Two days later.
He’s bent over the Olivetti.
Sweating, bare chested
in the roaring Mexico City heat.
Clack. Clack clack.
He’s typing with two fingers,
like Papa Hemingway.
The stack of typewritten pages has grown.
There’s a loud,
He stops typing.
Sits up straight.
he shuts his eyes.
He decides it’s one.
He knows, for some reason he can’t fathom,
it’s a woman.
He feels it’s her,
the near-raped rich girl
from the Club Papillion.
How did she find him? How?
She’s rich and misbehaving —
and she has a father.
All this the blue eyed man
comprehends in a flash.
He picks up his blue shirt from the bed
and shrugs it on
before going barefoot to the door.
He unchains and opens the door a crack.
Sees a wide, gleaming eye.
An arched eyebrow.
She’s dressed today in a white blouse,
blue slacks, barely any jewelry.
She’s wearing flat white leather shoes
with star patterns cut into the toes.
Her hair is parted in the middle
and combed back shining.
She’s put on pink lip gloss
and a little eye-shadow, that’s all.
She looks very thin
and very prim,
as if stepping fresh through the gate
of a convent.
He opens the door.
Gestures with his palm.
She steps in.
He shuts the door, locks and chains it.
She goes to the bed —
a liquid, strange, cutting walk.
Sits on the edge.
It squeaks as the springs settle.
Gazes up at him.
May I do something for you? he asks.
You already did. Two nights ago. I am Victoria.
Her English is perfect.
So he tells her his first name.
The real one.
How did you find me here?
She shrugs. Smiles a little.
My father. His men.
the topic of finding people is boring.
He’s found, that’s all.
The blue eyed man goes to the chair.
Turns it around.
Looks at her.
At the wild beauty,
The amazing youth.
At the green eyes,
the wild black hair.
For some reason,
she evokes for him Ilena Sanchez.
And so many others.
Are they downstairs?
All around the hotel?
He feels a little better.
It wouldn’t have helped to get a room with a fire escape.
Not since they’re all around the hotel.
I am to go with you?
To see your father?
So he can thank me personally,
and with the appropriate Latin warmth?
She smiles. A dimple. Dazzling teeth.
I will leave my own weapon here. But these —
he opens a drawer and takes out Bald Man’s pistol
and Cowboy Boots’ switchblade —
I should present to you as souvenirs.
She takes them, smiling
— this time her lips are pressed together,
as if in recognition of a secret joke —
from his hands.
Then, Victoria turns her body
as he studies her calm Latin profile
to slip them into her small white purse,
which she now zips fast.
Are you coming?
They look at each other.
She takes two steps foward, then three.
She looks up at him,
her brows at his chin,
eyes great and shining.
You don’t need to —
She lifts herself on her toes,
and kisses his lips,
It’s like the kiss of a butterfly
or a flower.
He shuts his eyes.
His heart is drumming.
She licks her upper lip
with the point of her tongue
and says to him,
And now that I’ve thanked you as I should,
shall we go to see my narco papa?
He goes to the men’s room. He bends over the sink. Turns on the tap. Splashes cold water on his face with both hands. Rubs his eyes with cold water. Gasping. Straightens up, shaking water from his hands. Looks at his face in the mirror. At his eyes. Blue and blazing. Will you do this? Really? Yes. He dries his hands with a paper towel, crumples it and tosses it into the trash can by the door. He opens the door and goes back out into the flashing blue light. He makes his way toward the bar. Cowboy Boots and Bald Man are swigging from beer bottles. Glancing to the side, he sees the girls. One gets up, bends at the waist laughing, then straightens, tosses her hair and walks toward him. Sexy sexy. Lean and clean. He steps aside. She flashes him a smile as she strides past him, heron-slim, proud and sexy on her high heels, not even wobbling a little. He turns his head to watch her go toward the women’s restroom. Then he steps aside as Cowboy Boots and Bald Man brush past him in the booming heat and noise. He’s close enough to see the dirt in Cowboy Boots’ pores, the sweat glistening on Bald Man’s chest under the V-neck shirt. They go. They follow the proud beautiful non-wobbling girl. She goes into the restroom, pushing aside the curtain first that hides the short hallway. He sees her open the door; the brightness appears, vanishes. She’s let the door swing shut. It appears again. Vanishes again after the two men step inside. He wipes his face. He’s sweating more. He walks in a calm deliberate step toward the w.c. He steps through the gap between wall and curtain. The music is banging wildly. He glances back. People are dancing, twisting and leaping in a nightmare. The other girl is still at the table, bending to sip her drink, both boys leaning close. One has his hand on her bare copper toned shoulder and is rubbing it. He shuts his eyes. Now. Okay? Now. He puts his fingers on the knob. Turns it. Nothing. He touches the door. Presses it. It holds. Locked. He reaches behind him, slips the gun out of his waistband. Holds it pointed down at waist height. Takes three steps backward. Inhales. Kicks the door dead center. The lock snaps and the door leaps inward and bounces on the wall. The lock goes clanging across the floor. The beautiful proud rich girl is bent over one of the sinks and Cowboy Boots is holding her by the hair. Bald Man is wrenching up the gaudy silver dress over her hips to bare the beautiful white ass as she writhes and chokes and screeches. His cock is sticking out of the hole in his unzipped trousers. He and Cowboy Boots turn their heads at the same instant. The blue eyed man kicks the door shut behind him without looking at it. It slams. His .44 is covering the two men both. He drifts the barrel back and forth between them. They look puzzled. Bald Man tells him to get the fuck out. Cowboy Boots’ face shows scorn and outrage. Bald Man isn’t afraid — his prick is still hard. Cowboy Boots doesn’t let go of the girl’s hair. She screeches, he bounces her forehead on the sink. Above the bashing electronic sounds, the blue eyed man says clearly, in Spanish, to let go of the girl’s hair. Cowboy Boots looks at Bald Man, frowning. Bald Man nods. He lets go of her hair. The girl throws herself away from the sink, staggering, and runs to the blue eyed man, her eyes wide. He grabs her by the elbow and yanks her behind him. He then brings his left hand back up to steady the butt of the pistol. He’s still drifting it back and forth. Bald Man’s erection has begun to sag. He’s holding his hands apart at chest level. Cowboy Boots narrows his eyes. Thinking, thinking. Judging distances and angles. The blue eyed man can hear the girl whimpering behind him, in the corner next to the door. Get out, he says, and the door opens to screeching music and flashing blue light and then shuts on the boggling thumps of the bassline. He adjusts his stance slightly. He tells Bald Man to reach behind him with his left hand and take the gun out of his belt by lifting it straight up. Bald Man is sweating now. He blinks rapidly. Then he swallows saliva and with insolent slowness obeys. The blue eyed man watches the way his elbow bends. Raise it higher, he says. With some strain, Bald Man does. His penis is now flaccid. Open your hand and drop it behind you from right there, the blue eyed man instructs. The pistol falls with a crack of steel and spins on the floor. Kick it over here with your right foot, he commands. Bald Man does. The pistol spins a good ten feet and bounces on the shut door. Bueno, says the blue eyed man, drifting the sight back to Cowboy Boots. You, on your knees. Cowboy Boots’ knees bend. He sinks to the tiles. He’s staring at the blue eyed man’s grip on the pistol. To see if it vibrates even a little. It doesn’t. Take out your knife. Cowboy Boots hesitates. Now. He complies. He takes it out of his leather jacket side pocket. Another switchblade, shut. Set it on the floor, says the blue eyed man. Cowboy Boots does. The blue eyed man drifts the sight back to Bald Man’s dark haired, sweat-glistening chest. Kick the knife over here, he says. Bald Man does so. The knife skitters across the tiles, stops a few inches from the pistol. The blue eyed man reaches behind him. Touches the knob. Opens the door wide and kicks the pistol and then the knife outside, into the blasting noise and dimness. The door swings near-shut again — it doesn’t click. Then he tells Bald Man to kneel. Bald Man, with insolent languor and slowness, obeys. Silently. Both of you will remain here for the count of one hundred. If you step out this door before you have counted one hundred as slowly as possible, I will kill you. Do you understand this? They nod, in unison. Cowboy Boots is sneering. The blue eyed man again reaches back with his left hand and takes hold of the knob and pulls the door inward. He steps outside into the ranting noise and the lights as the door swings shut blotting out the two men on their knees staring at him with deadly scorn and rage. He sticks the gun into his waistband at the front and picks up Bald Man’s pistol and Cowboy Boots’ knife and sticking them into the side pockets of his jacket walks quickly to the exit, noting as he walks that and the two boys are now seated alone at the misbehaving rich girls’ table over four drinks looking glum. As he emerges from the club, he sees the girls get into the Lotus with grim speed as the valet parking boy holds his tip in his hand, watching in awe. The Lotus roars off. The blue eyed man notes the Humvee — pulling out to tail the Lotus. He crosses the street, jumping over smashed beer bottles, cuts through an alley to another street, exhales a long slow breath and begins to run.
I’ve written an absolutely kickass vampire novel seething with life and color, fully loaded with contemporary sass and sharp historical detail. The action spans centuries, connecting a young English mercenary duelist in 15th century Venice to a well-heeled and glamorous college professor novelist in present day San Francisco. (HERE IT IS!)
This novel blends elements of horror-occult, crime noir, and romance into an absinthe- potent cocktail. It has humor, eroticism, dark bloodfeasting, duels, double-crosses, and bloody revenge. And love triumphs over all. But nobody will be able to anticipate the dazzling twist at the end.
Voila. Here is the pitch, followed by a brief synopsis:
A vampire bestselling novelist who teaches Creative Writing in foggy San Francisco falls in love with one of his students — a young girl with a fatal blood disease he believes is the re-incarnation of his “first and last immortal lover.”
Vampire Damien Stark teaches Creative Writing in San Francisco. His novel Vampire Blood is on the bestseller lists. He is falling in love with one of his students, an alluring 19 year old girl named Naomi who has written her own rather intense story about being a vampire in 15th century Venice. Damien Stark recognizes in this story the voice of his first and last immortal vampire lover, the Contessa Claudia Rezzonico, who was staked by a vampire hunter in 1790.
Do vampires re-incarnate? In any case, Damien and Naomi quickly become lovers. Yet Damien, who has long since given up feeding on humans, does not drink Naomi’s blood. Nor does he reveal to her that he is undead. Meantime, Damien Stark’s novel has brought him fame and wealth, but it has also piqued the interest of some fanatical Mexican vampire hunters. Naomi’s father has hired private detectives to follow him everywhere. And Naomi’s jealous best friend Gretchen sets out to seduce Damien via blackmail.
When Naomi, who suffers from fainting spells, is diagnosed with a fatal blood disease, Damien faces a shattering dilemma. Should he make Naomi into a vampire to save her life?
I started Vampire Lover as a keitai shosetsu — a “cell phone novel.” It was very popular with young Japanese women as I serialized it on a cell phone novel site. Actually, only the rave responses of “fans” on the MobaMingle site kept me writing at all. It’s important for writers to feel an audience connection. Later I went back and wrote the “historical flashback” sections featuring the young Henry Moore before he becomes a Vampire.
It is the morning of November 2, 1489, Feast of the Dead — i morti — in Venice and Henry Moore has just finished fighting a bloody duel. Sometime after tonight’s sunset he will meet the Contessa, his “first and last immortal lover.” Why not come along for the hellish but cathartic ride?
What is the strange allure of the swordswoman figure in martial arts novels and movies?
Is it all just pulp garishness? A prolonged adolescent erotic fantasy hangover?
Then why is the swordswoman figure — whether she is blind, tattooed, one-armed, or merely disgraced, outcast, suffering and abused — always so melancholy, so wounded, so tragic?
Listen to these painfully beautiful last lines intoned by a narrator at the end of CRIMSON BAT: THE BLIND SWORDSWOMAN (1969, aka BLIND OICHI STORY: RED BIRD OF FLIGHT): “Oichi went away on the cold wintery wind, carrying with her her sword-cane and a great deal of loneliness . . . her sightless eyes filled with tears.”
As for me, I wrote my novel OSAI’S RAZOR (here it is in the Kindle format) to tell the story of a swordswoman in old Japan whose life was almost unbearably harsh. Osai Itto’s story came to me in great, blazing and silent images. I found it, and her, irresistible.
And I wrote the final sentence blinded by tears.
Deadly “Akiko” retires from killing to restore a Zen temple on a remote island off Japan. But violent people won’t let her alone.
THE LONELINESS OF THE BLUE-EYED ASSASSIN (originally titled AKIKO’S FURY) is the first in a planned series of crime thrillers dealing with the life of a half-Japanese half-American young woman who also happens to be a highly paid assassin code-named Akiko.
Born in Okinawa to a heroin-addicted American ex-Marine and a Japanese bar girl, the blue-eyed, black-haired Molly Vance grew up in San Francisco until age nine, when her father died mysteriously. She was then brought to Tokyo and raised by her father’s friend, a yakuza gangster.
As a teenager, she was trained in martial arts by the head of an ancient cult of tattooed female assassins called the Habu Kurage, or Medusas. Following her adopted father’s death in a yakuza war, Molly went on a bloody rampage, destroying the entire rival yakuza clan.
Still later, after more intensive training by the head of the Medusas, she began working worldwide for a shadowy group known only as the Organization, and quickly gained renown as the deadliest woman alive.
But, after glimpsing an underlying pattern and suddenly realizing the Organization’s motives behind the “hits” she is assigned, Akiko risks it all to help one of her targets escape.
She then disappears from view, going to live in an abandoned mountain temple on a remote island off the coast of Japan.
Both the Organization and the Medusas are now determined to find Akiko — and kill her. Even worse, they have found a way to get to Molly through people in her past. To save their lives and her own, she must unleash all her fury.
In this novel Molly Vance, living under a false name, is busy restoring the ruined Zen temple as a way of purging her dark karma. At the same time she is falling in love with the remote island’s only policeman, a young man named Jiro Takagi, whom she begins to train in the sword.
One day she gets a letter from her adopted father’s former mistress. The woman’s teenaged daughter was kidnapped by Chinese gangsters on a trip to San Francisco and is being forced to work as a prostitute in a sleazy massage parlor.
Akiko travels to San Francisco to get the girl back and soon finds herself fighting for her life against a hired kung fu master. Though Akiko survives almost unscathed, retrieves the girl and returns to her island, the head of the Medusas has now gotten word of her whereabouts, and sends assassins.
After Takagi is badly hurt trying to save her life, Akiko realizes that she cannot run away any longer — that she must face her former teacher in a combat to the death.
“Akiko” is like a female Jason Bourne, James Bond, or Nicolai Hel (the reluctant assassin hero of Trevanian’s SHIBUMI). Each novel in the series is fast paced, cleanly written, and structured as cleanly as a Simenon mystery or an Ian Fleming Bond novel.
Though Akiko is the central character we get immersed in many other characters, places and situations, so each novel has its own mood and “feel,” and stands on its own.
This opening novel gives us Akiko’s painful backstory, shows her fighting like a fury to save her friends, and at the end launches her on a completely unexpected path.
A damaged but appealing protagonist whom I hope everybody will want to cheer on as she fights impossible odds using only her finely honed skills and wits, plenty of sharp martial arts action reminiscent of samurai and yakuza movies (including Tarantino’s KILL BILL 1 and 2 and just about anything by Takashi Mike), exotic settings, and strong, evocative, sensual writing. That’s about it.
Many readers have noted my “unconventional” approach to dialogue and sometimes also to indentation and punctuation.
In stark truth, I used to be much more “correct” about how I put together a piece of fiction. So correct, and so hyper-aware of real and imagined flaws, that I instantly destroyed just about everything I wrote.
Then, one fine day in 1992 or so, I read a generous excerpt from Cormac McCarthy’s ALL THE PRETTY HORSES in Esquire. (This was at a time when big magazines were still publishing interesting stuff.)
At that instant, a light bulb flashed on over my head, as I began to see the possibilities open for sheer writing. I began to see that there is no necessary contradiction between action and poetry.
The great spaghetti Westerns, Hong Kong gangster and Japanese yakuza crime movies, for example, are lyrical as well as gritty and bloody.
The inspiration to begin writing the “Akiko” series came to Okamoto through reading Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, CASINO ROYALE. “What sort of human being would I want to write a series of crime/thriller novels about? Who could keep me so deeply fascinated that I would want to write the adventures of an entire lifetime?”
And there, popping up out of nowhere, was the image of a beautiful but melancholy, starkly blue-eyed half-Japanese half-Caucasian woman boarding a ferry to take her to a remote island on the Sea of Japan. The story of “Akiko” arose from that moment and unfolded itself in terse stages. It was the birth of lonely ex-assassin Molly Vance.
The ferry that sets out for Kamijima from the main island is a small and rickety and paint-peeling launch with a clanging engine, a single smokestack, and room for about thirty passengers. It runs once every two days. It does not carry automobiles, though some of the tourists bring aboard bicycles or motorscooters.
On that morning in June a pale young woman, wearing a white linen suit and sunglasses and thin leather sandals, her lips coated with red lipstick of a shade so dark it was almost black, boarded the ferry with two heavy black calfskin leather luggage bags; she hauled them across the wobbling gangplank by herself, one in each hand, over the gibbering objections and complaints of the little brown ferryman who tried in vain to take hold the straps and wrest the bags away from her. She carried them without any seeming effort and once onboard she slumped on a bench, in a space that mysteriously cleared for her, the heavy bags at her feet, and without any fuss lit a cigarette and smoked it staring at the Sea of Japan.
Blue-green water boiled white behind the engine and with much clanking and a muffled roar as a boy in shorts and an oil smudged t shirt tossed the heavy frayed bow and stern ropes back onto the deck and a puff of black smoke and the stink of diesel the boat shuddered deeply and turned in the water and pointed its prow toward the low and distant outline of Kamijima then began to slide and jolt away from shore. The woman flicked her cigarette overboard and crossed her arms over her chest, as if already feeling the cold. She rubbed her shoulders.
She seemed to enjoy being out on the water, away from the heat and clamor of the city, and as the dark hair flew over her face in the salt-laced wind she was taking in everything, alert with all her senses, exuberant even.
One might have thought she was coming to life again . . .
MEXICAN KILLING BALLADS by Okamoto is available as a shocking and beautifully crafted little e-book from Amazon/Kindle.
How can you decide if you want to read this dark, gory, poetic and rather crazy little book of stories and micro-stories?
Do you like violence and mayhem told in a morose, sensitive, melancholy and lyrical way?
This despairing little book contains a “planed-down-to-bareness” story that is one of my own personal favorites of all I’ve written over the years: “The Coffin Maker’s Son.”
He’s also a fine crime writer, given to terse descriptions of gritty and dark Grand Guignol violence. As in his novel: SLAMMER.
Allan Guthrie is rather adamant that no character in a noir novel should be sympathetic. He himself pulls this off brilliantly, somewhat like James M. Cain but with buckets rather than squibs of blood.
My own feelings are somewhat different. If I can’t sympathize with its protagonist, a book usually doesn’t cut very deep. Avoiding empathy, one risks writing what amount to mere manifestos of gore and academic exercises in mayhem.
I want to put you there and make you feel the action in a hair-raising way. This includes the risk of falling in love with a character who might be ill-fated, even doomed.