To the Ends of the Earth by Michael Gouda
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Publication: May 31st 2019
Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Michael Gouda here today to talk about his new story, To the Ends of the Earth. Welcome, Michael.
Hi, I’m Michael Gouda and I was born in London, England at the start of WW2.
In my mid thirties after a disgracefully enjoyable time in the gay pubs and clubs of London I decided to take life more seriously, went to University, obtained a respectable degree and took up teaching in the Worcestershire town of Evesham.
I took early retirement to a limestone cottage in the Cotswold hills where I lived with a series of neurotic collie dogs, a domineering cat and a determination to write. Since then I have written over one hundred and fifty short stories and published longer works with Dreamspinner Press and M.L.R. Press.
I like to introduce incidents from my own deplorable past into my stories of crime and misadventure. Being a romantic at heart though I never allow a tragic ending, however downbeat may be the indications in between.
In ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ I wanted to write a story about quite a few emotions, betrayal was actually the one that as it were rose to the surface, though of course it isn’t the real one.
I intended to write a mystery. Someone is out to kill the narrator. Of course the narrator himself is a bit of a mystery for in fact we never know his real name. Not that that hasn’t been done before, notably in Daphne du Maurier’s, ‘Rebecca’.
Having decided on that I wanted to spin a web of characters, any one of which could prove to be the ‘villain’, some more obvious than others.
There was of course Lex Warrington, the handsome, super-attractive lover who himself is a mystery being forbidden by law (the Official Secrets Act 1989) to divulge his position/job whatever. It is interesting to know (to me at least) that the (mainly women) code breakers at Bletchley Park during WW2 were similarly bound, and some even went to their graves at advanced ages without telling anything. Others though did.
The second most important character in ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ is Jacob Levin, Johnny’s life-long friend with whom he shared so many ‘adventures’ in early life up to the time they were parted by the iniquitous 11+ exam which in England decided the fate and future of so many children, long before their potential could be realized.
Other suspects, in fact red herrings, were the terrorist whom Johnny photographs and could have identified him as his name was included in the byline of the newspapers and of course on the Internet.
I also hinted at the possibility that it might be Christian, Johnny’s sexual partner at University, aggravated by rejection, or even someone in the Police Force itself, though the motivation for this was unlikely.
Excerpt: The fire at the flat.
I stared at the ceiling, the light from outside percolated through the window and sniffed – and smelled a strange smell. Imagining it. I blew my nose and tried again. Yes there was a smell pervading. Smoke! And what was that other smell, almost hidden by the smoke? Petrol? Could it be? But that was daft. We had no open fires in this ultra modern house, unless there’d been some fault in an electrical appliance which had caused some minor conflagration. Switch on the light, go downstairs. Douse it with a wet towel. No, that was stupid, electricity and dampness don’t mix, or rather they mix too well.
Then I saw it, creeping under the bedroom door like an insinuating probe, a curl of smoke. Naked I rushed to the door and threw it open. A spurt of flame followed it, singeing my chest and face. I slammed the door shut but before I had done so I could see the whole staircase was alight, crackling with flames delighted to find so much flammable material. There was no escape there.
I ran to the window, already the smoke was filling the room, billowing round the ceiling as my movements created their own vortices. Keep as near to the floor as possible, smoke rises. The window. The window. Double glazed of course but surely openable. No, the only air intake was through a grid at the top which could be opened or shut as required.
I banged with my fists knowing that would be useless, tried with my elbow but only nearly broke my funny bone. Funny, I thought, inconsequentially. Find something heavy to bash it with. But what’s in a bedroom apart from a bed, chest of drawers, wardrobe. Couldn’t use those, couldn’t actually lift them.
Then I thought of the bedside lockers. Crawled my way back to the bed. I could scarcely see even with the light on, and then that flickered and died. Felt for a locker, Lex’s side, grabbed hold of it and crawled back to that barely discernible rectangle of light. Holding my breath I stood up, raised the locker above my head and brought it down with all the force I could muster on the inner window. It cracked but didn’t splinter. Damned toughened glass. Once more. More cracks but no hole. Third time lucky, I told myself and gave it all I’d got. Glass shattered all around me. I could feel several cuts but ignored them. The outside window was ordinary glass it shattered at the first blow and I gasped as fresh air filled my lungs. Bits of jagged glass stuck out from the frame as I tried to grip it. The smoke in the room was marginally clearer so I went to the bed, grabbed the duvet and used it to cover the glass. I was on the first floor which meant, if I could hang from the frame problem no more than a six foot drop on to … what was under the window? Concrete? No a narrow patch of garden with bedding plants. Well it wouldn’t do them much good but I’d probably be alright. I was halfway across the sill when the door suddenly crashed open and immediately the room was full of flames, licking over my left side. With a cry I flung myself out and I think knocked myself out on a stone or something for all went black and I knew no more.
What do you do when when your lover is out to kill you?
After university, Johnny dated a mysterious and influential man who never disclosed his profession. Now, following a quarrel, Johnny suffers a series of attacks—attempts on his life that his lover has the power and influence to perpetrate.
With nowhere else to turn, he must rely on his childhood best friend. But can Johnny trust him? With time running out and the world against him, Johnny must solve the mystery himself if he wants to survive.