Sandra Bond discovered science fiction as a young teen, and science fiction fandom as a slightly older one. She fell in love with both of them immediately, and the love affair continues to this day. (There have been a few hiccups and awkward moments, but what love affair doesn’t have them?)
Following her timely escape from lawyering, she found she suddenly had the time and energy to take up writing. The consequences? The novels The Psychopath Club (“Sandra does horrible people well” – Kari Sperring) and The Devil’s Finger (“Extremely f___ing funny” – Something Awful.com).
She was honoured by being elected as delegate of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund for 2023 and attended Pemmi-Con, the Nasfic in Winnipeg.
After nearly 25 years of living in London, she now resides again in her native Staffordshire in the British Midlands.
She describes herself as “a complex and delicate machine into which you insert caffeine, and words come out. The trick is getting the amount of caffeine just right, so that the words make actual sense.”
She identifies as queer, trans, bisexual, poly, almost certainly neurodiverse, feminist, atheist, geeky, left-wing, and opinionated. And sarcastic.
Two excerpts, one from Chapter 1 and the other from Chapter 17. See why Stewart “Tangle’s Game” Hotston calls The Psychopath Club “dark, funny, and plays with your expectations.”
THE PSYCHOPATH CLUB
Darroll Martock’s sixteenth birthday fell on the eleventh day of June 2003, which was why he was going to kill somebody on the tenth of June.
He had been planning the deed for plenty of time, of course. Even before his fifteenth birthday the idea had been in his head, bouncing around like a pinball ricocheting between bumpers. All Darroll had to do was to hit the flipper button just right, to send the ball shooting up the pinball table into the target, and kapow! JACKPOT, the machine would blare, and everything around him would explode into flashing lights and a cacophony of sound.
But Darroll wanted the flashing lights and the noise to remain safely in his head, not to take on reality. Police sirens and strobes did not figure in his plan. Well, they did, of course; but it was vital for him to be well out of the way before they came on the scene. Because Darroll didn’t intend to stop at one victim. Darroll wanted his trail of death to be more than one corpse long.
And if he was to achieve that goal, Darroll had to make sure he got away with his killings, every single one of them, for as long as he could. He wanted his game of murder-pinball to clock up plenty of extra balls and replays. Darroll, in other words, had to be smart; smarter than the average psychopath.
His plan had been growing inside him pretty much since his parents had separated. Before even waiting for the divorce, they had moved almost as far apart as they could without crossing an international border. His father had gone south to Georgia, while his mother had gone north, with a reluctant Darroll in tow, and fetched up here. Here in Muldoon.
Darroll hadn’t lived a week in Muldoon before he realised that he despised the pissant little town from the bottom of his heart. And with a heart as black and villainous as Darroll knew his own was, there was room for a lot of hate in it.
Every day began the same hateful way. Darroll would awaken to the ache of cold feet, each toe a tiny, misshapen ice cube. As the days passed, the state of his feet began to turn into an obsession. Even wearing socks to bed didn’t solve Darroll’s problem; the feeling of them, confining and awkward, on his feet before he went to sleep annoyed him, and he always ended up kicking the socks off in his sleep. And in the morning, that meant cold toes for Darroll Martock again. Ten cold toes.
Why ten? He didn’t know the answer. Ten was an arbitrary number and that was how many toes you had. And fingers, of course. Except for Rodney Liebscher’s big brother, who managed to cut one off while he was chopping logs for the furnace. See, that was the kind of state he had to live in. A state where you had to keep furnaces going all the year round, burning up wood and oil and gasoline, and causing pollution and deforestation, and you needed to cut your fingers off into the bargain to make their fires keep burning.
Civilization. Hah. If this was civilization, why were his feet cold?
So Darroll was glad to welcome his murder fantasy into his mind, simply as a means of distracting him from his cold feet in the morning. He had daydreamed of killing his enemies for quite some time. Now that he was forced to live in Muldoon and wake up with cold feet every day, he found the fantasy changing from a vague, occasional reverie into a regular daily event.
Soon it began to develop further, to mutate into a swampy morass below the surface of his mind, always there, always at the edge of his consciousness, ready for him to slide into whenever he was bored, or some jerk at school annoyed him. There were a lot of jerks at Darroll’s school, and a lot of boredom in his life, because Muldoon had so little to occupy an active mind.
And on his fifteenth birthday, when he hadn’t bothered to hold any kind of celebration, because he didn’t see any point in marking the fact that he’d kept on breathing for another twelve months, he had spent half the day fantasising about blood and mayhem. Finally he had confronted himself, somewhere within the grim passageways of his own mind, the narrow corridors whose walls seeped sweat and greenish bile, and struck a deal with himself.
By the time he was sixteen, Darroll Martock would either be out of Muldoon, or he would kill someone.
By this process of elimination, Darroll had narrowed his field of potential victims down to one group; the idiots from Muldoon and other nearby towns with whom he had to share classes at Straus High. And from that field he had come down to one. Ed Crowe.
Tomorrow, Darroll Martock would be sixteen years old; and so, today, Ed Crowe was going to die.
Darroll stood at the top of a cliff, looking out to sea, listening to the waves crash on the rocks. The sky above him was as cold and grey as the sea below, and a chill breeze was in the air. His mother would have called it a lazy wind; it was too lazy to go around you, it simply blew straight through you, clothes and skin and bones and all, and made you just as cold as it was. It was a wind that would have been right at home back in Muldoon. But he knew this wasn’t Muldoon, wasn’t within a thousand miles of it.
There was a savage beauty to the scene, but there was also a wrongness. At first he didn’t know why. Then it became clear in his mind, though he didn’t know how, that there was a presence there with him at the top of the cliff.
His heart pounded. He didn’t want to turn around, but he did anyway.
Standing a few feet inland from him, trapping him between the cliff’s edge and safety, stood a man in a neat dark suit, with a clean shirt and black tie, and a horse’s head in place of a regular human head. The horse’s head didn’t stop him from speaking, or from sounding completely human when he did.
“Hello, Darroll,” the horsehead man said.
“Who are you?” Darroll realized there was a waver in his voice, so in a firmer voice said. “Why are you here?”
By way of a response, the man with the horse’s head reached into his pocket and brought out a small folding mirror. He unlatched it; a small, precise clicking noise, audible somehow above the gusts of wind. Holding it up, he gestured with his head for Darroll to look into it.
Although Darroll could guess what was coming, he leaned forward anyway. As he’d expected, a horse’s head looked back out of the mirror.
“Hello, Darroll. I’m here to show you the truth. Welcome to the real Psychopath Club.”
“Yes.” Horsehead didn’t make any threatening moves, didn’t raise his voice. He simply kept speaking, smoothly and calmly, like a politician. “You can’t deny it, and you can’t escape it. So why not just be it? It’s so much simpler, Darroll.”
“I can escape it,” Darroll countered. He turned to look at the cliff edge and the sea.
“Is that your escape, Darroll?” asked Horsehead. “Remember what you know now. You’re one Darroll Martock in an infinity of universes, containing an infinity of Darroll Martocks. You’re one grain of sand in a very big desert, whose edges stretch out as far as anyone can travel. What is one grain of sand more or less in that desert, Darroll?”
Darroll turned back to Horsehead. There was silence for a second, apart from the eternal gusting of the wind. Two seconds. Three, four, five—
He twisted around again and strode for the cliff edge. He was aware, vaguely, of Horsehead watching him, but making no move. He was three steps from the edge…two…one. And then he launched himself out.
The air rushed past his ears, louder even than the wind had been at the cliff top. His body rotated as it fell, going from face-down and staring at the jagged rocks below, to face-up, seeing the figure of Horsehead growing smaller and smaller at the top of the cliff, watching him as the rocks rushed up and…
Darroll jerked awake. “Shit,” he breathed.
His heart thumped as the vertigo gradually faded. He took a few deep breaths and tried to persuade himself that he was fine. As he came back to full consciousness, though, he found himself less and less certain that he actually was.
It took him a few seconds to realize that his room wasn’t as he’d left it. Everything in his room was in place, like a museum exhibit, false and dead.
And why was he lying on top of his bedclothes, rather than under them and warm, where he belonged?
He swung his legs around and found the floor, stood up, crossed to the window. Twitching the curtain back, he looked outside. There was the street, the front garden, the parking space in front of the garage. His mother’s car was there. His car wasn’t.
Had he crossed the barriers between universes in his sleep? Could he even do that?
He walked over to the closet, putting his hand on the door knob, ready to open it. Hey, what if there’s a guy with a horse’s head on the other side of the door? he thought.
He smiled a quick, savage smile to himself, and jerked the door open. Nobody, with any kind of head, was lurking inside. He took a quick look at himself in the mirror behind the door. It was too dark to see properly, but even in that light, he could tell that the shape of the head in the mirror was human. Not equine.
The little clock on the bathroom windowsill told him it was twenty-five minutes before three o’clock in the morning.
Purchasing link: https://dobsonbooks.com/book/the-psychopath-club/, as well as Amazon and other online retailers.
The Psychopath Club is copyright © 2021 Sandra Bond. All rights reserved. Published by The Canal Press, Bethesda, Maryland.
Her third novel—a steampunk homage to Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in Orbit—is scheduled for summer 2024 from The Canal Press.