Here are the rules.
Method: you can’t use a gun. You can’t use explosives. You can’t use poison. It has to be up close and personal. You don’t have to worry about leaving evidence; that will be taken care of.
Victim: no one suicidal. No one over the age of 65. No one with a terminal illness.
Choose your method. Choose your victim.
Chris Summer was a 21 year old call centre worker and a drop out. A nobody, still living at home with his parents. Then one day the Man in White came to his family’s house, offering a seemingly impossible choice: kill a random stranger – one of Chris’ choosing –within twelve days in order to save the lives of five kidnapped siblings. Refuse, and they die slowly and painfully. The clock is ticking, the Man in White is watching, and Chris has some very important choices to make.
This is a tale of fear, indecision, confused masculinity and brutal violence; a story of a coddled young man thrust into a world of sharp metal and bone.
Ask yourself if you could do it. Then ask yourself who you would choose.
Release Date: December 6, 2016
Available Soon on Audible.com (click the link to see Luke Smitherd’s other Audible books)
Chapter One: The Man in White, The Dangers Of Video Conferencing, and Some Very Important Rules and Regulations
When I was still truly young, The Man in White came to my family’s house on a cold Saturday morning in November. Klaus – although his name was not yet Klaus – was, of course, with him.
At twenty-one years old, I really was a young man, and I don’t mean in terms of age. I mean my attitude, compared to those around me who’d been in my year at school. Although I wouldn’t admit it at the time, I knew it deep down. It was probably why I was still working in a shit job three years after graduating and not attending university. I knew I would have crashed out halfway through the first year. In many ways, I think taking that shitty agency job was my first honest-to-god attempt at being an adult, but I could have worked there for twenty years and I don’t think I’d have handled things any better. I try to think of any adults I’ve known that would have been able to handle what that man had to tell me, and I can’t. I reckon they would have to have been psychopaths to do so, and as far as I’m aware, I didn’t know any.
Of course, I often think about what happened – every day, as you’d expect, but I mean I ask myself, specifically, if I have any regrets. That’s a difficult question to answer because there’s regret and then there’s culpable regret, you see. Active regret, to me, means things that I felt I handled badly, or wrong choices I made for the wrong reasons, you know? Like sleeping in an hour longer when you know you shouldn’t, or eating that extra dessert when you know you want to lose weight. Those are culpable regrets.
For the most part, I know I at least made choices I thought were right; what I thought were the best possible choices at the time. But was I truly culpable? Can I be culpable when faced with an impossible choice? I’ve never truly known. Not even once in the many, many long nights that have followed.
The very last choice, of course. The one that will never, ever leave me, no matter how much I try to make up for it. That’s why I’m writing this journal; to at least purge some of the crap inside me. To fill the Microsoft Word equivalent of paper on a cheap-ass laptop – bought solely for this purpose – that will never, ever, be connected to the internet. Can’t have any hack-happy assholes finding out about this.
That son of a bitch. That son of a bitch and his grinning face.
That morning – following the last day of my life that was still fully my own – the crappy old doorbell at my parents’ house woke me from a deep sleep. It took me a minute or two to figure out what was going on. What was the strange drilling sound? Then my cognitive process caught up with reality, the brrrrrrrrrrrr of the doorbell demanding an answer.
Someone has a problem. Maybe I’ve done something wrong. No, someone’s broken down out here, that’s it. The only reason someone’s calling this early is because we’re the only house around here.
The last part was true, at least. As I dragged my bleary-eyed carcass out of bed, the startling and surprising whiteness from the fields outside hurt my eyes as it penetrated the thin bedroom curtains. It had snowed during the night, apparently. The rolling countryside around my parents’ farm (inactive) turned into a dazzlingly harsh whiteness that would be a wonderland to some and an eye-stinging nightmare to first-thing-in-the-morning Chris Summer.
“Hang on…” I called, grabbing my moth-eaten robe from the hook on the bedroom door and angrily thrusting my arms into it. I had a right to be angry, didn’t I? That was a rough time for me. I spent endless days at the call centre and spent the rest of the time being constantly knackered. It was frankly a miracle that I never got fired, such a zombie was I on a daily basis. I was rarely asleep before 2 am, despite my best efforts, and the weekends were my only chance to catch up. On that particular morning, I knew I’d never get back to sleep again, and—
Now that pissed me off. I froze. What the fuck? Someone leaning on the doorbell like that? Who the hell did they think they were? I was suddenly torn between going back to bed just to ignore such rudeness, and a desire to go downstairs and give the business to whoever was treating my doorbell like some sort of servant-summoning device. In my angry, sleep-frustrated state, I chose the latter. I flung the bedroom door open and pounded my way down the narrow wooden staircase, reached the front door, and gave that door the flinging treatment, too. The brisk late autumn air hit me as a very terse and above-normal-volume yes? was in the process of passing my lips… but one that petered out when I saw the strange sight in front of me. The yes? ended up as simply,
In hindsight, when I think about what I was going to say—that I was going to give those guys the roasting and have them scared of me—I almost laugh at the ridiculousness of it.
A smiling man was standing in front of my parents’ doorstep, with a very large and unsmiling man standing immediately behind him. The gravel yard outside, with the chickens milling about (the only animals on the entire property, other than the cat, due to my parents’ fondness for fresh eggs) and the thin layer of snow made the image of the two men before me seem even more surreal. This was because the large man in his black suit and shades stood out in such contrast to the whiteness, and because the smaller man almost blended into it with his white suit, shirt, tie, and grey hair. Both of them wore leather gloves and sunglasses.
The white-suited man’s smile was so wide as to be almost unsettling, and the crisp neatness of the suit surrounded by the farm setting was just… weird. He was about my height of 5’9”, but a good deal older, perhaps in his early fifties. His skin was pale, but he still looked healthy and robust. His smile certainly was. The large man behind him was slowly scanning the exterior of the house, the courtyard, and the distance off to the left. Everything about him—his close-cropped blond hair, black sunglasses, his bulk, his chiseled face, the way he was dressed—said Spook.
What… the hell…?
“Chris Summer?” the man in the white suit asked me, extending a hand. I shook it, feeling the leather in mine, any thoughts of outrage already blasted away. I was immediately very nervous. Who could blame me? I mean, who has people like this turn up on their doorstep this early on a Saturday morning? This was already extremely fucking weird. All of it: they knew my name; the sheer size and formal dress of the large man; this guy’s white suit… Were they drug guys? Had somebody said something to someone? I would occasionally smoke the odd joint, but I never ran with anybody that was really into that kind of thing. My heart rate was already up and my scalp felt loose.
“Yes…” I said, suddenly feeling very vulnerable and foolish in my scabby old robe. Also, cold. The crisp, chill air was moving around my bare ankles and bony toes. “Uh… I don’t think I…” The Man in White held up a hand, smiling, and cocked his head away slightly. No need, the gesture said. I know this is a surprise.
“I understand, Mr. Summer,” he said. “This is out of the blue, I know. I also know this is very early for a house call, but I wanted to make sure you were in. We woke you up by the looks of it. Sorry about that.”
“May I call you Chris?”
Who the fuck is this guy?
Thoughts of slamming the door and calling the police were clamouring inside my head. You’d be thinking the same thing, right? Was this a dream? I didn’t want to get into a discussion and thought it a very bad idea to get drawn into one, but just as I was about to close the door, I had a vision of the Mr. Black Ops out there busting through it.
Would he do that?
They clearly came here at 7 am to talk to you. Did you really think they’re just going to leave?
What the hell is going on?
I tried to summon up some internal solidity. I’ve never been a tough guy, and I knew that the big unit would easily eat me for breakfast, but my father had always told me never to show weakness in a potentially dangerous situation. If you do, Chris, you’re already screwed. I had to stand up a little bit, if only until I could get my head around the situation.
“Well… I mean… that depends on what this is about,” I said, shifting on my feet, partially due to nerves and partially from the cold.
“Well, I’m not going to lie to you, Chris,” the Man in White said, “what I have to tell you is highly unusual. Pretty weird, certainly. Very weird. And look, I’ll be honest, you’re probably not going to like it. But the good news is that we will leave you alone the second you say so, but I would really recommend – for your own peace of mind – at least hearing what I have to say.”
I felt my blood run that much colder. Not just because of the terrifying phrase you’re probably not going to like it, but because of something even more simple. It was far more subtle, yet hit me the hardest: he was using my first name. He’d asked if he could, I hadn’t given my permission, but he hadn’t waited for an answer. It didn’t matter to him. I wanted to say just that, I didn’t give you my permission, but it just felt like a strange thing to say – impolite.
That’s bullshit. If I can’t be honest now, what’s the point in even thinking about this?
I didn’t say anything because, at that moment, I was scared shitless.
“Why won’t I like it? Who are you?” I asked. Who are you sounds like quite a confrontational and perhaps brave thing to say, but believe me, it wasn’t delivered in that manner. I stammered as I said it.
“May we come in and tell you?” the Man in White asked, with a theatrical, hey-here’s-a-crazy-idea shrug, the world’s least convincing used car salesman. “Again, we’ll leave as soon as you say, but you will want to hear this.” His voice was so ordinary, so-straight-out-of-a-dentist’s-office, that it was almost disarming.
I looked at the hulk behind him, looked at the Man in White’s permagrin, and heard the words leave my mouth on autopilot. Fear response.
“No,” I said. “No… I don’t know who you are.” I felt my legs start to tremble as I said it, scarcely believing that I was disobeying. I’d read about that happening in books, but here it was happening to me for real. I wouldn’t be able to stand if this went on much longer. I’d been asleep three minutes ago; how was it possible that I was in this situation already? “I think I want you to leave, actually. I want you to go away.” I could taste copper on my breath. The Man in White’s grin faltered a little, but just a little.
“Well, listen Chris, that’s fine,” he said, holding up his hands. “I said we’d leave if you asked us to leave, and I’m under very, very strict instructions to give you total freedom here.”
Give me total freedom? I thought. You don’t give me total freedom! You don’t give me anything! I already have total freedom and it isn’t up to you! That had really made me angry, but not angry enough to actually say it. Under instructions? Under instructions from who?
“But listen, I think you should at least know what’s at stake,” the Man in White continued, “and then you’ll be better informed. I’d feel very bad indeed if you didn’t know the whole score, as I’m almost certain that if you did, you wouldn’t want us to leave. Not because of any problems you would experience – you will experience no problems from us, directly or indirectly, and neither will anyone you know, but because I’m sure you’re a good person and a good person would want to know, or he’d want to know if, ah, he knew the situation, if that makes sense.” The last part was said with a little chuckle, like a light joke given in the middle of a lecture.
“What situation?” I asked, both desperate to know and not wanting to know at all.
The Man in White’s smile vanished from his face, like it was a living thing that had somehow been instantly shot dead.
“People will die if you don’t talk to us, Chris. No one you know personally, but human beings, nonetheless. My employer’s associates already have them, and if you don’t hear us out, they will kill them.”
There was silence then, broken only by the light breeze blowing in my ears.
The Man in White’s gaze bored into me, his eyes hidden behind his sunglasses.
The huge man behind him stared at me too, his scanning halted, his eyes hidden behind his sunglasses.
All I could think was:
This is a joke. Or a dream. It has to be a dream.
“That’s all you have to do, Chris, to save these lives,” the Man in White said. “Hear us out. And then if you don’t want any further part of this, we’ll leave. Of course, you could say you want no further part of this right now, but people will die.”
Blurbs and Testimonials
“In a field of genre fiction overflowing with mediocrity and stale ideas–published by large and small press alike–Luke Smitherd stands out as a truly new and original voice.”
“… strong characterization, moral quandaries, mystery, and a whole lot of tense moments. Reading the final sentence was truly a bittersweet moment. ”
-SFsignal.com, Hugo award-winning website
“The author does suspense really well. He has a remarkable ability to leave things up in the air, uncertain, unexplained, for a long time, but in a naturally written way (he isn’t spinning the pages out with flannel) and this just keeps you to turning those pages and staying up well past your bedtime.”
-Clark Ellis, The Self-Taught Author Blog
“…the book was thrilling and entertaining. I found myself returning to the book whenever possible to see what happened next. In the end, it was an exciting and tense read.”
“The excruciating tension and deeply rooted horror of this story got into my bones. I found myself camping out in my driveway, unable to turn off the car or interrupt the story long enough to switch to my headphones and walk inside.”
-Amy D. Robinson, author
“This audiobook is a fantastic call back to classic science fiction horror stories of yesteryear while incorporating some of the modern style to truly make it a chilling story for modern times.”
–Audio Book Treasury
“If you’re looking for a quick, mind blowing, science fiction, “what if” read, this is it!”
–Book Savvy Reviews
“Both of these stories, much like Smitherd’s other novellas, have you questioning moral decisions and how you would react if you were faced with the same choices and situations as the characters.”
-The Reading Room
“This is the 6th book I’ve read by Smitherd and I haven’t been disappointed yet!”
-New Free Kindle Books
If you have questions related to any of Luke Smitherd’s books, please send them to: Luke@LukeSmitherd.com and write “Interview Questions – Kill Someone” in the Subject. Your questions will be displayed here and you will receive a notification when the answers are published. Please note that any questions related to “spoilers” will not be answered.
- All your other books have elements of the supernatural in them, but this one doesn’t. Was that intentional or simply how the story developed? The latter. It was, as with all of my writing, an idea that wouldn’t go away. As it was, this particular book was free of anything supernatural, but maybe after four novels it was time to try something like that. I still think it’s as unusual as my other work, and that for me is the main thing.
- How do you describe “Speculative Fiction”, and why is it your chosen genre? I always tell people it’s ‘What If?’ fiction. Unusual scenarios played out against the backdrop of a real world, portrayed as realistically as possible. That’s always been what I love to read, so that’s what I love to write.
- Most of your books are very well-reviewed, but how do you deal with it when you receive criticism of your work? Some people don’t like my books for things like swearing or violence, or when they say things aren’t explained that very clearly are, or that things aren’t following a mainstream/hollywood style …I don’t pay any attention to those. But if it’s a constructive three-star review, or even a constructive two-star review, I’ll have a read of it and see if they’re making any points that I could learn from. Three-star reviews have been hugely useful to me (when constructive) and I have to say I’ve been very grateful for some of them. But when they’re just a one-star rant, I dismiss them. One star reviews are ridiculous in themselves; a book would have to be unreadable to deserve that, and I’ve never read a book in my entire life that I would class that way. The worst two star review I ever received – written exactly like this – was “the screen is too dark on my kindle, why”.
Q & A
If you have questions of a more personal nature for Luke Smitherd, such as, “What is a typical day of writing like for you?”, please send them to: Luke@LukeSmitherd.com and write “Q & A – Kill Someone” in the Subject. Your questions will be displayed here and you will receive a notification when the answers are published. Please note that any questions related to “spoilers” will not be answered.
- What is it like narrating your own audiobooks? Is this something you will continue to do? I like the performing part, and getting to act out the character dialogue, but I don’t really enjoy doing the narrating itself. I talk very quickly normally and having to read at a narrator pace pretty much drives me insane.
- Many of your books center around the concept of death. Why do you think that is? Because I’m obsessed with dying and live in constant fear of it, if I’m honest …
- Which of your books are you most proud of? In terms of plotting, The Physics of the Dead for certain. As an overall book, I’d probably go with In The Darkness, That’s Where I’ll Know You.
- You travel through Europe and the US a good deal of the time. What are your reasons for not staying in one place very long? I get very restless and hate the idea of wasting precious time (see question 2.) I’ve only got so long to see and do so much.
- Your reviews often mention the “Afterword” section of your books. Was it a conscious decision to share so much of yourself with your readers or did it just happen naturally? Always, absolutely. Stephen King’s afterwords, both getting to the know the man better and the ideas and thoughts behind the story, I thought that was fascinating, and couldn’t imagine writing a book and not doing the same.
- What is the most frustrating part of being an author? Have you ever thought of giving it up? Many times, for the first few years. Trying so many things to promote yourself that never pay off, spending months on a book, releasing it and seeing it do absolutely nothing …I’m glad to leave those years, for the most part, behind.
- What made you go into writing? I’ve always loved making up stories, and I’ve always loved jobs where I don’t have to get up and go to work in the morning. More the latter than the former.
- Did you read a lot growing up? Yes, I read all the time when I was a kid. To the point where I got a Christmas card from another kid at school when I was about ten-years-old. It was a picture of a baby penguin sitting on a block of ice; the gag being that the penguin was on the toilet, and the kid that gave me the card had actually drawn a book in the penguin’s hands because I read so much.
- How many books do you currently have available? I have four novels, a book of collected novellas, two other novellas, and I have two new books coming out this year. My next book, “How to be a Vigilante: A Diary” comes out on September 14 of this year.
- How do you come up with the ideas for your stories and how do you keep the storylines straight as you write? I have a list in my phone for when an idea come to me. It’s always like a concept; it’s always like a “what if” idea, “what if this happened”, and I think where’s the story in that, and I sit down and thrash it out and note down stumbling blocks and try to keep it as straight as I can and as water tight in terms of logic.
- What do you love most about writing? When I know I’ve written something that’s sent the reader one way—or I try to hint it’s going one way—and then do a complete swerve and surprise them. There’s a particular moment in my novel, “In the Darkness, That’s Where I’ll Know You” where I would have loved to have seen some of the readers’ faces. A. I thought that when I wrote it; and B. Based on the emails I’ve had, it had the effect I thought it would.
- Is there anything you hate about writing? Yes. I hate that I can’t write as fast as I think. My shoulders get very, very tense after about half an hour of writing because I’m quite frustrated.
- Do you have a favorite spot where you write? No. I’m on the road a lot. I don’t like to write indoors, at home, or where I’m staying because I get cabin fever. Generally, I like to write out and about, any time of day. I actually have a playlist of instrumental music that I listen to while I work—so no lyrics—and I actually have an app that plays a sound that supposedly helps me concentrate. Whether it works or not, I don’t know.
- If you could change anything about your books, would you? I already did. I published, “The Stone Man”, which is my biggest book and then last year I trimmed about ten thousand words out of it. I’ve realized I have a tendency to be quite verbose so I’ve gone through one or two of the books and trimmed them a lot and I try to keep an eye on that as I write now.
- If you could change places with anyone, would you? Who? Off the top of my head, no, because you never really know what’s going on with somebody.
- If you could live in any book for a day, what book would it be? Although I didn’t like the book, I would say, “Ready, Player One” (by Ernest Cline), because I loved the idea of The Oasis.
- If you hadn’t become an author, what do you think you would be doing? Pro Wrestling 100%! Or, possibly more realistically, still a musician.
- Which point of view do you like to write in and why? There are pros and cons to both. My biggest book is all in the first person, and I like that because I like exploring the character’s thoughts a bit more clearly, and I can do that in the first person. Then again, writing in the third person means you can get on with it a little bit more, I think.
- What does a typical day of writing look like? A lot of procrastination, a lot of getting other things done, and then maybe hopefully on a good day, on a really good day maybe getting four hours in, but it tends to be anywhere from one to three, and a lot of other garbage I have to do in between.
- How do you unwind after a day of writing? I don’t really unless I’m actively trying to force myself to do more to unwind because unless I’m doing something with other people when I’m at home, I’ll work right until I go to bed. I’m realizing I shouldn’t do that. I’m trying to take more time to read or anything. So, the answer is, right now, that’s a work in progress.
- If you were given the chance to be one of your characters, would you? Absolutely not. Most of my characters don’t… I don’t think there are any of my characters I’d like to be. They tend to get a hard time.
- What would the title of your autobiography be? My brother and I used to always joke the title of my autobiography would be: “Faded and F*&!%d: The Luke Smitherd Story”. So let’s go with that.
- Do you keep anything handy in case an idea comes to you out of the blue? See earlier answer about my phone!
- How do you think the classics inspire today’s authors? While I think today’s authors, the good ones at least, are trying to find new things to do, the classics manipulate the reader’s emotions. I think that’s timeless. No matter how you execute it. I think those things are still important.
- How do you celebrate when you finish a book? I don’t really because when I finish the first draft I think that’s when the hard work starts—the redrafting and the messing around. I’m a procrastinating workaholic. Putting celebration time aside is something I need to do more often.
- Do you use Twitter, a newsletter, a blog, or Facebook? Yes, I do use Twitter. You can follow me @lukesmitherd. I have irregular updates on my website at lukesmitherd.com. Most frequently updated is the Facebook page at “Luke Smitherd Book Stuff”. Anyone who wants to find out more about my stuff I would recommend signing up on lukesmitherd.com for the “Spam-Free Book Release Newsletter”.
- Any advice for future writers? It’s a war of attrition. It took me five years before I got to the point where it was a full-time living. You will feel like you’re writing to no one. And all the pieces of advice you get—people say, “Hey, why don’t you do a giveaway to your readers”, and you look at your mailing list and you have twenty people and you think, “How is that going to help?” It’s just a case of plugging away, connecting with your readers, and don’t waste time blogging or trying to find fans through twitter. Use Twitter only as a way of connecting with people that want to connect with you.
About the Author:
Luke Smitherd is the author of the international bestselling novel, “The Stone Man”. He was born in the United Kingdom and has made his home town of Coventry the setting for most of his work. He attended Coventry University, graduating with a BA in Theatre. Prior to being a full-time novelist, he held diverse jobs ranging from copywriting to singing/ songwriting. For a while, he considered becoming a professional darts player, but decided writing was his true calling. He hasn’t looked back since.
His first novel, “The Physics of the Dead”, was published in 2011. He then began the “The Black Room” series, which later turned into the completed novel, “In the Darkness, That’s Where I’ll Know You”. During that same time period, he wrote and published, “The Stone Man”, which truly announced his arrival as an author. “The Stone Man” is a bestselling novel in both the United Kingdom and the United States and has sold over 100,000 copies. Its success allowed Luke to become a full-time writer. He can’t quite believe the remarkable turn his life has taken, but he is very grateful and happy that it has.
His other full-length novel, “A Head Full of Knives”, was released in 2014, and his latest novel, “How to be a Vigilante: A Diary” was successfully published in September, 2016. Along the way, he has written several novellas and short-story collections, including:
- The Man on Table Ten, My Name is Mister Grief, and Hold on Until Your Fingers Break, which are all included in the book, “Weird. Dark.”, along with the short story, “The Crash”.
- He Waits and Keep Your Children Close, included in the collection, “He Waits”.
- Closure and Your Name is in the Book, included in the collection, “Do Anything”.
He entered the world of audiobooks in 2015 when he collaborated with British actor, Matt Addis, to produce the audio version of, “The Stone Man”. This book went on to be shortlisted in the final 12 for “Audible Audiobook of the Year 2015” amongst such writing superstars as Stephen King and JK Rowling. Luke has narrated all of his other audiobooks.
Luke now spends his time writing and traveling the world for inspiration. He supports charitable organizations ranging from Water Aid to the National Deaf Children’s Society to end-of-life care institutions.
Luke has many exciting projects scheduled for the next year (which shall remain nameless). They are going to involve a lot of work, but he believes his fans will be happy with the end result.
Luke’s relationship with his readers is very important to him. He knows their loyalty and excitement about his work allow him to continue to do what he loves. He enjoys talking to fans on Facebook and Twitter, and he is famous for the “Afterwords” to his books, where he talks about how the story came about, as well as sharing personal details about what was going on in his life as he wrote the book. His “Afterwords” are favorites of his readers.
He also has a podcast called, “Are You Sure?” with Smitherd and Shaw (fellow British author Matt Shaw) that is broadcast every two weeks.
Luke is extremely busy, but he’s doing what he always dreamed of, and he knows he is a lucky man. He is grateful to all his fans for their support and promises if they keep on reading, he’ll keep on writing.
(Note: I have read three of Luke’s books: THE STONE MAN, WEIRD.DARK, and IN THE DARKNESS, THAT’S WHERE I’LL KNOW YOU. His writing is edgy, sometimes unnerving (in a good way!), but always entertaining.)