Mars. It’s a hell of a long way from Huddersfield.
Flint Dugdale, blunt Yorkshireman and reality TV star, has used his large frame and ‘persuasive personality’ to take charge of Britain’s first manned mission to Mars.
Little does he know that the base – built by an advance party of incompetent robots – is not quite ready yet, with no food, no water and no doors. Worse, the ship’s scanners are picking up strange signals from the surface.
There is life down there. But will it be pleased to see him?
A laugh-out-loud science fiction comedy that's a cross between Red Dwarf and The Martian.
SFcrowsnest (Longest running online SF review website)
"Some parts of the book had me laughing so much I had to literally put it down and step away."
Full review: http://sfcrowsnest.org.uk/the-worst-man-on-mars-by-mark-roman-and-corben-duke/
Jemahl Evans Author Blog
"...some very British humour, rattling along at a goodly pace, with short chapters and unexpected twists galore."
Full review: http://jemahlevans.wixsite.com/jemahlevans/single-post/2016/09/08/Review-The-Worst-Man-on-Mars-by-Mark-Roman-and-Corben-Duke
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14A Nobfiddler's Lane
Thursday, August 22nd 1889
Bill Sikes to Doctor J. Watson:
Hand-delivered by Urchin
Deer Docter Watsen
I am sure yule forgiv this intrushon inter your privat life, but I have come upon a situashon what you might be abel ter help with (or indeed, your pal Mister Holmes). As you knowe, I have lately been on the strayt and narrow after being a bit of a robber fer most of my lyfe, so have been involvd in doin some cleanin fer the gover ment. In fact, I have been cleanin the basement in the monument what is knowne as Big Ben. An while doin so I have come inter contact with a gentleman by the name of Mister Hannay.
Anyway, I will get to the point of this letter: Mister Hannay is a writer what is interested in writin crim books and books about villins an that, an he was arskin me what I thought about stuff. Well, whil we was talkin, he arsked how many steps there was up to the tower, so I said there were about four undred.
He was a bit upset at this and said 'So, not thirty-nine, then?'
'No,' said I.
'Bugger,' said he.
Anyway, then he said he would have ter go and I watched him goin off down the streete. Then I appened ter notice that two surly-lookin fellers was followin him, so I hurried on down and catched up with him and took him inter a nearby pub.
The long and the short and the tall of it, Docter, is that Mister Hannay needs your help. I have enclosed the address at where he is stayin and have told him to expect you shortly.
I ope this were alright.
Saturday, August 24th 1889
To Sherlock Holmes Esq. from Doctor Watson
As you appear to be ignoring my messages, I have taken it upon myself to investigate the matter I brought to your attention the other day. Since our old pal Bill Sikes is unwilling to inveigle himself any further in the affair, I sent a telegram to 'The Uphill Gardener' (a public house of dubious repute) arranging to meet with Mr Hannay and attempt some sort of intervention.
When I arrived at the aforementioned hostelry last evening, I alighted from my Hansom in a flurry of excitement. I hasten to say the excitement was not of my doing, but created by a group of young apprentices in the midst of a series of strange tasks: some bigwig by the name of Lord Shagger had demanded they ascertain the cost of performing an appendectomy on the cheap. Identifying me as a physician by my Gladstone bag, the rabble pinned me to the wall and fired a barrage of questions regarding surgical cuts etc. I whipped out my trusty revolver, prompting the youths to back off, at which point they spotted that old fiend Dr Knox across the road (still on the run concerning that body-snatching business), and set off after him.
Finally free of the fray, I scurried into the public house and located the property owner. He glanced around nervously and bade me make haste to an upstairs room where I found our client, Richard Hannay.
'Where's Sherlock Holmes?' said he, with what I deduced to be an unhelpful degree of resentment.
I explained how Mr Holmes was engaged on another matter, but that I would do all I could to help. At this, he crumpled in a heap on the fireside rug and began to sob loudly. Feeling somewhat embarrassed at this show of unmanliness, I determined to explore my feminine side and knelt down beside him. Slipping an arm around his shoulder I must admit I found the experience of human contact rather comforting (as you know, Mrs Watson has been somewhat distant lately, following her fling with that Italian ice cream seller).
It transpires that Hannay cannot return to his own flat as one of his admirers is tormenting him with threats of libel etc. (I use this term loosely, since his melodramatic plots are completely ridiculous and unlikely to provoke anything other than utter boredom). However, I persuaded him that it was foolish to stay away from his own home and we should go there at once to face whoever (or whatever) awaits us.
In the end, I only managed to convince the man after showing him my trusty weapon. His eyes lit up on seeing it, and he begged me to let him touch it. I agreed to this, since I didn't see any harm in letting him feel its solid shaft and hair trigger, so long as the damn thing didn't go off in his hand!
Thus empowered, he became considerably animated and minutes later, we hailed a cab and set off for his apartment. Had I known what lurked in the shadows of that deadly spot, I might have taken more notice of Hannay's concerns.
To be continued
Diary of Doctor J. Watson
Flat 14, Windemere Mansions
Later the same day...
It was dark when Hannay and I arrived at his apartment. My companion’s initial enthusiasm (spurred by the knowledge of the gun in my pocket), had by this time dissipated somewhat. He began to display signs of anxiety; sweating profusely from every pore, an inability to get his key in the lock, visibly starting at the click of the light switch etc. I made myself useful by making a pot of tea while he hurried to the window and drew the curtains.
I busied myself in the kitchen and was a little disappointed to discover there were no Custard Creams. When I returned, Hannay had not moved from his position by the window.
'Here we are, old bean,' I said, handing him a mug of Darjeeling. 'This’ll perk you up.'
Holding the edge of the curtain open, he took the cup and stared at me for a moment, then his gaze moved back to the street outside. 'They’re back again, see?' He turned to me, a look of utter fright in his eyes. 'What the devil can they want?'
I shrugged and peered over his shoulder. In the street below, two rather iffy-looking men were standing by a telephone box, gazing up at the flat. I determined to put a brave face on it: 'Looks perfectly innocent to me – just a couple of chaps having a quiet smoke.'
Hannay shook his head. 'No, they’re after my plot.'
I blinked. 'Your what?'
'My plot,' said he. 'They want to steal The 39 Steps.'
I considered this for a long moment, debating the consequences of such a proposition. 'Sorry, what?'
He uttered a low moaning sound that hinted at his current mental state. 'Watson! Don’t you get it? It’s all about my book – The 39 Steps. They want to steal the plot.'
I began to experience a growing sensation of annoyance. 'What, you mean this isn’t about some international spy ring?'
'Spy ring? God no, it’s much, much worse.'
My blood ran cold. 'You mean - they’re writers?'
'Of course they’re bloody writers, damn it. Ever since I came up with a cracking good idea for my new novel, everyone’s been after it.'
I sighed. 'You’re an idiot. Sorry Hannay, but I’m going home.' I began to put on my socks and string vest. However, a knock at the door startled us both. 'Who the fuck’s that?'
'It’s them!' screamed Hannay, 'they’re going to kill me.'
I pulled on my trousers. 'Don’t be ridiculous. It’s probably just someone who’s lost their way and seeking directions.' I hastened to the door and pulled it open.
Standing before us was a moustachioed man wearing a frock coat. He leaned forward slightly and muttered, 'Ostovich.'
'What?' I said. But our visitor spake no more. He pitched forward and fell in a heap on the floor. And that’s when I noticed the knife in his back.
There was little need to check the man’s vital signs, but I went through the motions nevertheless. Given my companion’s somewhat heightened sense of terror, I decided to break the news to him as gently as possible:
'He’s snuffed it.'
'My God! I’m next!' Hannay’s hands flew to his face, cupping those rosy cheeks in a girlish manner that put me in mind of my own dear wife and the ‘swooning maiden’ act she sometimes adopts whenever I ask her to iron my longjohns.
'We must fetch Sherlock Holmes,' he cried, tugging at my lapel. 'Only he can save us.'
I brushed him aside. 'Don’t be such a nancy-boy, Hannay. Pull yourself together.' I checked through the dead man’s pockets and found two items: a picture postcard of some obscure Scottish village and a small white card displaying a silhouette of a man and the slogan ‘Scudder’s Marital Aids’. Slipping both articles into my pocket, I stood up. 'His name’s Scudder and judging from his business card I don’t believe him to be involved in creative writing. Now, Hannay, this is very important – the word he uttered before he fell…'
Hannay clenched his hands. 'I thought he was asking for the Post Office.'
I shook my head. 'No, that’s meaningless. I'm certain the word was ‘Ostovich’, which is obviously Russian. This man is a secret agent.'
'But what’s that got to do with me?'
I walked over to the window and retrieved my cup of tea. 'I think this has something to do with your writing, Hannay, but it’s also got something to do with spies.'
'But I don’t know anything about spying,' he wailed.
'Ah,' said I. 'And yet, in your recent novel ‘The Forger and the Gin-Juggler' you went into great detail about the process of creating false passports.'
'Oh, you read my books?' His manner changed abruptly and he began pawing at my chest like a lovesick pig.
'Indeed,' I muttered. I turned my face away lest he perceive my lying eyes. 'I didn’t like to say so before, but I’m rather fond of a good story and the depth of research that goes into your work might easily prompt a less intelligent casual reader to think you were involved in spying yourself.'
He shrugged. 'Actually, I make it all up, but I suppose it’s possible…'
'Not only possible, but highly likely. You said yourself someone was trying to steal your new novel.' I rubbed my chin the way I’ve seen Holmes do in such situations. 'I believe that the men who've been following you are enemy agents. Scudder here was obviously involved – perhaps he was a double agent. A triple agent, even.' I peeked through the curtains and noted with a grim nod that the two men at the phone box were still there. 'We have to leave.'
'And go where?'
At that precise moment in time I had no idea, but then a thought occurred to me. Pulling the postcard out of my pocket I studied the picture closely – it depicted a traditional Scottish village and the slogan ‘Frae Bonnie Scotland’. 'We need time to consider our next move,' I said, waving the card. 'We’ll catch the next train to Edinburgh and head for Newton Stewart – no-one will think of looking for us there.'
Deeply upset by rampant naughtiness, Santa Claus decides to launch nuclear missiles at the world. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer argues he’s being too rash, that not all humans are bad.
Santa agrees to cancel the missile strike if he can find someone who will slay twenty-nine bad people by Christmas Eve. He settles on his kin Sam Mollusk of Poway, California.
Sam begins by killing the neighborhood terrorist. Medusa, lonely for millennia because of the snakes on her head, loves Sam and follows his every move.
Meanwhile, root-beer-loving Afghan terrorists Nar and Salah are hoping to gain membership in Poway’s Al Qaeda cell and become Tupperware salesmen as cover.
Can Sam prevent Al Qaeda’s fiendish plot and Santa’s nuclear holocaust? Will Sam survive shopping WalMart on Christmas Eve?
"Most stunning about this cartoon is that, even though it's barely there at all, it has a certain low-key charm. It's an astoundingly different approach to cartooning". -- Cartoon OpportunitiesIt was a revolutionary idea when Scott Dikkers launched Jim's Journal in 1987 as an "anti-cartoon". The strip's drab title character, Jim, shuffles through a life in which virtually nothing ever happens. Yet Jim's Journal became a phenomenal hit, first on college campuses with Jim's fellow slackers, then exploding into other publications throughout the country.In I Feel Like a Grown-up Now -- Jim's fifth and final collection -- the prosaic Jim enters the not-so-exciting life of an adult. He negotiates married life, takes a job as a grocery clerk, and faces the frequent harassment of phone companies begging him to switch his long distance service. Cartoonist Dikkers, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin, is no longer syndicating Jim's Journal. He now devotes his time to filmmaking and The Onion, a humorous alternative newspaper.
Sparty darted from the corner of the barn, his Dalmatian dots blurring like flurrying snow. He'd been idly nosing a Daddy Long Legs, a passel of sticks that wouldn't play. Steve's head jerked to follow his dog, and because his arm followed the trajectory, Old Bessie mooed "red alert!"
Odd. Sparty seldom left Steve's side for long when he was milking, content to supervise stoically. Outdoors the squirrels scampered in disquieted haste, to beat the winter that always seemed on its way. Sparty could chase them all day.
Odder yet, Sparty's bark was neither rascal-pursuit or guardian-like. Steve deciphered his dog's messages as readily as Jackie understood Brandon's baby whimpers and coos. Sparty sounded like boyhood Christmas.
"Sorry, Old Bess," Steve said with a pat to the cow's haunch, "but I gotta go reconnoiter. Sparty is playing the scout."
Steve lifted his cap to scruff his longish hair and then resettled it. He hoped the S aligned properly, his version of company best. Whoever was out there was new, not a neighbor. He may have heard tires crunch the gravel of the lane moments ago, plausible because the postman and pastor made rounds.
His recently-divorced and near-thirty son, Brandon, might be home from a date, stumbling in soon to do chores. More likely lurching toward his personal suite, their Winnebago parked between the two small yellow barns, to game.
Steve was unalarmed. It was, after all, his property and his dog, both long tethered to his soul. His wife, Jackie, was cooking massive quantities of homogenized, teen-pleasing fare at what she called her lively 'hood, the local high school cafeteria.
Steve strode purposefully to cross the milk barn threshold, yet his curiosity threatened to loft his cap into the breeze. Fall swirled the air with possibility. With winter's frosty temps, folks bought more milk, probably for vast quantities of hot cocoa and holiday baking. "Hurrah" for health benefits sabotaged by season-sanctioned treats and extra cash for the Breeden Dairy.
"Howdy. To what do I owe the pleasure?" Steve said to the figure backlit by midmorning sun, his tone friendly yet authoritarian. Cautious, strangely calm. Sparty's tongue vigorously worked the stranger's extended palm, as if he was lapping up crumbs. His body waggled more than it did for Brandon.
"You owe the pleasure to our awesome mom," the man boomed. He patted Sparty's head, stood, and extended his arm.
"Say what?" Steve took in the Tony Lamas that trumped his functionally forlorn rubber boots, his gut struck with emotion as if kicked.
My Favorite Christmas Tree
Originally appeared in Ellipsis: An Anthology of Humorous Short Stories, August 2016
The names in this story are true.
Only the facts have been changed.
None are innocent.
We called ourselves the Scurvy Bastards. To us, drinking was science; the weekend our laboratory; our bodies, test tubes; and our minds, the experiment.
Every Friday and Saturday, each of us would absorb three to four times the lethal dose of alcohol, and have others report back on our actions. Needless to say, this was fascinating research.
One night, whilst sitting on the Scurvy Benches, as was our wont, the Electrician (a man permanently wired) had just dismissed the whole of Kant’s epistemology with the words, “That faggot didn’t even drink.”
The air was crisp as lettuce and miniature fogs arose whenever someone used the Pissing Tree. The Electrician’s irrefutable logic set Feeney thinking. Feeney did a great deal of thinking. He had to. No one could be that disturbed or disturbing without having put a great deal of thought into it. He was something of an enigma wrapped in legend. None knew from whence he came; he would appear like some mythical being, gym bag filled with books, Jameson, and Stout, dressed like Sherlock Holmes. He had a great red beard, and spoke in parables. One night he passed out and we found the only identification he bore was a membership card to the Dudley Do-Right fan club in the name of Little Bobby Feeney.
At present, Feeney was engaged in what he termed, “The Great Experiment.” The premise was as simple as it was ingenious: How long can a human being subsist on Guinness Stout and Cheese Doodles?
From the author of We’re French and You’re Not and The Fur West, De Lancey entertains supreme as he distills cooking to the simplest of terms—from boiling water (and identifying the stove) to preparing timeless classics from every corner of the globe including scrumptious Beef Stroganoff and Greek Wraps with tzatziki sauce. Every recipe is followed by hilarious tidbits, such as, ‘King Louis XV ate boiled eggs every Sunday. This practice ceased with his death.’
Eat Me is a cookbook spiced with comedy, leavened with silliness while still fully informative and functional. A great read for anyone's kitchen.
This is a story about a woman named Kenzie.
A woman who knows what she wants and likes things just the way they are, thank you very much.
This is also a story about a man named Max. Max can be a real pain in the ass.
And finally, this is a story about Dash, ex-husband extraordinaire, who likes to get down to the Scissor Sisters and parties a little too much.
And Katie, the best friend who parties far too much and can expertly defend herself against sexual harassment accusations.
And Claudia, sister, mother and head of the school parent's association, long time tea drinker. The chalk to Kenzie's cheese.
And Michael, the one that got away.
Must Be Quacking Up
"I don't think so Kenz." he said, no grimace or frown, just a serious look on his face, parental almost. Condescending was another word that came to mind.
'Oh, ok, no worries." she laughed to cover her embarrassment but she knew her face looked as if she had just played the 50-minute game of soccer in the sun instead of her niece.
"Ok well see you round." she shook her arm from where he still grasped her and started for the car, pretty sure she was walking weird, knowing she was. There was something distinctly duck like about her walk, dear god she was waddling. Yep definitely a waddle. What the hell was wrong with her?
"Kenzie wait." he followed her.
Even if she ran she wouldn't be able to lose him, especially now that she had the speed and agility of Huey, Dewey and Louie combined, or maybe it was just Donald, who would be the most uncoordinated out of the four she pondered to herself idiotically.
She stopped, not sure what he was going to say but wishing the ground would swallow her up, grateful her family hadn't overheard her be shot down so brutally, when she didn't even want to hang out with this with this guy, well at least she didn't think she did 5 minutes ago.
Oh god, she thought, Dash witnessing this would be even worse, she could imagine how much he would torture her.
"That's lovely, okay, look this way, marvellous, hold it right there." I look around me to locate the source of the words ringing in my ears as I approach the grand, stately venue of this year's biggest event in the fashion calendar.
It crosses my mind that I might be about to stumble upon a fashion shoot as I enter the piazza, only to discover a group of amateur photographers jostling for pole position to get pictures of anyone among the cluster of people crowding the entrance who might be wearing something vaguely fashionable or different.
I stop and watch with amusement the parasites with their rocket-fuelled egos, posing and posturing for the camera-wielding onlookers and their ever-extending and retracting lenses.
A grocery store can’t expect repeat business if its checkers unleash Armageddon. This truism governs Debbie Devil, dedicated supermarket checker and horny, estranged wife of Satan. Debbie sets her sights on Joe Thorvald, a God-fearing, Lutheran. If she can get him to eat a mushroom his soul and his hunky body will be hers.
Debbie tells her sidekick, Bertram, a British cook, to change Joe’s memory, body, circumstances, era, and life, until the Lutheran becomes a man who will eat mushrooms. But there will be only so many attempts on Joe’s soul before she unleashes Armageddon out of spite.
God sends the angels General Lee and Pedro Erickson, a Mexican-Swedish chef, to protect Joe. They fight back with Heaven’s culinary weapons, tacos and Swedish meatballs.
Along the way, Joe changes into a fun-loving dinosaur and a Greek warrior with an ass harder than bronze before being sent to Hell for nonpayment of his hospital bill. Can Lee and Pedro Erickson save the soul of a Lutheran hunk and prevent Armageddon? Ja caramba.
You Are Worthless is the self-help book from hell. This bracing blast of negativity takes aim at the impossibly cheerful inspirational self-help books flooding the market and hits the bullseye, with chapters such as Your Good-for-Nothing Friends, Your Miserable Job, and Life: What's the Use.
This hilarious parody collects hundreds of tidbits of painful reality such as You're no good, you're not great-looking, and you're going to die someday and it's probably going to hurt. Who among us isn't sick to death of the gushy, new-agey inspirational books that blindly assert that everyone is worthy? We all know the truth, and this book is as refreshing as a slap to the face.
Just some of the depressingly humorous nuggets of truth include:
* You don't really have any outstanding qualities. It's safe to say you're pretty much just like everybody else.
* The only reason your pet likes you is because you feed it.
* As you get older, you are going to have less and less control over your bladder.
* If you take a big risk and follow your dream, chances are you're going to fall flat on your face.
You Are Worthless also features a section called Hopeless Role Models from History, including Helen Keller (I've had it), and Abraham Lincoln (The only thing I'm good at is losing).
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In the Dark by Chris Patchell Narrator: Corey Gagne , Lisa Stathoplos Series: A Holt Foundation Story #1 Published by Audible Studios on 09-27-17 Genres: