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Why some books are getting on my nerves - literally

  I must be losing my sense of adventure. That, or I am simply getting old.  Books that would leave me unable to sleep or have me snatching a glance at yet another paragraph to see if murder most foul had been committed or some other heinous crime no longer suit my nervy temperament. My adrenaline glands are fatigued. So says my doctor. No more excitement for you!

   The term “gripping psychological thriller” used to be like a shot of the best red wine through my veins which, incidentally, I can’t tolerate any more. Now it’s becoming an overworked marketing strapline.  I should know, it’s partly the genre I work in. So many books buzz around on Amazon with dramatic headlines the books don’t deserve. Obviously I am not mentioning any here but I’m sure you’ve read stuff that neither lives up to the hype nor complies with some trades descriptions act.

  Keeping people in suspense for 80,000 words is no mean feat for the writer and I wonder how many books are abandoned because either the reader is disappointed after a few chapters or being of a  certain disposition can’t cope with the suspense provided by the unreliable narrator ( a new bit of jargon I’ve recently acquired). Can your nerves take another fictional garrotting or are you becoming so inured to blood and gore that it leaves you feeling cold? Are we being offered templates of similar storylines, defective characters and unrealistic interaction? In short, has the psychological thriller had its day? Probably not but I think it needs freshening up a bit.

  A lot has been written about this genre but here’s my tuppence ha’penny worth.

   One important ingredient for a psychological thriller is to get into the minds of those who are suffering and not necessarily the character responsible for inflicting the pain. It’s easier to do if you are weaving in some personal experiences as you can write from the inside out. This is what I’ve done in my two books to date. It’s more important to show how this suffering plays out – out of character behaviour, unexplainable mood swings and changes in perception – rather than forensics or police procedures. Even plot takes a bit of a back seat.

  The most ordinary and balanced of people can find themselves responding to a threat or a loss in the most extraordinary ways. I talk to many of these people through the counselling work I offer. When it comes to emotions, nothing is predictable yet I find myself wanting to shake some of the characters I read about because either they don’t come across as authentic or to use some recent vernacular like “snowflakes.”

As for me, I need a break from grubbing around in twisted psyches and have turned to something softer and less rooted in harsh reality, at least for the summer, to give my nerves a rest. 


The Girl in the Lift - 550 words

Amelia was late again for her meeting with Troy in Marketing.  Instead of running up the six flights of stairs to his floor- to-ceiling glass panelled office as she normally did, she pressed the button for the lift, hopping from one red stiletto  to another as she watched the numbers flash on the screen.

   Mary stepped out in her sensible black flats, nodding in acknowledgement. ‘He’s not in a good mood,’ she called over her shoulder as the doors closed.

   Amelia checked her make-up in her compact mirror, tapping some gloss over her lips as she waited for the lift to zoom up to the floor and release her into the wild. Truth was, Amelia was nervous about travelling in lifts on her own, especially compact ones like at Coopers.’  She smoothed down her grey skirt and took a deep breath, reassuring herself that the meeting would be fine. Troy might bluster and flap at times but he admired her work and said he couldn’t do without her. That was what he said when they’d stayed over late, drunk a bottle of wine then…. well… she preferred not to think about that night.

    The light flashed 5 and the doors opened.

  ‘Troy! I was on my way up.’  Amelia clutched her gold necklace as she stepped away from the smell of alcohol on his breath. ‘Are you Ok? I mean we can postpone the meeting.’ Her ribs ached with tension.

 Troy narrowed his eyes and grinned. He tugged off his tie and opened his shirt collar.

‘We can have our meeting here.’

‘Don’t be silly. Come on, we’re here.’

He towered over her to press the button for the basement.

‘Troy, stop it. You’re frightening me.’ Amelia felt beads of cold sweat form on her top lip.

  ‘You didn’t protest the other night.’ He grabbed her shoulders and tried to kiss her but Amelia was too quick for him. She dodged his grasp and pressed the button again for reception. As his nails dug into her wrist, she pulled off a shoe with her free hand.

   ‘Get off me Troy or you will be sorry.’

  ‘Oooh. Big girl talk. No, YOU will be sorry. Now do as I tell you.’

  Blood thudded through her ears as she angled the heel and stabbed it into the artery in his neck. Her nursing days weren’t wasted after all.  Cleaning her shoe with a wet-wipe she slipped it back on her foot.   

   ‘I warned you,’ she said through gritted teeth as he fell to the floor, blood pulsating through the wound and over his white shirt.

   ‘You won’t get away with it, he gasped, clutching his throat.  His breathing became laboured as she pressed the button again, praying that nobody would call the lift before she reached the foyer. Most people had gone home for Early Friday Finish. Jason, the concierge was on the phone.

  ‘Good day love?’  Keith her house-husband appeared in the hallway wiping his hands on a tea-towel.

  ‘Same old, same old,’ she replied, slipping off her shoes and running upstairs. She scrubbed them in the bath and put them under the bed in the spare room to dry. Tomorrow she’d take them to a charity shop.

‘How was the meeting with Troy?’  Keith handed her a glass of wine.

‘Dead boring.’


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