Dead in Time
ISBN (ebook): 978-1-907623-11-0
ISBN (paperback): 978-1-907623-44-8
Kindle ASIN: B004OL2XM4
Length: 480pp / 132,000 words
cover art by Anna Reith
Dead in Time is available in paperback from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and by ISBN order from your local bookstore.
The ebook edition is available from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Omnilit.com, Smashwords.com, and other good distributors.
“…filled with sharp observations and humour”
Glam rock star Damon Brent was riding high when he died: fame, fortune… like, the works, baby. But, despite what the papers said, his death was no accident. Thirty years on, Damon’s back, and he was murdered – or so he says.
Ellis Ross, daughter of Damon’s biggest fan, is busy trying to finish her dissertation. She doesn’t need to find a dead pop star in lurex pants chain-smoking on her window seat.
Of course, it’s funny what life’ll throw at you.
Damon wants Ellis to find out exactly who killed him and, as she quickly discovers, when you’re being haunted by a man wearing more eyeliner than you are, it’s hard to say no.
As the unlikely sleuth delves into years of secrets, grudges, and broken dreams, Ellis finds almost everyone from Damon’s past has something to hide… and he’s not exactly being honest with her, either. But, when they start to close in on the truth, Ellis realises she may be risking much more than just her sanity.
No idea what glam rock is? I blogged: Er… glam what?
An Excerpt from:
DEAD IN TIME
© Anna Reith. All rights reserved.
Stretching, I yawned and wondered if it would be worth going to bed. The stereo whirred faintly, slipping another CD into place. I blinked, briefly confused, because I hadn’t expected anything else in the playlist. The confusion turned to surprise as a heavy four-four drum intro echoed out of the speakers, split by a tight, wailing guitar in the third beat. When the hell had I put that in there?
I recognised it, even before a voice—a light, agile tenor, dripping with the imperious sex appeal of black leather trousers—curled into the room, working over a hard, fat blues in E.
Got me gunnin’ for ya baby, / Got you in my eyes tonight
Down at heel, on my wheel, / Girl we gonna make it right
I smiled to myself. The title track from Brother Rush’s Rush On Love album of 1975. The disc was an expanded edition, part of a boxed set that I’d bought for Mum, a gesture of reconciliation after years of mocking her taste in music.
A true child of the revolution, she’d been a glam kid all the way, littering my own childhood memories with twangy glitter guitars, primal four-four rhythms, and kitschy vocals that didn’t need to make sense. Good honest rock and roll, she’d called it, and she had danced around the house, dusting, vacuuming, cooking, all to the strains of T. Rex, Suzi Quatro, Slade, and Alice Cooper. While other kids’ mums doted on inoffensive, cardigan-wearing crooners as an early sign of menopausal mayhem, my sister Becky and I had a parent who still treasured mementos from the Marquee Club and laughed at all the in-jokes in films like Velvet Goldmine.
But Brother Rush… oh, how she’d adored those four shaggy-haired boys from Bermondsey! When I was small and my sister had gone out to school or Guides or some such thing from which age or chronic shyness precluded me, Mum and I had danced our way together through such classics as Saturday Loving, Darby & Joan, and Sit Tight, Baby. As I grew, I found it embarrassing, then cringeworthy—but funny in an ironic and post-modern kind of way—and, eventually, I grew old enough to enjoy being a child.
Mum didn’t dance anymore by then. But, when the boxed set came out, I’d bought it for her, even though she still owned all her vinyl. She unwrapped the package during a sit-down birthday meal in the Cricketer’s Rest near Thorley and touched the cover art like the cheek of an old friend. She drank two gin and tonics with her steak and ale pie and told my sister and me about the day Damon Brent died. Even then it made her cry… although that could have been the gin mixing with her pills.
The day it happened, she said, she’d met up early with our Auntie Jan and Auntie Gail (whose kinship was purely honorific, but who’d been in our lives since we were in knitted booties just the same). During that long, hot, anarchic summer of ’76, everything smacked just a little of sex and violence, though the majority of it seemed to bypass East Hertfordshire’s pretty villages and quaint market towns. Mum, Jan, and Gail had planned on a swim at the new Grange Paddocks pool, then maybe some shopping before drifting off to their various part-time jobs in the local boutiques and, in Gail’s case, the Cecil Rhodes museum.
They caught the announcement on the news, Mum said, on a twenty-two inch screen in the window of Jerry Dickson’s TV & Radio Hire (in Medlar Lane, just off the High Street, as was), as they crossed the road on their way up to the sports centre.
She said it took less than twenty minutes to get home at a run and, though Granddad never approved of modern music in general, and men with hair below their ears in particular, parental arguments and work commitments alike got swept aside with the full force of inconsolable, desperate teenage tears. The three of them leapt aboard the train from Bishop’s Stortford within the hour, more or less, and by half past four that afternoon, they’d become part of the throng that flowed into Gloucester station. People, mostly girls, pooled for taxis, buses or sympathetic local drivers to take them to the hamlet of Rodley and the renovated sloop captain’s house with electric gates that lay between it and a muddy, shallow strip of the Severn.
The TV reports soon showed drifts of limp flowers and pale faces, clustered in silent despair at the end of the driveway. Mum said the most striking thing was the quiet. Even when the rain came, a real downpour, the first breakthrough rainfall of that drought year, they never really noticed it, just standing, watching the cars come and go, uniformed officers redundant in the damp stillness and the blue lights of panda cars reflecting in puddles.
At least, that’s how she told it.
Brent had been idolised enough—and the transport, in those years of three-day weeks and power cuts, was bad enough—for the vigil to last days, with more people arriving well into the night. By dusk, Mum said the rock star death reportage, moving from full flow to torrent, was suggesting Brent had died in his bathroom, encouraging the assumption that a drug binge had ended finally and messily on the tiles.
CROAKED BY COKE? DAMON BRENT DRUG DEATH HORROR!
The Sun proclaimed by the evening edition, although they later apologised and retracted the allegation. The Times carried a discreet four-line obituary on page five, and even The Express took a day off from their anti-immigration bashing of the ‘4-star Malawi Asians’ to run a condescending opinion piece or two. Mum and Auntie Jan had all the cuttings, carefully pasted into the sad final pages of their Damon Brent scrapbook.
The initial shock of it all was soon subsumed by the scandal of drug investigations and the clamour of the tabloids preaching, while simultaneously dishing out their column inches to ‘insider’ exposés from guests and former friends of the deceased. Worse—or luckily, depending I suppose on what kind of PR team you had—there had been a party at the house the night before and, even as the police carted Brent out in a body bag, nearly two dozen rock and pop luminaries of the day were being expected to give urine samples and full witness statements.
Of course, the inquest quashed much of this ghoulish fun by establishing that Brent, although well under the influence of both drink and drugs, had merely slipped, fallen, and hit his head. The whole thing was chalked up as a stupid accident, the misplacement of foot on soap and an advertisement to the young to stay clean. It crashed his image somehow, wrecking any chance of rock martyrdom. Shunned and embarrassed, Brother Rush split before Christmas, their music fell from fashion, and Damon Brent’s death, if at all remembered, simply became an unfortunate and foolish codicil to a life and a career cut short.
The CD had played on while I was thinking and now a live cut of that classic standard Sit Tight, Baby twisted out of the speakers, the sound of the band broader and harder over the top of a screaming audience. Mum always said how incredible Brother Rush were live. Brent’s voice vibrated in the air, shining as the chords tumbled around him like sweaty roses.
She got a face like the Mona Lisa / (Sit tight, baby)
But she ain’t smilin’ / And I can’t see her….
A strident guitar lick topped the four-four bass in a drawn-out crescendo, pierced by the characteristic Damon Brent battle cry: the sound of a vibrato bar pushed to the limits and a jubilant, orgiastic ‘Yeeeeeeaaaaahhhh’ closing in a breathy leer right up against the microphone. You heard it on nearly all the live sets, but it vanished in studio recordings, somewhere in amongst the mumbling and the synthesisers.
“Not bad for a man with a dodgy perm and lurex trousers,” I murmured, taking off my glasses to rub eyes bees-winged enough to be buzzing.
“Well that’s charming,” he said. “Thank you very much.”
I blinked, and replayed the moment over in my head. No… I definitely had heard it.
I wished, in a way, that I’d been having weird experiences for months before. It might have proved me crazy, but—knocking pipes, catching strange reflections in the mirror, hearing things on the wind—I hadn’t had any of that. That’s what made it so odd. So believable.
I stared at the papers in front of me. They still lay there innocently, black-and-white photo repros and colour plates, page after page of my chicken scratch notes. My wineglass and my coffee cup to the side. The computer screen flipped to its screensaver. Very retro toasters flapped through endless space.
I’d have to turn around eventually. I tried to picture the worst possible thing I could see and, considering that, what I saw wasn’t half as bad as it could have been.
He sat… no, that wasn’t the right word. Nobody could just sit like that. He sprawled, but in an extremely stylish way, on the window seat, one knee drawn up with his right arm propped carelessly across it, his foot tracing circles on the sheepskin rug and a cigarette smouldering in his left hand, threatening to deposit a pillar of ash on his bright purple loon pants.
It was pitch dark outside. I hadn’t bothered to draw the curtains; the window wasn’t really overlooked, so I rarely did and, in any case, I liked the moonlight. The dim tanné glow of streetlamps further down the road gave the blackness a warm edge, backlit him with an odd, pale aura against the dark glass… in which he had no reflection, I couldn’t help but notice.
He wriggled a bit on the window seat, turning his head as if looking out into the night, trying to see the sea. You couldn’t, not at that angle and not at this time of night. Nothing but the smudges of pavements seeming wet under the lamplight and, in very late or very quiet moments, the distant sound of the waves, somewhere in the blackness beyond. I swallowed heavily.
I’d seen Mum’s famous scrapbook more than once. Oh, the blond perm seemed a little more natural-looking and—apart from a lot of heavy, Theda Bara-style kohl—he had none of the stagy make-up he’d worn on half a dozen different album covers.
Definitely Damon Brent, though.
This book was previously published under the title ‘Daemon’ and the pen name M. King. It is presented here in a wholly revised edition.