Friday, 7 February 2020

Little Gangsters

Now available in ebook or paperback ...

With a few exceptions, everything in this novel occurred during my early life growing up in East Vancouver.  Most of the stories happened to me, some to other people, but almost all are none-the-less true.  The only truly outrageously fictional piece of the novel is the Goddess of Speed – no such perfection of childhood automotive engineering was ever constructed by me, or anyone I know of.

Like Denny, I used to suffer from two odd ailments; Scintillating Scotoma and Alice in Wonderland syndrome, both of which are a form of migraine.  Also like Denny, those conditions made me think I might be crazy because I did have a cousin who tried to kill himself by jumping off the Lionsgate Bridge and an Aunt who did shoot her husband in a gin-soaked, vengeful rage, and both ended up in Essondale – the ‘Hospital for the Mind’.
I had to play with some dates to make this novel and the three sequels work within a timeline that touches down on the summers of 1959, 1969, 1999, and 2015.

I also had to switch some dogs around.  The Zombie Dog story is true and happened to the brother a friend of mine.   Butch on the other hand was my dog while I was growing up, but to include him in Little Gangsters I had to give him to Errol.  It just wouldn’t have made sense to have Butch spend the summer with me at Grandma’s house.  Nevertheless, every word about Butch is 100% true – he was truly an outlaw among dogs.  Butch did kidnap and execute a neighbour’s Boxer in vengeance for its attack on me, and yes, Butch used to pull meat heists at Buy Rite Market.  He did mug a neighbour kid for a string of wieners – that kid was named Stan and he was complete bully and gangster wanna-be asshole.

My dad made the mistake of slapping me around once in our backyard in front of Butch.  Butch attacked him with such savagery that my dad pulled away and ran for the safety of the house.  I remember the shock, fear, and confusion on his face as he ran with the sleeve of his shirt shredded above the hand he had been hitting me with.  From then on when my dad was on a drunken tear, I’d run outside to be with Butch and refuse to come back inside until dad calmed down.

Grandma’s house once stood exactly where I located it – snuggly pressed between Longo’s garage and the house next door on 7th avenue just off Commercial Drive on a lot so narrow you could spit across it.  You can visit that street still and see its replacement; a tall, modern house shoehorned into that small lot.

Almost all of the names have been changed, mostly because I don’t want people to be angry with me.  Those familiar with Vancouver’s history might recognize some of the larger than life characters despite the name changes.  So be it.  Let that be our little secret.

When I was growing up, I didn’t know that many of my parents’ acquaintances were criminals.  Some of the people I grew up around were dangerous people, but they weren’t dangerous to me or my family.  To me they were full of life, loved their wives and their children, and worked hard to make a good life for them.

All of the 7th Avenue Gang are real people that I grew up with.  Some may recognize themselves, and I hope they find delight in that.  Denny’s nemesis in the novel is an amalgam of assholes I’ve known throughout my life.  I named him Kevin, because every Kevin I’ve ever known has been a pain in my ass.  No offence to the vast majority of Kevins out there or the people who love them, it’s just that the Kevins in my life have never worked out for me.

Carrie Anne Gabler is also an amalgam of a number of girls and young women I’ve known through the years – and yes, one of them fell through a ceiling and broke her arm when she hit the television her brother and I were watching.  They were all gentle and sweet and loveable, yet at the same time vulnerable and tragic.  The world is a hard place for girls like Carrie, who only see the good in people and when evil is done to them, they internalize it as a failing of their own character.  Though Carrie only has a small role in Little Gangsters she plays a larger role in Denny’s life during the sequel, Bigger Gangsters that takes place ten years later.  Denny will carry her memory and his undying love for her through Millennial Gangsters and it haunts the pages of Gangster’s Girl, and will remain with Denny for the rest of his days.

A friend and I did witness the Vancouver Police ambush and kill an escaped convict named Boyd in a hail of gunfire just like it happened in that chapter.  I had to move the location of the massacre so it fit into the right neighbourhood for the story and the friend with me wasn’t Frankie or Donny; his name was Tom and his parents owned the grocery store where Boyd bought the groceries for a last meal that he never got a chance to eat.

So, I give you Little Gangsters – my thin slice of growing up in East Vancouver living on the fringes of the law.  Other East Vancouverites may hold vastly different memories, so your mileage may vary. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

The Arroyo

I’ve heard it said many times in movies and television shows and even in real life; that when someone is killed by a bullet to the head they didn’t feel a thing.
I call bullshit.
I heard the snick of the trigger and clack of the hammer, then the sledge hammer impact slamming down on the crown of my skull.  I felt the bullet sizzle through my brain and explode the roof of my mouth, that impact sending a shockwave up through my nasal passages blowing my eyeballs out of their sockets.  I felt the heat of the bullet pass through my open mouth, searing my tongue before shattering my front teeth and passing out of me to impact the clay below.  To a witness who hadn't heard the shot it would have looked like I spat blood, shattered teeth, and a lozenge of lead onto the ground below.
My body carried momentum of the impact, pitching me forward into the arroyo, my boots dragging on the steep slope, flipping my body so it fell headfirst into one of the deep narrow cuts in the chaos of the water-carved canyon.  It wedged tight there, head down, legs askew, a wash of clay and sand coming loose and flowing like a mockery of water to dust my clothing.  Nature was camouflaging Razor’s crime.
The next time a raging storm sent rainwater rioting across the upper bench it would tear more of the walls apart and cover my body better than any gravedigger.  I would never be found, a permanent part of the desert I dreamt so often of leaving.


Friday, 31 January 2020

Free Books!

Starting today, for the next two months, Little Gangsters and Bigger Gangsters are free for download Here

(These are epub versions.  If you would like a mobi or pdf version, email me at and I will send it to you as an attachment)

Friday, 24 January 2020


Miles away, M_ woke with a start deep in the night and for one disorienting moment didn’t know where he was.  Pale light from outside backlit curtains unfamiliar to him.  When he squinted into the darkness he was alarmed to find his bedroom door was no longer where it had been for the past sixteen years.  Panicked, M_ fumbled for his lamp on his bedside table, nearly knocking it to the floor in his haste to turn it on, and when he clutched it and thumbed the switch the light flared bright, revealing a room unfamiliar.
They’d moved into the loft apartment above the Laird of McCullough that day.
Relief washed through M_’s body like warm water flowing across parched sand.  M_ exhaled, realizing he’d been holding his breath, then straightened his lamp on the bedside table and turned to see if he’d awakened B_  Her covers were thrown back and she was gone.  At first M_ thought that she had gotten up to use the bathroom, but when he reached out and laid his hand flat on the mattress on her side it was cool and damp.  Since the murders she’d been sweating in her sleep as she tossed and turned, haunted by endless nightmares.  That the mattress was cool meant she’d gotten out of bed some time ago.  Worried, M_ rose and padded out of the bedroom, softly calling her name.
There was no sign of her in the apartment, M_ even checked the kitchen walk-in pantry and the small empty bedroom that would one day be a nursery.  M_ opened the door and walked downstairs into the dim honky-tonk, lit only by the small neon signs over the bar advertising beer brands, the ever changing colours of the Wurlitzer, and the glowing red EXIT signs over each door.
“B_?” M_ stage-whispered into the bar, and received only silence in return.  Since D_ and T_’s murders, B_’s night terrors had grown increasingly worse, and for one soul-chilling moment, M_wondered if she’s added sleepwalking to her nightly disturbances, envisioning her wandering outside, barefooted in her nightgown, lost in her world of terror.  How would that look if one of the crew found her?  Or worse yet; if a State Trooper picked her up wandering the highway babbling incoherently about blood and murders.
M_ considered running back upstairs and getting dressed, but an almost paranoid sense of urgency pushed him to move quickly to the rear exit door to see if she was crunching around in the gravel parking lot.  That’s when he saw her.
B_ was sitting in a large booth near the back doors, looking like a lost child being so small and frail.  Her face was paler than usual, lit blue, then green, then red, as the Wurlitzer flashed its coloured lights from across the large room.  Her eyes were wide and she was staring at the table in front of her.
“B_?” Mac called to her softly as he crept near, afraid of spooking her into one of her fits of screaming, “B_, honey?”
She didn’t appear to hear him, continuing to stare at the table before her as he slid in beside her on the worn vinyl cushions.
“B_.” he whispered her name, gently stroking the hair on the back of her head.
“Can you see it?” B_ asked as softly as a morning breeze cutting through an open window, “It’s everywhere.”
M_ looked at the table and saw B_ had laid out her heroin rig and had gotten so far as to cook a shot in the blackened spoon that rested beside the syringe and lighter.
“I see your rig.” M_answered quietly.
“The walls are bleeding, the table bleeding, the floor bleeding.” B_ spoke as though she were revealing a solemn secret, “The world is bleeding, M_  Bleeding and dying, and soon we all will bleed and die.”
“You need to sleep, my love.” M_ said, “You just need to sleep to make this all go away.”
“I can’t.  I tried, but I can’t touch it now.” B_ whispered, staring at her rig in awe and fear, “Can’t you see?  Can’t you see?”
M_’s heart was breaking to see his love so deep in her hallucinations and her terror of what they had done.  He hated her rapid descent into drug addiction and worried about the damage it was doing to the child within her.  He knew from past experience that for him to argue that what she saw wasn’t real would set her weeping and screaming at him, even fighting him if he tried to embrace her.  He saw that the length of surgical tubing was still wrapped tightly around her left upper arm – she’d been about to inject herself.
“Close your eyes, B_” M_ said to her in the same tone one used with small children, “Just close your eyes, I promise it will be alright.”
“Yes.” he assured her and she closed her eyes.
M_ picked up her syringe and dropped the tiny cotton wad into the amber liquid in the bowl of the spoon.  He carefully rested the tip of the needle in the saturated cotton wad and drew the liquid heroin mixture into the barrel of the syringe, filtering out the specks of impurities floating in it.  Then gently and slowly, he lifted her arm and laid it in his lap, finding a vein near the crook of her elbow and probing, drawing back in the plunger until he saw her blood mix with the heroin.  He pushed the plunger down, delivering the heroin into her bloodstream, then removed the needle and untied the tubing, allowing her blood to flow freely, to carry the heroin to circulate and find its way to B_’s brain, to attach to opioid receptors there.
The body takes twenty minutes to transform pure heroin into morphine, providing a high which can last hours, but before that happens, heroin delivers a sometimes overwhelming rush of ecstasy and sense of wellbeing.  It is a happy drug.
Beside him, B_ sighed, then leaned into him, her body warm and loose in his arms.
“Oh, M_.” she whispered, “Oh, M_.  Thank you … thank you … thank you …”
M_ slid her limp form out of the booth and carried her through the darkened honky-tonk and up the stairs like a sleeping child.  Her eyes remained closed and her face was relaxed, her lips twitching occasionally with a flickering smile.
“... lover-man ...” she murmured as he laid her down in their bed and pulled her covers over her, tucking them under her chin.
“Sleep now, B_” M_ said softly and kissed her pale cheek, “Everything is going to be alright.”
“… alright …” B_ echoed as she sunk into the dreamless bliss that saturated and swallowed her troubled mind.
But M_ knew it wasn’t going to be alright as he returned downstairs to collect her rig.  Nothing was going to be alright ever again.


Sunday, 5 January 2020

Royal & Rene

Royal had seen an old framed photo of Dianna’s little brother Ronnie from back in the day and asked how Ronnie was doing.  Dianna had lowered her eyes as though Royal had just triggered a painful memory for her.
“We lost Ronnie when he was eight.” Dianna said.
“I’m so sorry.” Royal had replied, mentally kicking himself for stepping on that particular buried landmine.
It was in that moment that the front door opened and a gust of frigid air blew Rene into the foyer.  She’d been out shopping and was setting down her grocery sacks when Royal watched her close the door and take off her long woolen coat, her red toque and scarf and mittens, to reveal her slender form clad in woolen leggings and a puffy pink and white sweater.  Her long auburn hair made for a striking frame for the pale skin of her delicate face, her eyes were bright and the colour of almonds flecked with gold, and her feet were small and encased in soft grey kid leather ankle boots.  To Royal she was the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen, and watching her shed her winter clothes was like she was unwrapping a present for him.
“Royal?  This is my sister Rene.” Dianna said, “Rene?  This is Royal.”
Rene moved toward Royal with a grace so fluid it appeared she was floating on air, and when she said;
“Hello Royal” and he took her extended hand, he felt like he’d just been touched by an angel.  Her hand was elegant and her skin the softest thing he’d ever touched, and when she gave his fingers a gentle squeeze, Royal felt his heart fill with a warmth he’d never experienced before.  He had to swallow past a lump in his throat before he could answer.
“Hello Rene.” and those two words contained every sonnet of love and adoration that had ever been written in the history of romance, and when Rene smiled at his gentle voice and released his hand, Royal felt like crying because the moment was so profound and she so beautiful.

Royal had fallen in love.

Prairies Book Review

THAT DOG DON’T BARK by Aaron D. McClelland 

that dog dont bark.jpg
A gritty thriller…
A love story at heart, McClelland’s That Dog Don’t Bark is skillfully rendered wanderings of a teenage couple through the underworld of East Vancouver. Jackie and Angel, small-time crooks, find themselves in the path of a dangerous international sex trafficking gang, after one of Angel’s friends is lured by the gang leaders with the promise of drugs and money and pushed into prostitution. They either can run, leave the city and build a new home somewhere else or stay put and face their powerful enemies. The choice is entirely their own.
McClelland’s prose is crisp and the pace fast as he painstakingly and skillfully builds his plot around diverse characters, back stories, various money heists and scams, and the highs of the underworld life while keeping the romance between his lead pair at the center of the story. The genius of the story, however, lies in McClelland’s ability to keep the young couple’s romance fresh and soulful despite plenty of graphic scenes of sex and violence.
McClelland portrays Jackie and Angel’s story in a poignant manner while penning down an adrenalin-filled, dangerous, score-to-score life of the organized crime gang members for whom car thefts, hijacking, furniture heists and other ordinary scams, weed smuggling, and many other hustles and schemes are as workaday as the nine-to-five at any regular white-collar job. This is as much a love story as it is a fascinating account of organized crime in the streets of Vancouver as a way of life.
Fans of gritty crime drama will be pleased.
(Original post)

Monday, 30 December 2019

Back Home ...

When M_ got home to his trailer he found B_ slumped on the sofa.  She was disheveled, her housecoat open and her nightie twisted around her waist, hitched up so her pale thighs were exposed.  Her eyelids were heavy and when she noticed him she smiled drunkenly.
“Hi baby.” she slurred her words as she flopped one hand in a halfhearted wave.
“It’s afternoon and you’re still not dressed.” M_ said.
“I know.” she admitted, “But I feel better.  I could sleep.”
M_ saw the small smudge of dried blood on her inner forearm centred on a pale blue vein under the surface.  The dark blood a shocking contrast against her ivory skin.
“Who did you get it from?”
“A friend.” B_ said, “Please don’t be mad.  Don’t deny me this relief.”
“Who?” he asked again.
“A friend who doesn’t like me to suffer.” B_ said, “I’m so sleepy.  I need to sleep.”
M_ considered, then went to her and helped her up, supporting her weight as he guided her down the hallway to the bedroom and then into bed.  She smelled of fresh sweat and faintly of sexual arousal.  As he tucked her in and stroked his hands through her hair he felt the dampness on her scalp.
“Thank you, lover man.” B_ sighed and closed her eyes, “It’s just for a little while, so I can sleep.”
M_ left her there, his wife starting to snore softly as he gently closed the bedroom door.
M_ checked the bathroom trash and found nothing, then looked under the kitchen sink and found the wadded up tissues in the bagged trash bin there.  They were wet and reeked of sex and clotted in the centre was a load of semen.
At any normal time with any other girl, Mac would have kicked the bedroom door open and dragged her by the hair back to the living room where she’d whored herself for a shot of heroin, and slapped the truth out of her.  But these weren’t normal times, nor was B_ another girl, and Mac felt so very weary.  He suspected who had defiled his pregnant bride and pushed poison into her veins , but that was too painful of a betrayal, so he pushed the thought away, it being too much to bear.
M_ dropped the tissues back in the trash and closed the cabinet door then sat heavily on one of the kitchen chairs.  How could this be happening?  How could things have gone south so quickly?  The Grim Sister’s fortune was a curse, he decided; a fair promise that had turned foul as it rotted in his hands.  M_ laid his head down on the table and wept, feeling the sickness inside him and ashamed of the sound he was making.
It was the sound of a hopeless man.


Little Gangsters

Now available in ebook or paperback ... Forward With a few exceptions, everything in this novel occurred during my early life grow...