A new name in thriller writing is one to watch out for - Dominic Nolan.
His debut novel Past life was released to great acclaim, though a caveat must be deployed. His work is not only seriously addictive, but also violently thought provoking.
The writer Amy Myers, said of his debut PAST LIFE –
Past Life is Dominic Nolan’s debut novel and the quality of this thriller ensures that the path lies open for powerful successors. The story of ex-policewoman Abigail Boone (always known as Boone) and her bid to track down a sadistic sexual killer.
Amy Myers also added a warning for readers of a sensitive nature -
"the violence in the novel is extreme."
Read Amy Myer’s full review HERE
Dominic kindly wrote an article for Shots last year, about his love of the US author Newton Thornburg best remembered for the 1976 Thriller novel Cutter and Bone which was filmed with Jeff Bridges’ as Cutter’s Way in 1981.
Nolan wrote of his pursuit of that novel, something that many of us can relate to –
I searched the crime and general fiction sections for any sign of him and then searched again, because imagine asking at the counter only to find you’d missed the thing sitting there in plain sight—that way abject mortification lies. The staff at Ottaker’s were always incredibly helpful, and though they hadn’t heard of the book or of Thornburg, they gladly looked it up. Yes, Cutter and Bone, there it was. A hardback from Heinemann in 1978, no longer in print. A paperback from Simon and Schuster in 1988 as part of their Blue Murder range (a selection edited by lifelong champion of neglected crime fiction, Maxim Jakubowski, which had put out volumes from Dolores Hitchens, David Goodis, Leigh Brackett, and William McGivern among others). Unfortunately, they couldn’t source a copy.
You can read about Dominic’s pursuit HERE
Shots are delighted to offer our readers, thanks to Headline Publishing and exclusive taste of what’s coming with this highly anticipated publication, as we host exclusively the opening to AFTER DARK .
Five years ago
The hunters walked with their pieces broken open over the crooks of
their arms. Rough shooters, they ambled through the private woodland,
dogs out ahead of them. Leaving behind a small clearing where
a spring rose up, they followed the narrow brook it fed, cleaving gently
down a jawbone hollow and guttering into a chain of duck ponds
where occasionally there was good fishing. The dogs bounded away,
disappearing into the bushy growth around the ponds, their barks
echoing across the water.
Hanley Moss wore an olive paddock jacket and a dark fedora. A pipe
was clamped between his teeth and its stale odour carried on the air.
He walked with a slight hitch from a worsening arthritic hip that he
was ignoring until he got used to the idea of being cut on. His companion,
Teddy Blackborne, the last of an old name, sported a beige gilet
with a tweed cap. When they had dressed that morning, neither had
known it would be the final time they would select their wardrobe.
The woods were mostly oaks and ancient hornbeams, grey and
twisted as if formed from wax drippings. Some showed signs of former
pollarding, thick upper limbs obscuring the sun. Leaning against one
such tree, Moss studied his pipe. He made a clicking sound with his
mouth and searched his pockets for his tobacco pouch. Closing the
break in his gun, he stood it against the tree and tapped the pipe out
in his palm, peering at the burnt makings as if through some
botanomancy he might read augurs, before dropping them to the
ground. Looking up, he watched Teddy stride away after the dogs.
When he began carefully packing the bowl of his pipe once more,
Boone stepped away from the tree where she’d been hiding. Moving
easily upon him from behind, she snatched up his shotgun and
retreated a few yards from him. She had a pistol of her own, a Browning
Hi‑Power holstered on her hip, but didn’t think she’d need it.
‘This is private property,’ Moss said, unable to conceive of the
temerity. ‘Hand me back that gun.’
Boone must have been an odd sight. The hood of her oversized
cagoule was drawn up, black running tights below that and trainers
with the soles of a larger pair fixed underneath them. Moss frowned.
She gave him a moment, seeing the realisation dawn across his face.
Unhurried, she broke open his gun and loaded a single cartridge from
her own pocket, a bespoke six-pellet LG shot she had made for the
occasion. It would guarantee the desired outcome, and later, when
the police came to the hunting lodge near the main house, they
would find capping and roll turnover tools and all the ingredients for
the home-made ammunition, tying a neat bow around the tragic
‘Sit,’ she said, indicating with the barrel of the gun to a spot between
the thighs of the tree roots.
Moss looked down but didn’t move.
‘It’s all the same to me if you die standing or sitting.’
Confused, he lowered himself down against the tree. Boone pulled
her hood tight around her face and sat on her haunches before him.
Dilated capillaries mapped his cheeks, the whites of his eyes feathered
with red veins. He was still clutching his pipe, so she held her hand out
and he gave it to her. Remarkable how compliant people could be even
in the most perilous of circumstances, perhaps hoping cooperation
would afford them just a little more time.
‘You remember me,’ she said, not a question.
‘Good. Open your mouth.’
He did as he was told and she slid the barrel of the shotgun between
his teeth, angling it up slightly. Just as he tried to say, ‘Wait,’ around
the metal, she pulled the trigger.
Birds exploded from the trees.
The top of his head emptied out, leaving a shroud of skin resembling
a face mask pulled loosely over shattered bones. His great
flapping ears hung there still.
Teddy was calling and the dogs barked excitedly.
‘Hanley? Hanley? Did you take a shot?’
Boone hid behind the thick hornbeam with Moss’s shotgun. As she
waited, she sprayed WD‑40 inside the barrels from a small can in her
pocket and produced a brush fitted with a bore guide she’d made from
an emptied shell. Giving both barrels a good brushing to remove any
blood, she also wiped down the outside with a cloth. As she loaded another home-made shot into the unused barrel, she heard footsteps
‘Hanley, what are you doing? Hanley . . .’
The footsteps slowed. Boone could feel Teddy staring at her friend.
Swinging round the tree, she levelled the shotgun at the woman.
Teddy Blackborne recognised her immediately, and for a fraction of a
second her face slipped before she regained that haughty composure.
It had been almost a year since Teddy had seen her, but for Boone the
older woman had been a familiar sight. First had come the healing, and
then the intelligence. Knowing your quarry, learning the routines they
slipped into, the follies that made them vulnerable. Boone had come to
know all about Teddy Blackborne.
‘What have you done?’ Teddy said. ‘What is this about?’
What was it about? Boone barely knew where to begin – even the beginning wasn’t the beginning. Two years ago, waking up hurt and
confused in a strange room, her memory obliterated, her life robbed
from her. Battling to get out of the flat, away from the men who had
held her for four days, barely escaping with her life. Weeks in the hospital healed her body, but months in the clinic did nothing for the
amnesia. Nothing to allow her to remember her friends and family,
her time as a detective sergeant with Kent Police.
But this went back further than that day.
It went back years.
This was about Jack, a husband she didn’t remember falling for, or
marrying, or living with. This was about Quin, a son she didn’t
remember carrying, or birthing, or nurturing.
This was about a girl called Sarah Still, born of sexual abuse and
herself subjected to horrors for years before her eventual murder, body
wrapped in a sheet and buried beneath an abandoned fruit farm. A
girl who, in her past life, Detective Sergeant Abigail Boone had been
looking for when she was herself abducted.
This was about uncovering the sexual predations of late industrialist
Sir Alex Blackborne, father both to Sarah and to Sarah’s child,
taken from her at birth and never found.
This was about former MP and peer of the realm Hanley Moss,
who used his position for decades to hide his and Blackborne’s abuse
of countless children, many of whom never made it out alive.
This was about Blackborne’s widow, Lady Theodora, the real power
behind the family company, complicit in covering for her husband
This was about Teddy murdering her own son when he learned the
truth, staging it as a hunting accident, and escaping justice for that
and all her past crimes.
And this was about Roo. Trafficked into a life of misery, escaping
from the flat that day with Boone, only to be lost again to the same
men who had tried to kill them before.
Most of all, this was about Roo.
Boone would have done anything to swap places with her, would
have gleefully given her own life in exchange so the world could hear
Roo’s voice once more. She had stoked within Boone feelings she
couldn’t remember having, feelings she thought had been lost for ever
with her memories.
‘This is about the dead whore, isn’t it?’ Teddy said.
She must have caught a flicker of something in Boone’s face,
because she smiled. Boone took a step closer, shotgun aimed at Teddy’s
chest. The dogs gambolled about them, not realising the kind of hunt
it had become.
‘Oh look at yourself,’ Teddy said. ‘Here in the woods with a gun,
and still no real idea how you got here. Would you like me to tell you?
Would you like me to tell you what I told you two years ago when you
first came here? Before your accident? When I told you—’
Boone fired, nearly cutting Teddy in half.
She was thrown back in a heap, making low moaning sounds,
barely audible. The shot hit in a tight cluster just under her chest, riding
up her gilet with the impact. Boone leaned over to examine Teddy’s
gun and, satisfied it was unloaded, left it where it had fallen. Kneeling
beside the woman, she slipped a handful of the shells she’d made into
the pocket of the shredded and bloodied gilet.
Returning her attention to Moss, she took a dozen or so cartridges
and carefully put them in his jacket, trying not to disturb it too much.
His pipe, which had been safe from spatter in Boone’s pocket, she also
slid in there. Briefly inserting the ends of the barrels into what
remained of Moss’s mouth, she let the shotgun fall into his dead lap.
Behind her, the hounds moiled around their mistress’s lifeless body,
already a feast for flies. A rabbit hung slack between the jaws of one.
Not finding Teddy accommodating to their ministrations, they turned
instead to their prey, the bunny torn apart amid the in‑fighting.
When they were done, one of them approached the old man, nosing
at his boots and hand, licking his ruined head. Another returned to his
mistress’s corpse. It started to rain. Walking through the mulched leaves
to the treeline above, Boone debouched onto a quiet lane to the sound
of the dogs lapping at gunshot wounds.
IN THE FUTURE
This was home.
A carelessly flung corner of land on an island clinging to the skirts of Europe, charmed by ocean currents that favoured the planting of vineyards at latitudes where other nations watched for polar bears. At
various times an occupied territory inhabited by grubby and roadless
pagans, and a seat of great empire holding Christian sway over the
farthest reaches of heathenry.
Barb’s feet were cold inside her wellies. She had the wrong socks on
‘So where exactly were you when you saw her?’
‘Like I said, Constable, up there.’ The man pointed. ‘On the ridge,
just the other side of the fence.’
Three times already she’d explained she was a detective inspector, but
what did it really matter? The lane was cut low into the land between
shallow ditches, little more than damp ruts really. Banks rose on either
side to the surrounding fields, so the tops of the fences bordering them
were above head height if you were standing in the road, as they were.
‘She was down there,’ he said, pointing to the ditch on the other
side of the road, a nearly grassed-over depression. ‘She was lying there
curled up in a ball.’
His name was Cameron, and though he didn’t sound as if he’d
spent a day of his life in Scotland, the first thing he’d worked into
conversation was that he owned a lochside cabin in the Trossachs (‘I
was out walking, you see. I enjoy walking. Take a break every summer
to my place on the shore of . . .’).
‘And you didn’t see which direction she came from?’ Barb asked.
‘So, a barely clothed child turns up on the side of a country lane,
miles from anywhere, and you didn’t see anything until you tripped
‘It was more like the foetal position,’ he said, upon reflection.
‘Of course, she was on the other side of the road, you understand,
‘I walk inside the fences so I can look out over the fields and not see
roads. Not see anything man-made.’
‘There’s a barn right there,’ Barb said, pointing a few fields over.
‘And I can see a water tower in the distance.’
‘They’re a long way off.’
She pinched the bridge of her nose.
‘I put my coat over her, see. She flinched when I touched her shoulder,
but she let me do that, with the coat. Didn’t feel right, just leaving
her there like that. You know?’
Detective Constable Barry Tayleforth walked over. The once rising
star of Kent Police, his career progression had come to a shuddering
halt following a formal reprimand for engaging in a reckless pursuit
that conjoined his unmarked vehicle with a cherry tree. Blown radiator
blessing the scene like an aspergillum, pink blossoms mottling the
roof and crumpled bonnet.
‘Will I be here long, sir?’ Cameron asked Barry.
‘Yes, will Mr Cameron be here long, sir?’ said Barb, smiling
‘If you could excuse us for a moment, Mr Cameron,’ Barb said,
leading Barry aside. ‘I’m not going through this again with dickbeans
over here. Sir, he calls you. Fucking sir.’
‘Search hasn’t found much,’ Barry said. ‘There hasn’t been any rain for a couple of weeks, so there are no footprints.’
‘Mean to tell me you can’t trace her movements by way of broken
twig and upturned leaf?’
Barry was the sort who always carried on like witty repartee wasn’t
‘Uniforms have conducted a line search of the immediate fields and
come up with nothing,’ he said. ‘We’re pushing it out further.’
‘She was only wearing a slip. Barefoot. Cuts and scrapes. Must have
left some trace. I mean, how far had she come? There’s not much out
‘I’ll get a few bodies and go back over the perimeter of the fields.
They’re hedged, but it’s cut away in a few places. If she came across the
fields, she could only have come through those gaps. We’ll take a
closer look. I’ve sent a car off in either direction to check the properties
they come to. If she walked the road, there are only so many places she
could have started.’
‘This Cameron man is useless. Little girl, you’d think she magically
sprouted out of the ground the way he tells it.’ She scanned the scene
for the other coppers. ‘Who’s got the log going?’
A water carrier, but he always got the paperwork right and didn’t
need telling the basics. Barry followed her thoughts.
‘He can handle the searches too. I’ll get uniforms to take Cameron
back to the Shed. Tell him we need a formal statement, best to give it
when fresh in the mind. Nice cup of tea, bit of time to settle. He might
‘Okay, yeah. Good. Thanks, Barry.’
She gripped the lapel of his jacket between finger and thumb
momentarily before releasing it. The spectacular grounding of his
career was going to be the making of him as a copper, pruning the
political ambition and turning him back to the job for the foreseeable.
She thought of a few others in desperate need of a car crash.
Crossing the ditch near where the girl had been discovered, she
scrambled up the bank to the edge of the rapeseed field above. A
patchwork quilt of yellows and greens stretched out for miles around,
seamed with hedges and the odd copse.
Behind her, she heard Cameron putting up futile resistance to
going to the nick, Barry easing him into the back of his car and pushing
the door shut. Heard his boots trotting back toward her. He joined
her on higher ground and handed her a pair of binoculars.
‘Just happened to have them with you?’
‘In the boot.’
‘Do I want to know why?’
‘You never know.’
Barb looked out over the fields. ‘Any ideas where she might have
He pointed to a short horizon. ‘Nearest village is over a mile if you
have wings, longer by any reasonable route you might walk. Few
houses a way off. What looks like an old farm.’
He nodded. ‘Knocked on the houses. They saw nothing. The farm
looks like it’s been abandoned for years. We’re trying to trace the
owner now. Couple of uniforms standing by.’
‘Tell them to have a butcher’s round the outside,’ Barb said. ‘Discreet,
mind. Windows and doors only. Don’t want the owners turning out to
be real citizens and getting all upset.’
‘I reckon she must have been dropped off.’
‘Her feet were in a bit of a state.’
‘A lot of her was, but it wasn’t any walk that did it.’
‘You going back to talk to Cameron?’ he said.
Barb shook her head. ‘Anyone can deal with him. Make sure everyone
knows what’s what with the search, checking the surrounding
properties, so forth. Then you’re with me. We’ll go see the girl.’
He bounded down the slope, easing to a more practised walk on
the flat of the road. Barb ran the glasses over the land again, looking
at nothing in particular. Somewhere church bells pealed, and the time
was the same as it always was.
This was the hour the dog returned to its vomit.
This was the end of the world.
To read more, pre-order AFTER DARK which is released next week [March 5th 2020] from Headline Publishing
The author goes by the handle @NolanDom on Twitter.