Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book Review: '1000 Yards' by Mark Dawson

British author Mark Dawson comes to writing his masterful suspense novels well prepared – he has worked as a lawyer and in the London film industry. He has published over thirty books and favors writing in series – a choice that allows him to develop his well-crafted characters through many adventures. The John Milton series features a disgruntled assassin who aims to help people make amends for the things that he has done. 1000 YARDS is a short story that accompanies this series. Mark lives in Wiltshire, England.

Mark’s writing is scenic and poetic and he provides a sense of his main character’s mind In a page before the story begins – ‘Three hours into the flight and he realised he was about to have the dream again. The cabin was quiet: meals cleared, drinks served, lights dimmed. Just the steady drone of the engines. The other passengers were relaxing, some of them beginning to sleep. He reached for his gin and put it to his lips. His hand shook; the ice cubes rattled against the side of the glass. It did not come often now. He had made it that way, with the force of his will, yet on those occasions when the dream did overcome him, it came with all its old strength and vigour. He knew the signs: that familiar feeling of being hollowed out, an empty vessel into which it would pour. Fatigue weakened his defences, and he had not slept for two days. He squeezed his eyes shut and gripped the armrests so tightly that his knuckles whitened. His shoulders locked, and the muscles behind his knees and in his calves tightened. He sagged back into the seat, trying to breathe normally but knowing that he was gulping each breath. He was helpless, impotent, and paralysed. Trapped. He squeezed his eyes tighter, so hard that tiny pinprick explosions of red and yellow light cascaded against his lids. The dream raced towards him like the pitch- black mouth of a tunnel, inexorable and unavoidable, and suddenly he was plunged into it. It was as vivid as reality. As it started to unspool, like a familiar film he tried to hide away in a dusty box, his rational mind was able to observe and assess it, to compare it with the past, and to acknowledge that he was far from cured. The desert. The village. The madrasa. The children. The cheap plastic football swerving in the wind. The young boy. The plane coming in fast and low; the roar of its engines echoing through the valley.’

For an author to address his readers in this manner prepares us for the novella that pours out in both technical and dramatic format. ‘Meet John Milton. He considers himself an artisan. A craftsman. His trade is murder. Milton is the man the government sends after you when everything else has failed. You wouldn't pick him out of a crowd but you wouldn't want to be on his list. In this dip into his case files, Milton is sent into North Korea. With nothing but a sniper rifle, bad intentions and a very particular target, will Milton be able to take on the secret police of the most dangerous failed state on the planet?’

Only 85 pages in length, most readers will be able to absorb this story in an hour’s time. It is a very strong introduction to Mark Dawson. Grady Harp, April 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.