Hello one and all,
I’ve very pleased to announce that The Gamekeeper will be going live in paperback and digital on the 20th May 2019!
After many months of writing, rewriting, and rewriting again once the beta readers gave it a go, it’s nice to finally be able to see the finished product and get it into the hands of readers.
There will be an upcoming cover announcement (within a week or so), and, of course, some pictures of the finished book before it goes live. I’ll also be contacting those of you who very kindly beta read for me so I can get your free copies winged straight to your door.
For now, let me leave you with the opening:
The snow-covered woodland would have been almost Christmas card worthy if it were not for the dead body crumpled amid the leafless oak trees; a beacon in the ash-filled snow. It was not the first time I had seen a dead body, but it had been some time before I had seen an act quite so savage.
It was a man. He looked skywards with dull eyes, hands still clasped around his punctured stomach. I crouched and drew one limp hand away, his fingers already gnawed by the rats.
Rats. My stomach rumbled. I’d settle for rats right now.
The wounds were messy, a frantic stabbing if ever I had seen one. Whoever had done this wanted a quick kill.
My attention quickly turned to his jacket. It was a bright blue; hardly camouflaged, but it was waterproof and intact. The rest of his clothes were useless to me. His jumper was torn and bloodied by the blade which killed him, and his bowels had already voided into his trousers. I had smelt the poor bastard a mile away.
I quickly set about removing the jacket. I wrenched his arms around as I twisted it free, yanking it from underneath him and pushing him over in the snow. There was a time when the dead were respected, but that was the old world. Even the living were not respected much these days.
As I rolled the jacket up I noticed something in the snow. It was a wallet, a small leather square which must have fallen from his pocket as I rolled him over. I picked it up and flicked it open. It always amazed me how we still clasped on to anything sentimental, things that have no practical use, but even now we find ourselves unable to get rid of them.
A quick rummage through revealed a photo. It was well-thumbed, the edges torn and faded, but you could still make out the image. A glance at the pale face which now pressed into the snow revealed he was the man in the photo. A woman stood next to him, smiling, and a tiny baby was between their arms.
All dead now, undoubtedly.
A noise. The sound of wood snapping. I bundled the belongings into my rucksack and slung it over my shoulder. I scanned the treeline, looking for movement among the bare branches. I caught a glimpse of my watcher through the trees, a glimmer of movement giving them away. A deer.
A sigh of relief left my lips. Shame I’ve got nothing to get you with. Still, could be worse. Could be a human.
My heart still throbbed in my ears. I rose to my feet and brushed the snow off of my knees. There was still one last trap to check, and, hopefully, it had better news than the rest.
These grounds were unfamiliar territory for me. I had hoped that moving my traps out by a couple of miles might have helped catch some prey, but it appeared that the animals were not quite as numerous as I had hoped. There would barely be enough for myself to eat, let alone to trade with Community.
I traced my route with the markings I had carved into the trees with my old hunting knife, trudging through the ankle-deep snow as I went. From what I had counted, it was the eleventh winter since the plague had decimated the world, long enough for it to feel like the old world had not existed at all.
That’s not to say that there weren’t any reminders of the old world. The virulent cesspit cities had caused their inhabitants to flee, leaving them inhabited only by corpses. They were still there: London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, tombstones to a world that once was. Smaller habitations had grown in the countryside, but it would be a long time before man had a city once more. Of course, there were always the memories which dwelt in the depths of my mind, too.
A smile caught my lips when I saw the last trap. It was only a simple snare, but a rabbit was caught within, its body as still as the air. I bounded over to it, sending grey snow flying, and released its neck from the wire. It was not a large rabbit, but it was enough of a meal to mean I wouldn’t have to open a can tonight. I tied the limp body to my belt and set off home.
The rabbit bounced along merrily, seemingly pleased for me. As much as that one catch was good enough fortune, I could not help but turn my mind to the deer which had sneaked up on me. I had caught a couple in the past, more luck than anything. Usually, they stumbled into a snare, trapping their leg, and, once I returned to check on them the next morning, that made an easy kill.
Of course, there was that once when a wolf had beaten me to it. I rubbed my arm instinctively as if it could heal that old scar.
A voice broke my memories. It wasn’t loud, but in the quiet of the woodland it stuck out like a sore thumb. I pressed myself against a nearby tree and watched.
Further ahead, three people milled around. They were well bundled up against the cold, and well-armed. One carried a large piece of piping, the others carrying smaller blades. They were stood over the body I had found earlier, turning him over in the attempt to find something of value.
There was no way I could fight them all, and I doubted they were friendly; to assume such a thing these days would mean death. They stood chatting for a moment before one started pointing to something on the ground. My heart sank. The fresh snow showed them my tracks, betraying my earlier presence. If I had any luck, they would believe I was the killer and leave me alone. They talked among themselves for a moment, then decided to follow my tracks.
The Gamekeeper releases 20th May 2019, and will be available for pre-order shortly.