David Lavender is a man with a talent for making bad decisions. In his fortieth year on planet earth, a dangerous restlessness overwhelms him, and, as his marriage crumbles, and a dispute with his neighbor escalates, he responds to these crises in his life with characteristic folly. Frozen out by his mysteriously indifferent wife, Lilijana. Baited by his cantankerous stepson, Tomo, and alternatively supported and rebuked by his two best mates, Matt and Chalky, will David successfully negotiate the minefield which his own discontent constructed, or will he destroy himself and everyone around him?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sample chapter


There were no sirens, flashing lights, or screeching tires when the police arrived at number 1008 Princess Hwy. David felt offended.

The only sounds were of whirring steel blades and plastic cords as locals attacked the fast growing Buffalo grass on their lots in Chinaman’s Hollow. Victa lawn mowers and Stihl line trimmers were the weapons of choice in the war against the humidity fuelled growth in the yards of suburbia.

David had been refueling his lawnmower when he heard loud voices inside the house next door
Loud arguments were nothing unusual. They happened in his home as well, although outsiders would never have heard or even cared if they did. None of my business, David thought as he stood with straining ears to catch some of the words in the jumble of sound and anger.

You did this and you did that. Fuck this and fuck you. A stifled scream as though someone suffocated then a bang and another scream, which morphed into a growling yell. The noises became more animalistic as if words were no longer effective. Perhaps anger robbed them of speech. After a crash and another bang, he could feel the rage pulsing from the house. For a moment it paralyzed him. Should he keep his nose out of their business and keep mowing the lawn, or intervene? Knock on the door and ask for milk? Sugar? He had not been afraid to interrupt during previous arguments, even though he’d looked like a fool. Intervention, yes. Police? No, not yet.

David ran to knock at their door.

He wondered if they argued new material or just rehashed the same issues. He listened.

“Why don’t you leave me the fuck alone? I’m tired. I don’t want your shit.”

“I don’t want your shit and I wish you’d leave me alone.”

“Well stop talking then. Fuck off!”

You fuck off!”

“Why should I?”

“Because I want you to. I’m sick of your shit.”

“I’m sick of your shit.”

“Well fuck off then!”

“Why should I?”

David knocked again and realized he was still listening. He was fascinated; transfixed by their intellectual debate, its deep philosophical nature and their incredible range of vocabulary. A whole five minutes worth.  Of what? I’m sick of your shit. David tried to imagine his wife, Lilijana, using that line with him. Not in a million years. Sure, she’d probably thought it but was far too self-controlled to ever speak that way.
A thud, like something or someone hitting the floor brought David back to the immediate situation He knocked again, this time to ominous silence. No one answered his knock. No face at the door, looking angry or sheepish. No one came to apologize or threaten him.  David raced home to call the police.

So here they were. Two officers. The short, female cop tried steering her towering, male companion toward talking to David first.  In response, the male officer gestured to the neighbor’s house. David nodded, then gave them the thumbs up. They’d found the right place.

Once the police passed the garage, which obscured his view of their front door, David crossed onto his neighbor’s property to watch.

“Hello,” said the male officer in a commanding voice. “Is any one there? It’s the police.”

David anticipated drawn guns, smashed doors and the cops charging in, yelling for weapons to be dropped. Instead, the male officer knocked a second time then tried the knob of the door. He called out as both officers entered and the screen door banged behind them.

What would the cops find once they navigated the garbage-strewn living room? Was the rest of the house in a similar state? A teenager, the age of Liljana’s son, dropped garbage wherever he pleased, but for adults to trash their own home?

“What are you doing David?”

It was Lilijana.

“Nothing.” David struggled to hide his irritation at having his watch interrupted.

“Are you going to finish mowing the lawn?”


He waited for the cops to emerge with a struggling Phil. Naydine would yell threats to protect her man, now forgiven after their war of words.

 “Are you going to finish today? We’re going out tonight, remember?”

Damn. He had tried to forget. Lilijana always wanted to go out or have people over. She loved to spread her sunshine, and the recipients of her graciousness and kindness lapped it up. Why not? There was no danger of sunburn. Zero possibility of melanoma. Five seconds in Lilijana’s company and the hardest glacial heart was guaranteed to melt. Cares and worries washed away by her positivity. It gave him the shits sometimes. What made it worse was that it was genuine and not just with others but with David and their children. She was like a bloody angel There were times when David resented her for it.


Resigned to speaking to make her go away and realizing he might have to move to authenticate his words, he answered in his most pleasant voice. “Yes dear, I’ll get right on it. I’m nearly finished and then I’ll have shower.”

He glanced at her. If she believed he was going to do as he said, she didn’t show it. David reluctantly wrenched his eyes, then his head, followed by his whole body away from where he was to where he should be. Taking the few steps back to the mower, he crouched beside it, and unscrewed the cap of the jerry can. He thought about what was going on inside 1008. Phil and Naydine would assure the police that there was no problem. Then they would apologize for causing any trouble, and the police would accept the words of the former combatants, now enthusiastic allies.

David poured petrol in until it overflowed then cursed at his carelessness as though it was the first time he’d done it. After replacing both caps, he made sure Lilijana had gone inside before he returned to his former station. No sound. He waited a moment, sighed, and went to finish the lawn.

The Victa Lawnmaster 350 exploded back to life with a pull on the starter cord. David resumed his task.
Phil and Naydine moved into 1008 on a rainy Saturday two months ago, when David was at  home due to the cancellation of his son’s cricket match. He went out to welcome the newcomers to Chinaman’s Hollow.

“G’day, I’m David.”

Phil and Naydine were standing at the back of the removal truck. She looked at David who was holding out his hand. “I’m Naydine and this is John.”

“Nardine and John,” David repeated. It was a trick he had seen Lilijana use on numerous occasions. It helped her to remember people’s names. Despite his best efforts, nothing seemed to help David. Was he getting old or was he simply defective?

“Nay-dine,” she corrected him with an exaggerated emphasis on the first syllable of her name.

“That’s different,” said David, but she seemed to have lost interest. The man, John, gave him a perfunctory glance with a very understated but sharp lift of the chin as some sort of greeting. David disliked him immediately.  For starters, he didn’t look like a John. David knew lots of John’s. Lilijana’s church was full of them, and full of Davids as well.  He often joked with the other Davids that they should change the name of the church to the House of David. David expected to find nice people in church even if they were all fakers and hypocrites. He didn’t care if they were two-faced as long as they treated him with respect. And they did. His interactions with holy people were limited to an hour each week anyway, and that in no way amounted to any sort of relationships in David’s book. Live and let live.

The blade of the mower hit a rock and the awful noise arrested David’s attention. He bent over, raised the blade one notch, then went over the same patch of grass again.

There was no way David could allow this new neighbor of his into the fraternity of good  Johns. He simply wasn’t good enough to be a John, so he decided to call him Phil. One he remembered from his school days, called Phil Lewis, was a funny bloke. He pretended he was about to take a bite of an open jam sandwich and ploughed it into his cheek when someone called his name. That was his best party trick. David couldn’t remember any other tricks. Phil was a shifty sort of bloke, a bit too crafty and a real attention seeker. Next door John didn’t exactly fit the Phil mould but it was a reasonable match because of the suspicion he aroused in David. There was much more to Phil Lewis at school than met the eye and David was sure that there was also much more to Phil next door.

They had run into each other at the train station about a week after he and Naydine moved in. David had noticed him first and waited for Phil to look up so he could say G’day. David reckoned it was important to catch a person’s eye before saying hello because they might not recognize him, or worse not even remember him. There was nothing worse than being looked through by people you knew. He was surprised when seen and commented that he must have forgotten to don the cloak of invisibility. On this occasion, he must have been wearing that extraordinary piece of attire because Phil raised his head, made a nanosecond of eye contact then looked away as though he had seen something he shouldn’t have. If it wasn’t the cloak then Phil was either under the influence of some mighty powerful substance or just plain rude.

David had swallowed his greeting and walked on. Phil was certainly not a man to like or trust. So what the hell was going on at 1008? He found his attention wandering again to the possibilities next door.
He stared at the front door, having pushed the mower to a shorn patch of grass, which provided a clear view of the front door. David made same backwards and forwards movements that wouldn’t have fooled anybody. The door opened and the two officers appeared: first the woman then the man.

The female officer looked at David so he spun the mower around and headed in the opposite direction. At the end of his horizontal stroll across the grass, he had to turn again and return to the other side because that was how it was done. Following that path took him straight to the police. Good. Maybe they would want to talk to him. Perhaps they would fill him in on what had happened. He was the anxious neighbor so he had a right to know.

On his return voyage across the lawn, he noticed the two officers watching him. The male officer gestured for David to shut down the mower. David was happy to oblige.

“Thanks for calling us, Mr. Lavender. You did the right thing.”

“Everything all right then?”

“We’ve spoken to both parties,” began the female officer, “and they have given us a satisfactory explanation as to what transpired.”

David became aware that she was kind of cute and the police talk sounded more than a little sexy coming from her lips. He struggled to concentrate while he imagined her as an aerobic instructor in a brightly colored leotard.

“Transpired?” he said, as though he didn’t understand the word. “Yes, what did transpire?”

The male officer took over and he wasn’t nearly as attractive. “There was a bit of an argument. They have calmed down now and given us an undertaking to do their utmost to maintain some tranquility.”
As the smile broke across his face, David hoped it would not be misinterpreted. The situation was not the least bit amusing, but the language these cops used was hilarious. The preposterous understatement that Phil and Naydine had a bit of an argument was funny in itself but undertakings and utmost tranquilities? Was that part of their training?

“That’s all very well for them to say,” said David, “but if that shitfight was a bit of an argument, I’m going to need police protection if they ever have a real barney. And let’s face it, that’s pretty likely. I mean this isn’t the first time they’ve had a blue, but it’s for sure the worst. That’s why I called.”

The police looked at each other, apparently having a mental game of paper, scissors, rock to decide who should address David’s concern. David thought it was a fair point he had raised, and he wasn’t going to be fobbed off with police doublespeak. 

He pressed on. “What assurances can you give me that I’m not going to get caught up in their domestic troubles? They’re off their faces half the time, anyway. Aren’t they stoned now? Did you check them out? You might think they can be trusted, but I don’t and I want to know what you are going to do?”

“Mr. Lavender,” said the cute cop, whom David couldn’t stop picturing in that leotard.  “We have done all we can for now. If you have another situation, please call us and we will return.” Seeing the look of bemusement on David’s face, she took a breath and continued. “Your neighbors have not broken the law. They had an argument. We can’t arrest them without cause. I’m sure you understand, Mr. Lavender.”
That was the end of the conversation. They turned to leave after a final nod.

Further words of protest evaporated on David’s tongue. Phil and Naydine. Trouble, nothing but trouble. With the lawn finished off and the police gone, David had no reason to linger in the front yard. The path and the driveway needed to be swept and the edges were begging for attention, having been ignored for weeks, but David had had enough. Besides, he didn’t have time, and if Lilijana challenged him, he would simply say so.

David pushed the Victa down the driveway. He recalled the time when he had been watching television and was interrupted by the squawking roar of a chainsaw. He assumed it was the property maintenance guy working at 1008. As he had never heard a chainsaw used there before, he was curious. He headed down the stairs and out the back door. From there he could see into the backyard of 1008.

Phil was operating the chainsaw. He may as well have been wearing a hockey mask for the effect he had on David. He was feverishly cutting away at a shrub which lay at the foot of his back stairs. By the time David arrived to see the carnage, Phil had already reduced the once mighty plant to a husk, less than a quarter of its original size. His clothes hung as though they were two or three sizes too big and he never looked up. Phil just kept gunning the chainsaw and slashing it through the helpless shrub.

What made the whole incident more disturbing was the fact that David had never seen Phil outside the house. Up until that moment, he had only heard him inside the house and seen him at the train station once. Not that David could assume that meant Phil never left the house, but it was pretty suspicious. What does a person do inside a house all day? Perhaps he spent all his time planning acts of terror against trees. Who did cut down all the trees in their backyard?

David had beaten a hasty retreat hoping that Phil the Chinaman’s Hollow Chainsaw Maniac hadn’t seen him. David was unsettled, dizzy with the fear that someone like Phil was living next door. Now, guiding the lawnmower down the ramp to the backyard shed, he glanced into their backyard. What would happen when Phil ran out of trees and shrubs to destroy? Was it just plant life that he felt compelled to annihilate or was that only the beginning? People who committed acts of insane cruelty to animals often graduated to sickening violence toward people.

Time passed him by as he stood locked in a fuzzy disconnected state. When Lilijana’s voice crashed through his torpor, he was startled and let a choice word slip from his mouth. With good grace as usual, she ignored his language and reminded him to hurry up.

“Lilijana, I’m worried about Phil next door.”

“Why? Has he been attacking more plants?”

“I’m telling you something’s not right about those two. They hardly ever leave the house. They have violent and raucous arguments. He wields a chainsaw like he’s buttering bread and they look wrong.”

“They look wrong? What does that mean?”

As David tried to explain himself, Lilijana began walking away. She cut off his words with, “David, would you please get a move on? We’re going to be late.”

“The police were just here, you know, and not for no reason,” said David to Lilijana’s back.

He parked the mower and closed the shed door without being able to shake the feeling of dread. His family was in trouble.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Publishing contract

I am very pleased to announce that Loathe Your Neighbor has found a publisher. I have just signed with Artema Press to bring my second novel, Loathe Your Neighbor to life. Pre order now. Express your interest. Help generate some buzz. If you are here, thanks for your support. I hope you will buy, read and absolutely love Loathe Your Neighbor. 
Follow this link for more details Artema Press