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March 24, 2013 / minusbar

Sunday Indie Excerpt: H. L. Stephens

Hey, so here is the first in what will hopefully be a weekly thing for me. I’m calling it the “Sunday Indie Excerpt.” What I’ll do is contact indie authors and have them send me a fun excerpt from their novel to post on my site. This way if you’re curious about a book and want to know if it’s right, you can check it out and see if it is something you’re interested in or not.

So, today I’ve got a excerpt from “The Chronicles of Mister Marmee: The Case of Jack the Nipper,” by H. L. Stephens


In the roar and bustle of Victorian London, as the criminal underworld begins to make its mark upon the fabric of a nation, the world is introduced to one of the greatest detective duos recorded history has ever known – the dachshund detective Sir Happy Heart and his faithful feline colleague and friend Mister Marmee. Joined by their human counterpart, Inspector Hyrum Farley of Scotland Yard, these fearless friends begin their lifelong struggle against the worst humanity has to offer, sharing their many adventures together through the firsthand accounts of Mister Marmee.

The Case of Jack the Nipper chronicles Mister Marmee and Sir Happy Heart’s initial meeting and first adventure together. When a series of brutal attacks and a connected murder set the city of London on edge, Sir Happy Heart and Mister Marmee leap into action in an effort to stop the perpetrator of the crimes before he strikes again. With clues that lead from the bleakest slums, to the darkened doorways of illegal dog fighting of London, to one of the most powerful and influential families of Victorian times, can these extraordinary detectives prevail before the Nipper takes his next victim? Or will Sir Happy Heart’s beloved owner, the preeminent veterinarian Dr. Stephen Hanover, find himself in the jaws of danger before the villain can be tracked down? It’s a race against the clock and time is running out!

Please enjoy!


I maneuvered over to my friend and yelled as loudly as I could, “Leave off and follow me, for dear life’s sake!”  Sir Happy needed no further incentive, and we very quickly found ourselves racing down the alleyway, with hell and all its furies fast on our heels. My lungs began to burn as I sucked wind in ragged, rasping breaths. I could run no more, but neither could I stop, knowing to do so would mean certain death. We ran on, dodging among the carts and people who lined the streets. I found my pace slowing as it became harder and harder to gasp for air. I looked to my companion who seemed barely winded by our efforts, so sleek a form he created with every graceful bound.

“I can go no further my friend,” I yelled to Sir Happy with what little air I had left in me. “My lungs fail me, and I have lost my wind.”

“Trust me, my friend, and go but a little further,” he yelled back. “I have an idea which just might save us, but be alert and watch so you do not become trampled.” At first, I did not understand his meaning, but then I saw what lie ahead of us. Sir Happy was leading us directly into the cabbies’ square, where cabbies for hire wait with horse and buggy for a fare to come along.

The sudden appearance of Sir Happy and me, followed closely behind by a pack of very angry dogs, had the effect I think my friend was hoping for. The horses immediately began to grow restless, and when we broke through their line, they began neighing and jumping about. It very quickly became a dangerous playground, for every time we brushed past a horse’s legs, it would kick out ferociously and begin bucking about as though its bonnet was filled with bees. This reaction worked in our favor, and before a handful of minutes had passed, several of the dogs had made contact with the unyielding force of the horses’ hooves.

It was not until we heard the very familiar cry of the lead canine that we felt any sense of safety. Clearing ourselves from the crush of the cabs, we turned back to examine our handiwork. All but one of the dogs had been taken down by the efforts of the horses, and even he was nursing an injured paw, which had been cruelly crushed beneath the considerable weight of one of the work horses’ hooves. He limped off in a direction away from us, leaving his wounded companions to fend for themselves. Our view of the ensuing mess was very quickly obscured by the press of cabbies, trying to calm their beasts of burden.

Sir Happy and I, winded and exhausted from our efforts to survive, elected to make a fast retreat in the direction of our home, before any of our pursuers had a chance to collect themselves and find us within easy reach. Now that our lives were not in imminent danger, we decided it best to take stock of ourselves and look for any major injuries. Aside from the occasional bare spot where clumps of hair had been ripped out by the mouthful, I was in relatively good shape. I had some blood on my fur and on my paws, but thankfully none of it was my own. Sir Happy was a little more scratched up, having suffered the abuse of several paws digging at him at the same time, but none were serious.

“That was a close call, Marmee, old boy,” he said, a little winded but with a twinkle in his eye. “Thank you for staying with me. I might not have made it out alive were it not for your heroic efforts.”

“Me?” I inquired. “You were the one who threw yourself into the jaws of death so I would have a chance to get away. I wish you could have seen the look of surprise and shock that went through the dog’s one good eye when you grabbed hold of his soft underbelly. It looked something like this.” I did my best to imitate the face, an effort which sent Sir Happy into an uncontrollable fit of laughter, with me following quickly behind him.

“We make a great team, Marmee,” he said, to which I replied, “We certainly do.”

Our greatest concern, as we walked home, was how Amelia would receive us, considering the fact we both were covered in dried blood, gobs of foul smelling saliva, and no small amount of filth. I tried momentarily to work upon the grime and muck upon my own fur, but it truly was too disgusting to continue. We decided it would be better to allow Amelia her rant over our appearance, even to the point of subjecting ourselves to a bath, just so we would not have to suffer through our own personal grooming.

“You realize, of course,” my companion said, “we shall never hear the end of this from Amelia. She will forever be reminding us of the time we came home looking like a couple of ragamuffins, so covered in grime she had to give us both a bath.”

I laughed as I replied, “I would rather endure years of reminders than one more mouthful of that filth.”

We were very near Hanover Place, not more than a block or two, when we suddenly heard the sound of bobby whistles, indicating a crime had been committed. The whistles were blowing from every direction. Several officers rushed by us, banging their batons against the brick walls as they went. From the sound of it, the crime must have been considerable indeed. I looked to Sir Happy to see if he was intending to investigate the incident, seeing as we were both fatigued beyond words from our earlier tussle with those slathering street dogs. There was a momentary conflict, I could tell, but it initially appeared as though home and a warm bath would prevail; that is until a certain bobby running in our direction yelled out the fateful exclamation, “The Nipper has struck again!”

As my readers might recall, the announcement of the Jessop McGibbons murder was prefaced with the title, The Nipper Deals Death in London. Such was the name given to the canine killer by the London newspapers – the Nipper – effectively sensationalizing a grisly business. But such is the way with newspapers. Their goal is to catch the attention and imaginations of potential readers, and so with every crime comes a fanciful name, more worthy to be mentioned in a local theatre house than within the headlines of serious journalism.

The officer’s declaration that the current crime had been committed by the same canine we had been hunting, left no question in our minds as to our appearing at the scene to investigate. As a matter of fact, Sir Happy was quite adamant we journey with all haste to reach the scene.

“We haven’t a moment to lose, Marmee,” he said in a rather excited tone. “No disrespect to the authorities and their established procedures for dealing with such situations, but if we do not make haste, the street Bobbies will contaminate the crime scene by scuffing around with their smelly boots. Besides, we will have a better chance of finding fresh clues. Perhaps, if we are lucky, we will find the perpetrator still within the vicinity of the crime, enabling us to close this case before the night wanes.”

We were off at a run, very quickly outstripping the officer who had originally passed us moments before. We raced toward the sounds of the trilling whistles and clanging batons, as bobby after bobby sought to gather reinforcements. Within moments, Sir Happy and I found ourselves in view of the commotion. The crowd surrounding the crime scene was so thick, I could make nothing out of the identity of the victim or of the surrounding crime scene. Many of the individuals present were officers of the law, having been called from every corner of the surrounding neighborhoods. The remaining people were merely passersby, having been drawn to the scene by their morbid curiosity and the suffering of our new victim. At first, I became angered by the crowds of people all gawping about, pressed in so tightly upon the victim; the poor soul could hardly have enough room to breathe. Then I realized we were there as well, hoping to see and sniff out whatever clues were there to be found. The throng of people was very quickly redeemed in my mind, as I could not begrudge their interest as I tried to justify my own.

Sir Happy was horrified by the mass of local inhabitants because their presence would make it harder to keep the crime scene intact. “It is imperative we get closer, Marmee, if we hope to find any clues worth having. This crowd will contaminate things in a matter of minutes. They will mill about destroying every discernible footprint and mark and polluting every smell so I will have no chance of distinguishing anything useful. Come on!”

I can still feel the brush of the tightly creased, navy blue woolen pants of the uniformed officers as Sir Happy and I pushed past them to gaze upon the newest victim. What we had hoped to find were fresh clues to aid us in uncovering the true identity of our villain. What we found was an image so appalling and so horrific, I hesitate to put it to paper. My mind still plagues me with dreadful images of that terrible moment, and during those moments of remembrance, I wish I could sponge away the memory, never to recall the vision again. Never to remember the dread and terror I felt at seeing the gory, mangled body of a dear friend. Never to replay the cries of deepest anguish coming from Sir Happy as he looked upon the wounded body, not of some stranger, but of his beloved master; a body which had been ravaged and viciously torn apart. I shudder to say our victim was none other than Doctor Stephen Hanover.


Alright, folks that’s all you get for free! Like what you read? If so, please feel free to pick it up over at Amazon for only $2.99!

Also, feel free to follow the author at: @HL_Stephens


Did you like what you read? Tell me in the comments!

Have a book or author you’d like me to feature? You name em and I’ll see what I can do!

As always, thanks for viewing!



One Comment

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  1. H.L. Stephens (@HL_Stephens) / Mar 26 2013 10:51 am

    Thank you so much Roger for the lovely introduction. I so appreciate you featuring me on your blog and introducing me to your readers. You are a generous soul and I feel honored to be among the fun and witty posts you entertain the rest of us with. :o)

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