by Matt Drabble
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery
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A new Horror/Thriller/Mystery from the Best Selling & Multi Award Winning Author of "Gated" "Asylum" & "Abra-Cadaver"
Clayton is a small island community cut off from the mainland. They keep to themselves and they like it that way.
As far as the locals are concerned there are Islanders and there are Mainlanders. But the locals don't quite have the island all to themselves.
Depending on who you talk to on the island The chosen Order of the Nine Divines are either a peaceful religious order or a dangerous cult. Solomon Abel had been the Father to the order, Known locally as The Niners, for his entire adult life but he is an old man now and the younger member, including his own son, are growing tired of the old ways.
As far as Clayton Island is concerned a Clayton has held sway across the land, a birthright currently owned by Dale Clayton. He is a man haunted by the iron fist of his father and drowning in his own inadequacy. The Islanders act like they respect him, but he imagines it's only to his face.
For centuries the two communities have live side by side, until now.
With the local timber mill folding the Dale Clayton is left with no choice but to listen to mainland developers. Smart suited men who seek to exploit the island's natural beauty for their own gain.
Arriving with the developers is an old face returning. Ashley Quinn hasn't set foot on her homeland for almost 20 years and she had no desire to be here, but her job was the one stable thing left in her life since the divorce and she was barely hanging on to the life that she'd fought so hard to make.
The people of Clayton Island haven't changed, they've only gotten older, some she is glad to see and others not so much.
With tensions rising fast between those who want the future and those who want to hold onto the past Ashley finds herself caught in the middle. And when it is discovered that The Niners are sitting on the most valuable land on the island there are those who will do anything to take it and those who will do anything to defend it.
There is a powder keg on Clayton and it will only take a single spark to burn the whole place down. Alliances and enemies are formed with many hiding their true intentions and no one is what they seem, because when two tribes go to war, everyone dies.
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The night air was cold enough to bite at any exposed skin. Taylor Cole pulled his jacket up to his ears and tried to bury his face in his scarf to fight against the seeping chill that was working its way into his bones.
He was a small squat man making his way along the empty street, his sunken eyes constantly scanning for witnesses. He clutched a small paper bag tightly to his chest, a bag containing of bottle of his treasure and it was taking every ounce of self-control not to fall to his knees and devour the contents right here on Main Street.
The only thing stopping him right now was the fear of repercussions. The local constable, Caleb Bowman, was a big guy who had thrown his ass into the one holding cell in Clayton on more than one occasion. Bowman had banned him from drinking in town, and even Casey had turned him away earlier in the evening and that big bitch served everyone.
Unable to buy his booze, he had taken to seeking out his own plan, which had included smashing a window at Tommy O’Brien’s store and taking a bottle. He had only taken the one and at this point considered it medicinal.
There was practically no crime on the island of Clayton, and he knew full well that come sunup, Bowman would be looking for him, but right now the sunrise seemed a lifetime away.
He made his way along the makeshift street, sticking as much as he could to the shadows. It was after hours now, and Casey’s Bar had long since turned out its last drunken customer. Island life meant most were early to bed and early to rise, so he didn’t expect to see anyone at this hour, but still he was cautious.
With the bag clutched tightly to his chest, its contents calling out to him, he doubled his pace and was soon clear of the buildings. There was a fire in his belly, one that needed to be doused before he could sleep.
His father had been a drunk and his grandfather and his great-grandfather and so on and so on; it was undoubtedly the family business. He knew that other islanders shunned him on the street and avoided his gaze, especially if he was asking for money.
He lived in a rundown shack away from prying eyes, but in truth, he didn’t spend much time there, preferring the outdoor air and the sanctity of the island’s woodland for comfort. He slept outdoors most nights, but perhaps passed out would be a more accurate description.
There had been a time when he’d craved a normal life, a partner, children, a family to share his time and affection with, but it had been a futile hope, he knew that now. He was a born a drunk. It was his destiny.
He shuffled his way out of town and headed along the track towards the mill. It was the only place in Clayton that held anything approaching a good memory for him.
The logging plant had given him a job and respect at a time when he’d kept his drinking under control. Sure, he’d had a couple with lunch during his shift as supervisor, but he’d never let it interfere with his work, and besides, it was only beer - that wasn’t real drinking. But then the gaps between shots had grown narrower and narrower until there were no gaps at all and he was drinking before, after and during.
Mercifully, no one had died under his watch but Steve Butler had lost two fingers due to a faulty safety rail that Taylor had forgotten to replace and that was all she wrote. Dale Clayton himself had him frogmarched out of the mill and he’d soon found out that Steve Butler had far more friends than Taylor Cole.
He shook his head to cast aside the downbeat thoughts threatening to ruin what was left of his night and hugged his bottle closer to his chest, the one friend who would never leave him or gaze upon him with scorn and contempt.
The mill was on its last legs, no matter what that prick Dale Clayton tried to tell everyone. The town mayor’s family had built the island up into a town, and descendant Dale never missed an opportunity to claim the credit. The whole town knew that the plant was done - and with it, the town. Taylor felt a stab of satisfaction that soon all of Clayton would fall and all those under the watch of the sanctimonious Dale.
The gates were padlocked, but the fence was slack and Taylor lifted a section, squeezing himself through the gap, making sure that his bottle was secure. He sliced his hand open on a rusty piece of metal but his prize was safe, and that was all that mattered.
He made his way up to the mill entrance. The front door was locked, but he quickly found a large enough rock and smashed a window. There was no alarm. He figured that even if crime was an issue on the island, Dale Clayton would have been too cheap to install any sort of security system.
It was strange being back in the building, especially during the darkness hours. He made his way up to Dale Clayton’s office. While the rest of the logging plant was falling apart, the owner’s office was still pristine and no expense had been spared for the prick’s comfort.
There was thick, expensive-looking carpet underfoot, and on a whim, Taylor stopped long enough to piss on it. He had intended to sit in Clayton’s comfy leather recliner and drink himself to sleep, but now, of course, the office stank of his own piss.
Instead, he took the bottle out onto the metal walkway outside of Clayton’s office. The balcony overlooked the mill floor and the big boss man would often stand on his perch, surveying his minions below.
Taylor was leaning over the railing when something clanged against metal somewhere down below in the shadows. He jerked his head up in shock and stood motionless, holding his breath. There shouldn’t have been anyone here at this time of night. Maybe some of the local kids had broken in; it wouldn’t be unheard of.
Eventually, he let his breath out with a long sigh. Maybe it was a rat or other small creature coming for a last look around at the old place. A rat visiting the ship just before it sank seemed appropriate.
On a whim, he decided to leave his mark on the mill tonight. He took a bunch of framed certificates, awards and photographs from Clayton’s office. He headed down to the plant floor to take his own goodbye tour.
He drank as he walked, filling his system with burning liquid courage and becoming more emboldened with every step.
Clutching the armful of Clayton’s prized mementos, he dumped them onto the long conveyor belt in the centre of the mill floor. He prayed that the power was still on in the building and his prayers were answered when the truck-stripping machine sparked into life.
The sound was deafening but he was past caring now as he took another long swig from the bottle, fuelling his anger and excitement further.
Clayton’s frames made their way jerkily along the conveyor belt before being smashed to pieces under the heavy metal teeth. Taylor laughed, and his voice was lost in the clanging noise.
As he merrily drank, he was wondering what else of Clayton’s he could drag down here and throw through the chomping jaws, in lieu of the man himself, of course.
He was pondering such thoughts when suddenly, the bottle fell from his hand and smashed to pieces on the concrete floor. He stared down at the spilled precious dark liquid, wondering how he’d dropped it when he noticed that he was actually still holding it.
His pickled brain took some time to process what his eyes were seeing. The broken bottle was still gripped around the neck by his hand, but both were now lying on the ground. He turned his gaze to his arm to find a bloody spurting stump and then he finally felt the pain.
His scream roared momentarily louder than the machinery but didn’t last long.
Just beyond his hand and the remains of the bottle, a circular saw blade with razor sharp teeth was now embedded in the side of the conveyor belt. Clutching his arm with his one remaining hand, he turned around, and as he moved, he felt a rush of wind pass by him, missing his torso by millimetres. A second saw blade had flown by him and smashed into a wooden strut, driving deep into the surface.
Taylor started to stagger away. He’d intended to run, but the shock and blood loss were quickly starting to take their toll.
He stumbled alongside the long conveyor, desperate to get away, his addled mind working off sheer instinct now.
A third blade struck him in the back of his left knee and drove him down to the ground, making any escape now moot. He sank against the side of the conveyor, blood pouring from the two devastating wounds. The third saw blade was still deeply implanted in the back of his leg, its metal teeth sank into bone.
Taylor’s mouth popped open and shut like a starving goldfish. His eyes were bulging wide in pain and terror as he dimly felt a powerful hand grab hold of his collar from behind.
His small squat frame was lifted effortlessly, and then he landed down hard on the conveyor belt rollers. He desperately tried to squirm free as he headed towards the clamping mechanics, fighting to drag himself off the rollers, but a strong hand held him in place.
The man standing over him was muttering something under his breath, but Taylor couldn’t see him clearly. The strong hand pinning him down now started to propel him forward. He was dimly aware that he was heading feet first into the whirling machinery, and as his boots disappeared into the gnashing teeth, the pain was monstrous.
He screamed and screamed, but there was no one to help him. At If he’d gone in head first, at least it could have been over quickly; instead, he was torn to pieces and it took what seemed like an eternity to die.
I have a career high position of 5th on Amazon's Horror Author Rank of which I am immensely proud. I was also accepted as a full member of the Horror Writers Association.
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For some reason I have always tended to write with a female lead character. It was never anything that I set out to do but my voice tends to be female for some reason. I am always conscious to never write a perfect character. I think that female characters (much like male ones) always have to have flaws, there is nothing duller in a thriller than a flawless character as there is no sense of jeopardy if the reader knows that they are the strongest/smartest/toughest/most resourceful person in the room.
I treat writing like any other job. I clock in first thing and stay disciplined throughout the week. I set myself a 10,000 word target for the week and usually hit that over four days. On average I usually have a first draft of a novel in around 3-4 months. I always work with the TV on in my office, I cannot stand silence when I am doing anything at all, if I am hanging washing out I will have headphones on and music blasting even if it is just for a couple of minutes.
I have always been very careful not to study my methods too closely. I have no formal training or qualifications as far as becoming an author and I have never taken any kind of creative writing classes. I simply sat down one day to try and write a book and when I had finished telling the story I found that I had a full length novel. I usually start with an idea for the main story and often the twist in the end. Then I design the cover which gives me a better handle and then I start. Some parts are planned out but most of the time the story unfolds to me as I’m writing it and is often a surprise.
I was born and raised in a city called Bath which is in the South West of England. My education was in Hotel and Catering Management p to a degree in Tourism. However most of my working life was spent in a myriad of jobs where I tended to gravitate towards positions where I was working alone. The longest position I held was working in a cinema which being a huge movie fan I just loved. I was diagnosed with a condition called ankylosing spondylitis around 6 six ago now. AS is a degenerative spinal condition which also affects my other joints. The condition is a difficult one as some days I can be fine but other days I will struggle to get out of bed and I can slip a disk in a heartbeat. This makes holding down a full time job difficult, so very naively I thought that I would give writing a go.
The first piece of advice I would always give to new writers is to get a thick skin! Some people are not going to like what you do or how you do it no matter what. If you have a hundred reviews where 99 of them are positive and 1 is negative, if you change the book to please the 1 person who didn’t like it then now you will find that the 99 do not. If you start chasing everyone’s approval then you’ll never stop running.
For me characters make the story. I have always been a huge fan of Stephen King for the depth that he gives his worlds. If there is a mailman walking up a driveway to deliver a letter then you will learn something intimate about that man on the 30 second walk. I want three dimensional people to inhabit my towns because if I am going to put a person in jeopardy then the reader has to care about them.
Survival Island is my 18th novel. Like most of my work I would consider it to be Horror/Thriller hybrid and I always have some kind of twist or surprise in the end. It is a fast moving novel with a wide cast of characters with all of the being three dimensional. Hopefully readers will see different sides to them along with their own unique motivations where almost everyone lives in the grey areas between black and white.
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