Hi Everyone. I hope you are all well and are staying safe during these strange and worrying times.
I have something very special for you today. The publisher, Red Dog Press, are giving away a hardback copy of ‘Death of a Painter’ by Matthew Ross, the first book in the Mark Poynter series. The link is towards the bottom of the page.
To give you a taster of ‘Death of a Painter’ here is the book blurb followed by an extract.
IN THE BUILDING GAME TIME IS MONEY AND MONEY IS EVERYTHING. UNFORTUNATELY FOR MARK POYNTER, HE’S RUN OUT OF MONEY AND HE’S FAST RUNNING OUT OF TIME.
When Mark Poynter discovers a murder on his worksite all of his financial problems suddenly seem a lot closer to home: was this a warning his debts are overdue?
Suspected of being the killer and worried at being the intended victim, the murder only makes Mark’s money problems worse, leading him to turn to the local villain, Hamlet, who has his own unique repayment plan in mind for Mark.
When two more deaths plunge him even further into debt, Mark finds himself faced with a choice – help the police and clear his name or help the villain and clear his debt.
Set in the Medway Towns on the grey margins of criminality, where no job’s too big, no dodge’s too small …
Death Of A Painter is the first in a new series of darkly comic crime fiction novels featuring the beleaguered builder Mark Poynter, aided and hindered in equal measure by his trusted crew of slackers, idlers and gossips, and the lengths they go to just to earn a living.
SOME SAY BEING in the building trade isn’t a job, they say it’s a way of life. What they never tell you about is the problems – every day of every week of every year – nothing but problems.
Everyone you work with wants money off you, everyone you work for wants to keep money from you, and everyone – and I mean everyone – wants it done by yesterday. It’s problem after problem after bloody problem.
And right now, I seem to have more than anyone. I’ve got a hysterical woman screaming down the house, a dead man on her kitchen floor, and I’ve got absolutely no idea what’s going on. All I do know… there’s no way now this job’s going to be finished by Friday.
MRS WILKES SQUEEZED my hand and sobbed. I looked at the mess that was once Tommy and couldn’t help wondering – had he been having a bit of a dabble with Mrs Wilkes? It wouldn’t be the first time he’d entertained the client, and it would explain the overly dramatic wailing that quite frankly was starting to give me the hump.
I figured he probably had been. He definitely had a magic touch with married stay-at-home mums harbouring secret fantasies for no-strings with a rascal – and he was that alright, all smiles and laughs and a little bit of teasing to make them blush – it was as though he’d walked straight out of a crappy 70s sex comedy, only now it wasn’t so funny – Carry On Dying.
There is a Mr Wilkes. We’d greet him every morning as he headed off in his smart suit and sense of self-importance. It was no wonder the wife treated herself to a bit of fun with a cheeky painter when she was married to such a miserable belligerent arse. He does something in the City and thinks he’s very busy and important; maybe he is, I don’t care. Mrs Wilkes was alright, but he’d been a nuisance since the job began, in fact since before the job began – he’d insisted on having a proper contract between us.
So far, he’d tried and failed to knock our money for genuine variations, and tried (and failed) to refuse us an extension of time after his wife’s changes of mind added a fortnight to the job. His contract wasn’t really working in his favour and it only seemed to add to his general state of ill-temper. However, we’d run out of smart excuses. We had to finish by Friday, and Mr Wilkes was exactly the sort who’d want his penalty payments out of principle. I could picture him willing us to fail just so he can feel like he’s won something. But I don’t know where the contract stands on when the work’s delayed by the site becoming a crime scene – is that force majeure? It was certainly a force of something, looking at the damage done to poor Tommy.
This wasn’t a fall or an accident on site, this was violence, this was brutal. Just below his ear, his head yawned open wide, smashed white bones and grey jelly. His face had been rinsed red by the steady flow of blood, now pooled and tacky like spilled paint on the granite tiles beneath him.
He was the best decorator I’ve ever worked with; morally questionable, but he’d do a lovely job, which is why, as soon as I saw his brushes on the side, I knew something was up. They hadn’t been washed out, he’d still been working, must have been interrupted and put them down for a moment. If he’d intended leaving them for a while, he’d have wrapped them in clingfilm to keep the bristles soft. That’s what he always did. I knew his brushes would stiffen and become brittle, like the bloody wound in the side of his head that was turning black around the edges. Thankfully I was pulled out of these dark thoughts by a voice beside me.
‘I said, what are we going to do?’ asked Mrs Wilkes.
‘Police… I suppose,’ was my rather feeble response.
No doubt Mr Wilkes and his swaggering pomposity would have thrived in such a moment, issuing commandments left right and centre, but my immediate reaction – and it probably doesn’t show me in any great light to admit it – was Thank God she found him first, as I could just imagine how the police’s questions would go if she hadn’t, although it didn’t seem to matter because, twenty minutes later:
‘He worked for you for how long, roughly, would you say?’ the uniformed copper asked me. He looked so familiar, I’m sure I’d seen him before, maybe from one of the Sunday league teams that drink at the Golden Lamb post-match; he looked the football sort – tall, slim, bit of a swagger. ‘And were there any disagreements? Disputes about money?’
There it is, that’s the one I’d been waiting for – the sub-contractor’s dead, must’ve been an argument over payment, must’ve been me; brilliant, well done Medway’s finest for jumping to the bleeding obvious!
A man entered the room, a small man with a face like a fox – all dark eyes, pointy nose and teeth, with white hair. He was very smartly dressed and obviously took a great deal of pride in his appearance judging by his shiny shoes and even shinier cufflinks. The uniform stopped his somewhat insulting questions, looked at the dapper little fellow, gave a respectful nod and moved away.
Mr Cufflinks approached me, reaching into the inside pocket of his tailored suit jacket. ‘I have been appointed investigating officer here,’ he informed me in a monotone voice, pulling out a warrant card and holding it six inches from my face. I tried to read his name, unusual, never seen it before but I decided to give it my best shot.
‘Inspector Senior, I’m—’
‘Sen Ya’ he interrupted ‘Senia, it’s pronounced Senia, Detective Chief Inspector Senia. It’s Italian.’ His patronising tone was already beginning to annoy me.
‘So, you’re Italian?’ I still don’t know why I asked that, ease the tension I suppose.
‘Do I fucking look Italian?’
Well, that threw me, no-one’s ever asked me that before; what does an Italian look like? I could only think of Pavarotti and he didn’t look anything like him. I must have pondered for too long as he barked his next question at me.
‘You’re the one that called it in? Mark Poynter?’
I confirmed I was both of those, and then started explaining that Tommy worked for me and the job we were doing. He didn’t seem to understand.
‘But you’re an electrician?’
‘And the deceased was a painter?’
‘So why does an electrician need a painter?’
‘Err, to paint.’
‘I know a painter does the bloody painting, don’t get smart with me. Why is an electrician employing a painter?’
‘Because I’ve been fitting the new kitchen here, and I had him decorating.’
‘Fitting a kitchen? Isn’t that a carpenter’s job?’
‘Yes, but the carpenter’s finished, the plumber’s finished, the plasterer’s finished so now it’s just the decorator to finish.’
‘But you’re an electrician!’
I thought carefully about my next words, he was starting to wind me up, but the last thing I wanted was to annoy the Law when they were looking for someone to blame a murder on.
‘Yes, I’m an electrician. Most of my work is electrical. But on occasion people have asked me to take on bigger projects because they know I know all the right trades and it’s easier having me manage the thing start to finish.’
‘Like a main contractor?’
‘Yes, like a main contractor.’
‘Well, why didn’t you say that to begin with instead of farting about saying you’re an electrician?’
I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I didn’t.
‘So, you two were friends, good friends?’
I felt a bit guilty – to Tommy not to this foxy-faced fuckwit – to find myself denying we’d been friends for, must be, fifteen years now. Instead I gabbled around the edges staying nondescript, I told him we’d done a lot of work together – he’d get jobs and recommend me, I’d get jobs and recommend him – and that’s how things tend to go in this industry.
‘Can you think of anyone that’d want to harm him, or bore a grudge?’ asked Senia.
I immediately thought of Tommy’s tendency to dabble, and wondered whether Mr Wilkes had found out he’d been dipping more than his brushes whilst he was at work. But I didn’t say anything, firstly because Mr Wilkes may have been a petulant nobhead but I knew he was nothing more than bluster and bullshit, also it didn’t make sense to accuse him of murder when he still owed me a month’s money. I’ve got the bill for his granite worktops due this week, they’re the price of a new car alone, the last thing I wanted was to risk him knocking my payment, so I told Senia no.
Senia stared patiently at me, for ages, unblinking, like a crocodile. ‘Did he work for you as a direct employee?’
I explained, again, he was a sub-contractor; this was beginning to feel like hard work.
‘Well why in that case,’ the frustration in his voice matching mine, ‘are you both wearing the same shirt?’
He was right. We were both wearing a purple sweatshirt with my silver ‘MP Electrical’ logo. I tried explaining the concept of corporate branding: ‘my job, my firm, my rules’, meaning Tommy would wear my shirt when on my project.
‘So, if you can’t think of anyone that may have wanted to harm him,’ said Senia, ‘what about you? Your job, your firm – your shirt. Could it be mistaken identity and it was, in fact, you they were after? Has anyone threatened you, anyone bear a grudge against you?’
‘No,’ I lied, but by the way those dark eyes stared back I don’t think he believed me.
About Matthew Ross
Matthew Ross was born and raised in the Medway Towns, England. He still lives in Kent with his Kiwi wife, his children and a very old cat.
He was immersed in the building industry from a very early age helping out on his father’s sites during school holidays before launching into his own career at 17. He’s worked on projects ranging from the smallest domestic repair to £billion+ infrastructure, and probably everything in between.
A lifelong comedy nerd, he ticked off a bucket-list ambition and tried his hand at stand-up comedy. Whilst being an experience probably best forgotten (for both him and audiences alike) it ignited a love for writing, leading to various commissions including for material broadcast on BBC Radio 4 comedy shows.
Matthew moved into the longer format of novel writing after graduating from the Faber Academy in London in 2017.
‘Death Of A Painter’ is his first novel and the first in a planned series of stories featuring Mark Poynter and his associates.
Matthew enjoys reading all manner of books – especially crime and mystery; 80s music; and travelling and can’t wait for the next trip to New Zealand to spend time with family and friends.
Website – https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/RedDogTweets
Website – https://mattwross.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/mattwross
So, as mentioned earlier, Red Dog Press are giving away a hardback copy of ‘Death of a Painter’. This competition is open worldwide from now until 4:00 p.m. on the 10th May 2020. The winner will be chosen by the publisher. Click on the link below to enter:-
If you are not the lucky winner but like the sound of the book, you can buy it from:-
There is also a blog tour taking place which you might want to check out.