Delighted to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for the fabulous ‘Deity’ by Matt Wesolowski. I reviewed this corker last year and you can find my review HERE but today, I’m sharing an extract with you. First, the all-important bookish stuff.
Author : Matt Wesolowski
Title : Deity
Series : Six Stories #5
Pages : 250
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : February 18, 2021 (paperback)
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
A shamed pop star
A devastating fire
Which one is true?
When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.
Online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rakes over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Whose remains – still unidentified – were found in the ashes? Why was he never officially charged?
| EXTRACT |
Now, Ian’s location changes every few months; every time he’s doxxed online, every time his windows are broken or something unpleasant is pushed through his letterbox. Ian won’t tell me the whereabouts of his girlfriend. Or even if they’re still together. What we do know is that the Monster-Busters online paedophile-hunting duo has disbanded.
—It took slightly longer to catch this one than usual, that’s for sure. This one was a slow burner. There’s a lot of them out there who’ll start with the dirty stuff almost immediately. They’re the common sort and they’re easy to catch. They spend all day trawling those sites for young girls, hundreds of thousands of dick-pics at the ready. Desperate, older men.
This one was in it for the long game, though, and we knew from experience that ones like him are the worst. They’re the ones with a bit of brains. They’re the charmers; they’ve got the chat. They’re drip-drip, insidious predators – they get under the skin and burrow deeper. When we started talking to him, that became clear very quickly.
—How were you able to tell that so fast?
—So, when you’re talking to these people, you have to realise something. These guys are full of lies. Everything they say is a lie.
Every single line they write is a seduction – it’s telling someone what they think they want to hear. The end game is total control.
—But later, you noticed something amiss. Something else, right?
—A few things stood out. We’d been messaging with him, back and forth, for about a month. It was intense – constant, longwinded, deep conversations. It became apparent he was very isolated, very lonely. Most of them are, but the amount of messages we were getting from him was … it was odd. That was the first thing. The second was when he began to let things slip.
—Like where he was. That was a big one. They usually tell us where they live early on, angling for a meet-up, you know? He didn’t. He was very cagey about where he was, until he said something about a … ghost … or something.
—Yeah … he seemed to be alluding to something very specific. He said that where he was, was ‘haunted’ by some kind of spirit, some animal.
—That’s rather niche, isn’t it?
—It is – when people talk about ghosts they mean humans, don’t they? Not him. He was going on about it for ages, describing it, this great rotten stag, its blackened flesh all hanging off it, its horns all tangled together on top of its head, which was a skull. Glowing red eyes. He said it was like the Mothman – it only showed up when something terrible was going to happen. I believe he was trying to scare us – trying to scare who he thought was a vulnerable young girl. Sicko. He kept asking if we were brave enough to try and find it with him, to face it. It was like a challenge. Only the ‘special girls’ were brave enough he said. His story rang a bell – I’d heard of it before. That’s when I thought he wasn’t just anyone, you know?
— There must have been more though – more clues that he was who you claimed he was.
—The thing was, we never thought it could really be Crystal. The actual Zach Crystal. It was him who convinced us in the end. When we accidentally said his name.
There you have it. That was their claim. There came a point in the conversation when Ian and his girlfriend claim to have been utterly convinced that they had ensnared Zach Crystal himself. Zach Crystal, who had slipped off the face of the earth for nearly a year, and at that point – April 2019, according to Ian – was yet to reappear.
—We’d been talking to the guy for a few weeks. He was telling us about his life; he was slipping in little things – how he’d grown up, this poor, lonely boy who had to work all hours. Anyone could have done it really – impersonated him online – if they had enough knowledge. But the thing was … he was so out of touch with reality. Not in an insane way, but in a way that shows you someone who’s not lived a normal life. That’s when we began to turn it around, when we started to ask our own questions. We wanted to be subtle – we didn’t want to scare him off. We started small, like he had started with us and as the time went by, it started to become more and more obvious.
—What was the turning point? What was the one thing that made you realise – the moment when you were certain.
—There were a few big pointers. He talked about how his parents were dead, how his best friend had died, how he felt anyone who got close to him, something bad happened to them. I mean these were all big things, but not quite enough. The moment we realised for sure was when we accidentally used his name, as I said before.
—Yeah, it was me that did it. Just typed it in a reply. My missus looked at me, white as a sheet. My heart just sort of sank. I thought I’d wrecked it, spoiled the whole thing. I’d typed in what we were both thinking. But the thing was, he didn’t notice. He let it go. And that’s when we knew.
We’d found him.
Us, sat in our living room, catching paedophiles online. We’d caught someone who should have been put in prison a long time ago. But, you know, the weirdest thing about it all was that back in the day, I loved him too. Just like you did, just like everyone did.
Like a great deal of you listening, I first became aware of Zach Crystal after his debut solo, TV performance on The Word, in 1995. It’s become iconic, that performance of ‘Burning Eyes’. For many, many Zach Crystal fans, that moment was a communion of sorts.
For anyone who is young and not English, The Word was a controversial late-night television magazine show on Channel 4 in the mid-1990s. The show was hosted by radio presenter Terry Christian and comedian Mark Lamarr. It boasted the notorious television débuts of Nirvana in 1991 and Oasis in 1994. Ask anyone of a certain age if they saw nineteen-year-old Zach Crystal’s performance following a rendition of ‘Delicious’ by pop duo Shampoo, and they’ll tell you they did. About half of them will be telling the truth. Zach Crystal was, to be fair, a surprise guest on the show. I was aware of him, as were most of you, as a smarmy-looking, precocious Christian-pop brat. Think the early days of Justin Beiber, but nowhere near as famous. Zach Crystal was looked upon with scorn by most. He and his sister Naomi were known as The Crystal Twins and were popular with the elderly and on Christian music stations.
So when Mark Lamarr announced Zach Crystal onstage, with a single raised eyebrow, that said it all.
Zach Crystal had no edge. He was that kid with the piano wasn’t he? A Crystal twin?
But Zach Crystal had changed.
Zach Crystal had grown up.
Zach Crystal had become something beyond – he had become a force.
Zach Crystal had reinvented himself.
And what a reinvention it was.
You want to find out more, don’t you? You should because this book is excellent! Wee reminder that you can find my review here. If you read digitally, then you can grab yourself a copy right now! There are a few more days to go for the paperback publication (February 18th) but you can of course always pre-order.
| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care.
Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies, such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015.
His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller. Changeling, the third book in the series, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His fourth book, Beast, won the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Independent Voice Book of the Year award in 2020.