A NEW novel set in Stroud and Gloucestershire explores the criminal underbelly of the area.

Silhouettes, by SNJ editor Michael Purton, follows teenager Ezra and young journalist Alex as they become embroiled in the violent world of a gang of hitmen who target ‘those who deserve to die’.

Set in Stroud, Cirencester, Gloucester and Cheltenham, the novel is a dark and atmospheric story which takes place in the shadows of ‘respectable’ Gloucestershire.

Michael, 32 – who is also the editor of the Wilts & Glos Standard and Gazette, previously worked for the Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen, and was a court reporter in London and a freelance journalist in Tokyo – said the novel was inspired by a number of criminal cases he and the newspapers have reported on over the years.

“Gloucestershire has a reputation for being a well-to-do place but anyone who reads our local newspapers will know that we have our fair share of crime,” he said.

“The county is the perfect place to set a crime novel – there’s a real sense of brooding atmosphere in the backstreets of our scenic town centres and sprawling countryside.”

Silhouettes is published in paperback by Newsquest, the SNJ’s parent company, and available to buy for £10 in store, or over the phone and online for £13.50 including postage and packaging.

Michael will be discussing the book on BBC Radio Gloucestershire this Friday (November 4) from 7am to 9am.

He will also be doing a book signing at Woodruffs Organic Café in Stroud High Street from 9am to noon this Saturday (November 5), and at Waterstones café in Cricklade Street, Cirencester from 2pm to 4pm on Saturday November 12.

You can buy a signed copy of the novel for £10 at either book signing.

Silhouettes can be bought from reception at:

•Stroud News & Journal, 6 Lansdown, Stroud, GL5 1BE

  • Stroud Book Shop, High Street, Stroud, GL5 1AJ

•Wilts & Glos Standard, 74 Dyer Street, Cirencester, GL7 2PW To order a copy over the phone, call 01453 769421 or 01242 642642.

Order a copy online at http://adbooker.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/store/item/?i=879

The 'blurb'

Teenager Ezra has lost the only person who ever cared about him – Tom, the hitman who killed his abusive mother and raised him as a son.

Determined to uncover the truth about Tom’s death, the boy takes his place in the gang of assassins who kill ‘those who deserve to die’, but he soon realises that he can trust no-one in a world of violence and vague motives.

Entwined with Ezra’s story is that of Alex, a young journalist scarred by the loss of his first love following the abortion of their child. Raised a Christian, Alex cannot cope with the weight of his sin and seeks redemption in rescuing a troubled older woman from a warped marriage.

Dark and atmospheric, Silhouettes is a complex crime story set in the underbelly of Gloucestershire, following damaged characters as they struggle with grief, faith, love and the realisation you can never truly understand yourself, let alone others.

Opening passage

The boy watches the pub from an alleyway, the rain slanting into his face as he stands beyond the reach of the hazy streetlight. An engine rumbles closer and a taxi turns into the empty square. Its headlamps sweep across the wet tarmac and judder on the railings as the left wheel clanks through a pothole. The cab stops outside the pub and two middle-aged men appear from inside, one squat and bald and the other tall with swept back greying hair. They pull on their overcoats and shake hands, and then the short man climbs inside and the taxi disappears around the corner. The tall man is a silhouette against the pub’s amber window as he slides his umbrella open. 
“Councillor Jordan?” the boy calls out, crossing the road.
He holds the umbrella aloft and squints at the hooded figure.
“I’m one of Dan’s mates. He told me to come get you.”
“Some lads have beaten him up.”
“What? Where?”
“In Liquid.”
“But he’s at home.”
“We went out. We were in Liquid and these lads started on him and then the bouncers chucked him out. He’s outside now. He’s pretty bad.”
The councillor stares at the boy’s cat-like eyes and the faint scar above his lip, and then he starts striding towards the town centre, his brogues clapping the pavement and umbrella trailing at his side. “Is he alright?”
“I think his nose is broken.”
“But he’s conscious? Able to stand?”
The boy nods, keeping pace as they head towards the end of the street.
“His mother will kill him.”
“It wasn’t his fault – they started on him for no reason.”
“How did you even get into the club?”
The boy shrugs.
“What did you say your name was?”
“Jon. No H.”
“Was it just the two of you?”
He nods.
“And the lads have gone?”
He shrugs. “The bouncers only chucked Dan out.”
His hand tightens around the umbrella and he breaks into a run. The boy keeps up, their shadows one single black shape beneath each lamppost. The road comes out on a narrow street lined with parked cars, the doors gleaming in the light of a bus approaching from the right. They stop between a Mini and a white van. The councillor’s hair and forehead are damp with sweat and rain. The boy’s hands are shaking inside his pockets. As the double-decker draws near, the boy sidesteps behind the councillor and shoves him into the road, his body and the umbrella silhouetted and then swallowed as he bounces off the headlight and disappears. The tyres shriek as the bus skids to a halt and a rear wheel thuds over him, jerking the vehicle to the left and grinding into the parked cars. 
Lights spring on in the houses. The boy sprints back the way they came, the 9mm swaying in his pocket and his whole body trembling as he runs through side streets and alleyways, away from CCTV cameras. 
As he passes below a flickering lamppost he doubles over and vomits in the gutter, the image of the councillor’s mangled body by the crushed umbrella flashing before him with each spurt of light, and he feels his mother’s presence in the black edges of his vision and pictures her watching and rejecting him, her expression part recalled and part imagined, her eyes hollow and haunted.