Paperback

Published: Lightning Books (May 2020)

ISBN: 9781785631856

Please Do Not Ask for Mercy...

Paul Bassett Davies

£8.99

A darkly comic dystopian crime novel

‘Echoes of Douglas Adams...top marks for originality and subversive humour’ Maxim Jakubowski

Detective Kilroy is assigned to investigate a horrible murder. He’s a fine cop, from the brim of his hat to the soles of his brogues, but his inquiries, far from solving the mystery, lead him into a deeper one – and to Cynthia, an enigmatic woman with a secret that could overturn Kilroy’s entire world.

But where is this world? It seems both familiar and uncanny, with electric cars, but no digital devices, and the audience for a public execution arriving by tram. Meanwhile, the seas are retreating, and the Church exerts an iron grip on society – and history. Power belongs to those who control the narrative.

Kilroy is forced to take sides between the Kafkaesque state that pays his wages, and the truth-seekers striving to destroy it, all the while becoming increasingly besotted with a woman who may only love him for his mind – in an alarmingly literal way.

Please Do Not Ask for Mercy as a Refusal Often Offends is a dystopian satire that manages to be funny and frightening in equal measure.

Extracts

Manfred faced his execution in high spirits. He sang snatches of unrecognisable songs with great gusto, and recited peculiar stories that he seemed to be inventing on the spot. It was all nonsense and gibberish, of course. His mind was deranged, and everything was scrambled up. The crowd couldn’t have asked for a better show.

But then there was some unpleasantness. Manfred began to blaspheme in the most appalling way, even repeating the odious words and phrases that had brought him to this regrettable termination. Parents covered their children’s ears, and Manfred was silenced swiftly. The remainder of the ceremony was conducted in a more restrained atmosphere, and after it was over there were the usual grumbles from some among the dispersing crowd, deploring the outdated custom that allowed the condemned man to say a few words. They asked each other why the courtesy of a final speech should be extended to scoundrels who exploited it as an opportunity to scandalise decent families. There was no excuse for that kind of exhibition, they said, even if the man was bonkers.

People also complained, as they always did, about how long it took to get out of Shadbold Square, owing to the narrowness of the surrounding streets, and the failure of the authorities to lay on extra trams for these occasions, which were always well-attended despite everyone assuring each other, after every execution, that they certainly wouldn’t be coming again and things were very much better in the old days.

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Extracts

Kilroy

Manfred faced his execution in high spirits. He sang snatches of unrecognisable songs with great gusto, and recited peculiar stories that he seemed to be inventing on the spot. It was all nonsense and gibberish, of course. His mind was deranged, and everything was scrambled up. The crowd couldn’t have asked for a better show.

But then there was some unpleasantness. Manfred began to blaspheme in the most appalling way, even repeating the odious words and phrases that had brought him to this regrettable termination. Parents covered their children’s ears, and Manfred was silenced swiftly. The remainder of the ceremony was conducted in a more restrained atmosphere, and after it was over there were the usual grumbles from some among the dispersing crowd, deploring the outdated custom that allowed the condemned man to say a few words. They asked each other why the courtesy of a final speech should be extended to scoundrels who exploited it as an opportunity to scandalise decent families. There was no excuse for that kind of exhibition, they said, even if the man was bonkers.

People also complained, as they always did, about how long it took to get out of Shadbold Square, owing to the narrowness of the surrounding streets, and the failure of the authorities to lay on extra trams for these occasions, which were always well-attended despite everyone assuring each other, after every execution, that they certainly wouldn’t be coming again and things were very much better in the old days.


Manfred’s shoes were presented to his family the next day. His son, Roland, was proud of the memento, but Sheba, his older sister, made a mime of vomiting every time she passed the mantelpiece on which the stained footwear was displayed. The children’s mother, Wanda, was a practical woman, and a few days later, when the kids were at school, she put her late husband’s shoes in the garbage grinder. When the children came home Roland kicked up a fuss, but his mother mollified him with the promise of a visit to the fish museum. As for Sheba, she seemed indifferent to the loss. However, the very next morning young Roland was confronted by a dreadful scene in the kitchen when he came down for breakfast. Blood was spattered on the walls, and was congealing into a sticky pool beneath the body of his mother, which lay on the floor. Her throat had been cut, and a large kitchen knife was sticking out of her eye socket. There was no sign of Sheba, some of whose clothes and belongings were discovered to be missing, along with a backpack.

It seemed like an open-and-shut case of Abrupt Matricide Syndrome with an absconding culprit, but the authorities naturally asked the police to investigate.


Detective Kilroy was given the job. He was a handsome fellow, and a professional from the brim of his hat to the soles of his shoes. He lived for his police work, and for Creek, the parrot who shared his austere bachelor quarters. It was a gorgeous specimen of the Freakin Grey species, and Kilroy was very fond of it.

Occasionally he wondered if perhaps he should have risen higher in the force by the age of thirty-nine, but he never let the thought linger in his mind for too long. Regret was a useless indulgence, and he wished he’d known that when he was younger.

Kilroy’s first task was to talk to the son. Roland was eleven years old, and Kilroy expected him to be flustered. He’d recently lost his father in unfortunate circumstances, and then, before he had time to catch his breath, came the additional surprise of his mother’s death. No boy could be unaffected by seeing his dad executed, then stumbling across the bloody corpse of his mother in the family kitchen on his way to school.

Beneath his gruff exterior Kilroy was a decent man, and he was surprised to learn that Roland had been taken into custody. When he tried to find out who had given the order to arrest the boy, nobody seemed to know. Kilroy didn’t claim to be an expert in child psychology, but he figured that being locked up would do nothing to improve the youngster’s frame of mind.

His own plan had been to adopt a friendly approach, and perhaps take the boy out to tea, which he imagined a person of his age might appreciate. But now, the best he could do was to bring a glass of spood juice into Roland’s cell, and ask the custodian to remove the shackles. He was determined to treat the boy like his own son, if he’d had a son, and assuming he had a good relationship with the hypothetical child.

Kilroy sat down opposite Roland, handed him the juice, and smiled at him. He wanted to show he wasn’t a beast, and he began the interrogation by asking the boy how he was feeling. That was a mistake.

To Kilroy’s surprise and embarrassment, the youth began to speak, not just of his feelings at the present moment, as Kilroy had intended, but of his emotions in general. It seemed that Roland’s tender young heart was a cornucopia of conflicted passions, which he promptly disgorged.

Sometimes, he said, I feel that life’s plentiful syrup is erupting through my pipes, and I am almost overwhelmed by a sense of pure, unbounded joy; I fear that I must swoon at the sheer beauty of the world, in every particular both great and small, and oh, I am undone.

I see, Kilroy said, playing for time, and at others?

At other times, Roland said in his clear, high-pitched voice, I feel the aching sadness of life pervading my weary existence like an eldritch fog, engulfing me in a haunting melancholy that is nigh unbearable.

Kilroy checked the notes in his file. Was the kid really only eleven? Yes, according to the notes. Kilroy wondered what the hell they taught them in school these days. As it happened, the file contained copies of Roland’s school reports. Kilroy glanced at the most recent one and noticed that the boy had expressed an interest in training to enter the priesthood.

Eventually he managed to get the interview back on track, and questioned Roland about the events leading up to his mother’s presumed murder, and the disappearance of his sister, Sheba. That was when the mystery deepened.

quotes

Praise for Paul Bassett Davies:

‘Mordantly funny… Poe would have enjoyed it’ Stephen King

‘Dark, dirty, warm and funny’ Jeremy Hardy

‘Very funny’ Jack Dee

reviews

‘Echoes of Douglas Adams at his more mischievous. Top marks for originality and subversive humour’

Maxim Jakubowski, Crime Time

‘A detective investigating a murder unwittingly pulls back the curtain on his dystopian world in this thrilling sci-fi mystery. Davies knows how to keep the pages flying’

Publishers Weekly

‘It’s pretty dark, but like the best comedic writing, makes you laugh by mugging you with something extraordinary after the mundane, or the other way around. It questions power, propaganda and corruption, while maintaining emotional intelligence. It’s also bloody funny’

Jan Woolf, International Times

extras

‘I wanted to write something using language in a playful way. I had the idea of an alternative world, but I didn’t want to write a fantasy. So, it’s set in a dystopia. But I also wanted it to be funny’

Paul Bassett Davies talks to best-selling author Charles Harris about the inspiration for Please Do Not Ask for Mercy...


ABOUT

Paul Bassett Davies

Paul Bassett Davies worked in experimental theatre before moving to television and radio, where he wrote for some of the biggest names in British comedy. He also wrote his own radio sitcom, and scripted several radio plays.

He wrote the screenplay for the 2005 feature animation The Magic Roundabout and has written and produced music videos with Kate Bush and Ken Russell. He is a former creative director of the London Comedy Writers Festival.

His first novel, Utter Folly, topped the Amazon humorous fiction chart in 2012, and his second, Dead Writers in Rehab, was published by Unbound in 2017.

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