much so that book four, finished and resting, is different again. Not necessarily a good idea as it makes marketing problematic and confusing for buyers. But then, the beauty of self-publishing is the first person you can please is yourself. Also, I’ve never been very good at working out who I’m writing for anyway, vaguely imagining a reader not unlike myself, which is probably a very small demographic.
Jimmy September was intended as a pure adventure story, very much like the kind of tales that started me writing in the first place, and written in a much shorter space of time than the first two. This has allowed me to be more productive and, apart from those mentioned above, I am also working on a series of books for teens.
On a personal note, I am married with two children and live a few minutes’ walk from the beach in Dorset, England. The bulk of my career was in Sales Management, but this was cut short by the recession and compounded by the need for a kidney transplant. I now work as a Data Manager in Clinical Research. I’ve been writing all my adult life with my career and my writing each suffering as a result of the other. It’s only recently that I’ve stopped pretending about a salaried career.