Friday, February 28, 2014

"Vionna and the Vampires" by Chuck Miller is here!


Known for taking Genre Fiction in strange, twisted directions, award winning author Chuck Miller, creator of 'The Black Centipede', leads readers on a brand new 'Psychedelic Pulp' experience with his latest novel from Pro Se Productions- VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES: Book One of the Moriarty, Lord of The Vampires Trilogy!

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” So said Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, more than a century ago.

Vionna Valis and Mary Jane Kelly are a pair of hard working psychic detectives experiencing a run of bad luck. A new detective agency, the Femmes Fatales, is taking most of their business. Things seem to change for the better in the form of a new client named Scudder Moran, a wealthy young man with a unique problem; He has been targeted by the very, very late Professor James Moriarty—the Napoleon of Crime in another century, now Lord of the Vampires! Unexpected help arrives in the ghostly person of the Great Detective himself, and they set about unraveling a tangled web of lies and secrecy that reaches deep into each of their lives. Can they find the light before Moriarty unleashes his final, most horrific scheme?

"Chuck Miller," says Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor-in-Chief of Pro Se Productions, "is by far one of the most unique talents in Genre Fiction today. He takes the staples and standards of several different types of stories and doesn't just mix them together. Somehow he intricately weaves usually disparate parts into the wildest trip on fiction I think any reader has ever taken. The Black Centipede stands out as a vastly distinct character from the rest of his masked cohorts and You'll most definitely discover that Vionna and her cast of cohorts shine in their own deliciously dark way as well."

VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES by Chuck Miller (Creator of The Black Centipede) is the first volume in the “Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires” trilogy. With a demonically evocative cover by Jeff Hayes and format and design by Percival Constantine, this is definitely an opening chapter to a trilogy like no other in New Pulp.

VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES is available in print from Amazon:

ALSO AVAILABLE FROM Pro Se's own store at:





That night, after Mary and I got back home and I went to sleep, something happened.

I'm not going to call it a dream, because it wasn't.

I went to bed, nodded off to sleep, and all this weird stuff started happening. It was like a dream in some ways, but it wasn't a dream. It made more sense than a dream usually does, for one thing. But, like a dream, it seemed to me at the time that everything was the way it was supposed to be.

After I dropped off to sleep, the whole thing started up, just like a movie or a play or a Sherlock Holmes story told by Doctor Watson.

With one important difference.

You'll see what I mean.


Being a reprint from the reminiscences of Miss Vionna Vernet Valis, late of the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum

It was a fine evening in the autumn of the year 1888, and Mister Sherlock Holmes, the big-deal genius consulting detective, with whom I shared rooms at 221B Baker Street, had been sitting in the same position for like hours and hours and hours without saying a word to me. He was crouched over a flask from his massive chemistry set, brewing up this horrible reeking glop. He was stinking up the whole house with it, but he didn't care. He always pretty much does whatever the heck he feels like, up to and including shooting holes in the wall with a pistol.

I'm totally serious, he did that one time. The holes are still there. In the shape of the Queen's initials. Honest.

If I did something like that, they'd put me away.

"So," said Holmes, suddenly, "you do not propose to invest in South African securities?"

I just sat there and looked at him for a few seconds. Holmes is always saying crazy stuff like that, and I hardly ever pay any attention to it. He seemed to be waiting for an answer, though, so I finally said, "I guess not. I've never even thought about doing anything like that."

He wheeled around on his little stool, holding his flask full of smelly crap, with a goofy gleam in his deep-set eyes. The gleam turned into a look of mild shock.

"What on earth..?" he said. "I could have sworn for a moment that you were... somebody else, Valis. Strange. I had the impression that you ought to be a... well, never mind." He shook his head. "Now, confess yourself utterly taken aback."

"Huh? I don't follow you."

"Confess yourself completely mystified, Valis," he said sharply. "And then ask me to explain how I could possibly know such a thing. Don't you want me to reveal to you the chain of reasoning by which I arrived at my conclusion?"

I shrugged again. "Not unless you're just dying to. Where the heck is Mrs. Hudson? She should have brought our dinner up by now. I'm starving."

“You remember,” he continued, “that some little time ago when I read you the passage in one of Poe’s sketches in which a close reasoner follows the unspoken thoughts of his companion, you were inclined to treat the matter as a mere tour-de-force of the author. On my remarking that I was constantly in the habit of doing the same thing you expressed incredulity.”

"Nope," I said truthfully. "I don't remember that at all."

Holmes scowled at me and said, "My dear Valis, I must insist that you demand an explanation from me. You must be curious about how I was able to divine your mental processes and come to the conclusion that you have decided not to invest in South African securities."

"Is that what I was thinking? I'm not saying you're wrong, but I don't remember thinking about anything like that. It must have been a fluke. If you say so, I believe you, but I don't even know what a South African security is. When did you learn how to read people's minds?"

"I cannot read people's minds," he replied, closing his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose, and sounding a little peeved. "I deduced it in the same way Poe's character did, by... Oh, never mind. We'll just take it as read that I'm brilliant. I do, however, wish you could bring yourself to at least feign incredulity."

"If I knew what that word meant, I might."

Before Holmes or I could say anything else, we heard the sound of someone coming up the stairs. I was hoping for Mrs. Hudson and food, but whoever it was stopped and knocked on the door, which Mrs. Hudson hardly ever does without hollering to tell us who she is.

Holmes threw open the door-- he always does even the smallest things in a dramatic way-- and there stood good old Inspector Lestrade. He's a police detective, and he is constantly bugging Holmes with problems and cases he isn't able to solve by himself.

Lestrade is kind of small for a man, and he looks sort of like a rat in the face, but I don't mean that in bad way. Well, I don't guess there's any good way to mean that, but I'm not trying to insult him, that's just how he looks. He has big front teeth that protrude a little, and his eyes are sort of beady.

"Do come in, Inspector," Holmes said," and have a seat. I fancy a small drop of something wouldn't come amiss?"

"Normally, I would say not while I'm on duty," said Lestrade, taking a seat in the basket chair. "But since I am at present on duty around the clock, I believe I can make an exception."

"You have come to consult me," Holmes said as he whipped up a tumbler of whiskey and soda, "with regard to these Whitechapel killings, I believe."

Lestrade looked at me, smiling and shaking his head. "How does he do it, Miss Valis?"

"Well," I said, "in this case, he probably figured it out from the fact that you have some mud on the cuffs of your trousers that came from where they're digging up the road in front of the post office. Also from the calluses on your right thumb and forefinger."

He looked at his right hand for a couple seconds, then said, "Why, I don't have any..."

"Never mind that, Inspector," Holmes interrupted, giving me a look. "Valis imagines she has a sense of humor now and then. It's best to pay her no mind."

I made a noise, but Holmes paid me no mind.

"It was actually a very elementary deduction on my part," he continued. "The murders are the reason you, and many of your fellow officers, are on round-the-clock duty."

"Then you know we are up against the wall."

Holmes nodded. "I have heard that careers may be at stake. It is too often the case among police officials that the danger to their standing is cause for more concern than the fate of a killer and his victims. Your lack of blinkered personal ambition does you credit, Lestrade."

The inspector nodded. "Warren himself may be in jeopardy if the killer is not brought to book. So he is making life difficult for his subordinates. Most have been feeding him spurious reassurances. I, on the other hand, have admitted that the case defies everything I have learned about criminal investigation. I cannot suggest a course of action.”

“Dear me, Inspector,” Holmes said. “In all your years on the force, you have not mastered the art of telling your superiors what they wish to hear, rather than what you know to be true?”

Lestrade came up with a grim little smile and said, “Toadying has never been my strong suit. I tell my superiors the truth, because the only way to get to the bottom of these outrages is to clearly establish just how much we do not know.”

“Excellent! I flatter myself that some of my own hard-won wisdom has rubbed off on you. I may have done you a disservice, though. Your intelligence and experience, combined with your customary forthrightness, could serve to make you expendable."

“Perhaps," Lestrade said, "But that isn't why I've come to you. I am here because I am utterly stumped and because I cannot bear the thought of that butcher having his way with even one more poor woman. I will see this Jack the Ripper hang for what he has done."

What he was talking about was a series of murders that had recently been committed in the East End of London, which is a dangerous, impoverished place. Somebody that called himself Jack the Ripper had been slaughtering prostitutes in an area called Whitechapel. The murders were totally heinous, some of the most gruesome stuff I had ever heard of. Four women had been killed so far.

"Jack the Ripper," Holmes repeated slowly. "The name he has signed to his correspondence. He seems quite adept at spreading terror with a pen as well as with a knife. The name is just jocular enough to be truly chilling in the context of his deeds. And it raises the shade of another nocturnal bogeyman, the legendary Spring-Heel Jack. Devilishly clever, eh, Valis?"

I shrugged. "If you say so."

Lestrade cleared his throat. "Well,” he said, “we are not at all sure, Mister Holmes, that the letter received by the Central News Agency, claiming credit for the murders and giving that 'trade name,' was in fact written by the killer. There is a rumor we are striving to track to its source to the effect that a journalist produced the thing to create further sensationalism around the case."

"Not an untenable hypothesis,” Holmes said. "It's a great pity that Warren ordered the graffiti found in Goulston Street on the night of the 'Double Event' to be rubbed out before it could be photographed. That might have provided some grist for the deductive mill."

During the early morning of September 30, Jack the Ripper had killed two women, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. Shortly after the second murder, a police constable found a blood-soaked piece of an apron at the entrance to a tenement in Goulston Street. On the wall above the spot where the piece of apron-- which turned out to have belonged to Catherine Eddowes-- had been found, somebody had written a strange message in chalk: "The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing." It didn't seem to have any real meaning, and nobody knew if "Juwes" referred to Jews or something else entirely. It wasn't even for sure that the Ripper had written it. But it could have been important. Which is why it was strange that Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had personally ordered that it be erased before the sun came up-- without it being photographed.

Lestrade shook his head sadly and said, "Isn't that the truth, sir? A criminal act in itself, if you ask me. Warren's conduct throughout this Ripper affair has been odd. And it isn't just him. A great many of the higher-ups have behaved like fools or children. They have made a difficult job nearly impossible with their dithering and bickering."

Lestrade closed his eyes, took a couple of deep breaths, and drank some whiskey before he spoke again.

"The Ripper has been quiet for a few weeks now," he said, "but I cannot kid myself that he is finished. I have the awful feeling that he is planning on an outrage that will eclipse his previous crimes. I am not officially empowered to ask you to take on the case. It isn't your usual line of country, I know. The Ripper seems to be a random madman. But I believe you can do it. I implore you, sir."

"Alas, Lestrade, I cannot."

The inspector looked stunned. So did I.

"And why not, if I may ask?" Lestrade's mood, which was not very chipper to begin with, had just changed for the worse.

"Prior commitments," Holmes said flatly.

"Now, see here! If locating some old dowager's diamond tiara, or..."

"I'm sorry, Inspector," Holmes said gently but firmly, but more firmly than gently, "but I cannot undertake to assist you. I am sorry."

"At least four women have died. How many more are doomed? I implore you, sir."

"I cannot."

"And that is your final word?"

"I'm afraid it is."

Lestrade was fuming. "Well! A fine thing! A very good day to you, Mister Sherlock Holmes!" He said it in a tone that made it clear he actually hoped Holmes would have a very bad day; maybe a week or a month of nothing but bad days. He nodded at me and said "Miss Valis," in a snotty voice, even though all I did was sit and mind my own business.

"He was pretty ticked off," I observed, after the inspector had stormed out of the room, stomped down the seventeen steps to the ground floor, and slammed out through the door onto the street, cursing the whole way.

"Yes," Holmes said calmly, "but I imagine his condition will improve when I deliver the Ripper into his hands, along with sufficient evidence to send the fiend to the gallows."

"Huh? You just told him you wouldn't take the case!"

"True enough," he said, frowning at me." But what I did not tell him is that I cannot take on the case for him, because it would be unethical."

"What?" I said, giving him back his frown with interest. "How the heck is it not unethical to refuse to help the police catch a murderer? Especially this one! Jack the Ripper has cut four women to bits, pulled their guts out, and tossed them around all over the public streets!"

"The entrails were not tossed around, Valis. They were very deliberately draped, in two cases, over the victims' shoulders. And Elizabeth Stride merely had her throat cut. She was not disemboweled."

"That doesn't make it any better," I pointed out.

"I know that. But I cannot investigate the case for Lestrade for the simple reason that I am already investigating it for someone else."

That surprised me. "Who?"

"My client has resources the police do not, and has agreed to put them at my disposal. The Ripper has drawn a great deal of official attention to the East End, and my client finds the increased police presence most inconvenient."

"Which totally does not answer my question," I pointed out. "And how would all of that stuff be true? I mean, unless he's a criminal himself."

Holmes said nothing, just looked at me and smiled.

"He is!" I exclaimed. "You're working for a criminal!"

"You're right, Valis. I'll not mince words. I am climbing into bed with the devil I know, that I may put paid to the one I do not."


Friday, February 21, 2014



LAST TIME:   "Well," Stymie said diffidently, "I did see something... I think I did, anyhow. I can't be sure about it, but... It looked to me like there was a picture of somebody painted on the side of the dirigible."

"Doctor Almanac?" I said.

Stymie shook his head. "No, not him. I didn't get too good of a look, but the shape of the head was a lot different. To me, it looked like... It looked like the guy from your movie. You know, Doctor Reverso. Mag DeMilby, Junior. But I could be wrong."

"Yes," I said. "Perhaps you were mistaken. I don't believe for one second that you were, of course, but we can take a sort of vain and fragile comfort in the possibility. It might last five or ten minutes. Because if you saw what you saw, this thing just got even more confusing than it already was."

Stanley used some language that he normally refrained from in the presence of women and children.

I heartily agreed. And I made up my mind to have a very frank chat with Percival Doiley as soon as I could get my hands on him...

But before that could happen, I had to make sure my merry band of plucky urchins were as far out of harm's way as possible. We arrived back in the city late in the afternoon. Stanley bade us a grateful and relived farewell and went back to police headquarters to face whatever music was on the hit parade as a result of our calamitous excursion.

I escorted Stymie, Anonymoushka and Prudence back to my aerie atop the Benway Building. Doctor Unknown greeted us with the news that the mutated Maurice Almanac was still at the bottom of the elevator shaft and had not, as far as could be determined, regained consciousness.

"I don't think that's going to last, though," he said. "But I think we still have about 36 hours before we have to worry about it."

"That's good," I said. "Maybe by then I will have cleared away some of the extraneous nonsense, though I am not sanguine. How is Patience doing?"

"Almost completely recovered, it seems," Doc said, shaking his head. "Her recuperative powers are astonishing, and you're talking to someone who does not astonish easily. I'm not detecting any kind of supernatural energies in or around her and Prudence, but there's obviously something going on that defies analysis."

I just nodded. Patience and Prudence were a riddle I had no intention of trying to solve. I had one or two ideas, but they would remain forever unconfirmed, unless the girls decided to share their story with me. The likelihood of that was remote.

"Listen, Doc," I said, "I have been through the wringer lately, and I need to recharge a little. If you wouldn't mind keeping an eye on the circus out here, I'll just duck into my quarters for a little meditation."

He said he wouldn't mind, and I repaired to my private apartment on the 65th floor. There, I assembled the tools I would need for my own personal brand of communion with the universe: A bottle of very expensive Scotch and a glass tumbler. I stretched out in an easy chair, divested myself of my hat and mask, and poured.

"You shouldn't just throw your hat and stuff on the floor like that," came an unfamiliar voice from behind me.

I sighed heavily. There would apparently be no respite from the freakish insanity, even here in my holy of holies. I gulped down the contents of my tumbler, savored the taste and the burn, and stood up, turning around to face whoever it was that had breached my supposedly unbreachable security. I figured I might as well just install a revolving door to save wear and tear.

Standing there in the entrance to my kitchen were two young women. The one on the left, who had long strawberry blonde hair, appeared to be about nineteen, while her companion, a short-haired brunette, looked to be in her mid-twenties.

"You should at least hang it up on a hat rack or something," said the blonde. "They have stuff like that in this time period, don't they?"

"Don't be rude, Vionna," said the brunette. She had a rather genteel, understated Irish accent. 

I noticed that my visitors were dressed a bit oddly. Both of them were hatless and wore faded blue dungarees, soft shoes that appeared to have rubber soles, and short-sleeved t-shirts. The brunette's shirt was dark blue and unadorned, while the blonde's was bright yellow and bore an intriguing slogan: Free Pussy Riot!

I poured myself another drink and said to the blonde, "I don't doubt there would be a riot if that was being offered, but you should try a more discreet form of advertising. You're liable to get thrown into the clink if you walk around in public wearing that."

“Huh?” she said, scratching her head.

The brunette laughed and said, “I told you that wouldn’t go over well in 1933.” Then she turned her attention to me.

“Good evening, sir,” she said. “We’re very sorry to intrude like this.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble at all,” I said. “It’s getting to be like Zenith Central Station in here. I won’t even try to deny that I’m the Black Centipede. That’s why you’re here, right? You’re looking for the Black Centipede?”

You may note that I seem very nonchalant about the whole thing. That’s because I was certain these two women were not a threat. I have a grossly overdeveloped danger sense, and they weren’t even registering on it.

“Let me explain,” said the brunette. “My name is Mary Jane Kelly and my friend here is Vionna Valis. We have come here from the year 2014.”

“Yeah,” said the other one. “We’re here because the White Centipede has been playing around in the time stream. He got his hands on a time machine and he’s been going back and forth trying to change history. We’re making sure he doesn’t succeed. It’s getting kind of confusing. We’ve already met you once in the past, but it won’t happen to you until 1937. But that isn’t why we’re here in 1933, not exactly.”

I just nodded and drank more Scotch.

“You see,” Mary Jane Kelly said, “you are about to face a very unusual threat. This is someone Vionna and I will encounter many years from now. I cannot tell you too much about it, but I can say that the White Centipede may attempt to tamper with the events you are about to experience. With regard to this individual you are about to meet, I have a warning: Do not kill him. He must not be destroyed because his continued existence is crucial to the future of the world. In the original time stream you figured out a non-lethal way to stop him."

"Okay," I said. "So far, I see what you're saying. I've always believed time travel is possible, and if it is, I'm just the kind of person who would find himself on the receiving end of some. But I face unusual threats every couple of weeks, and hardly a day goes by that I don't meet someone whose death would improve the world immensely. So, what am I supposed to do here? Refrain from killing anyone?"

"No, no," said Mary Kelly. "It wouldn't be a bad idea, but I know how you are. You'll know which one I'm talking about when you meet him. I'm not here to tell you what to do. I'm just planting a seed. A lot of seeds, actually. Just remember that: A lot of seeds."

"You and I have met before," I said to her. "Earlier this year, in fact."

She nodded. "Yes, you've told me all about it. Rather, you will tell me, about 80 years from now. I don't remember it myself."

"Let me tell him about the book, Mary," said Vionna, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet.

"Why would he need to know about that?" Mary asked.

Vionna shrugged. "I don't guess he does. But what could it hurt?"

"Go ahead, then, if you must," said Mary.

"What book?" I wanted to know.

"The book I wrote," said Vionna. "It's called Vionna and the Vampires, and it's all about what happened when me and Mary met this individual that you're about to meet. Oh, yeah! That's how come he needs to know! Because if he kills you-know-who, not only will the world be destroyed, but there won't be any case for me to write about and there won't be any book."

"If the world got destroyed," Mary pointed out, "then the absence of the book wouldn't matter."

"Not to you, maybe," Vionna shot back. "But I would know."

"What about the book?" I interjected.

"Well, see," Vionna said, "in the future, where we're from, you are an old man and you're writing your memoirs. There have been two books worth of them so far. So I decided that if you could do it, so could I, so I did, and that was Vionna and the Vampires. The reason why I want you to know and remember about it is because one day in the future, when you start writing your memoirs, you can mention how I came to you today and told you about the book, and maybe you could recommend that your readers buy a copy."

Mary was shaking her head.

"You know," I said, "you could have just gone to me in the future, your present, and asked me to give you a plug. It wasn't necessary to pierce the veil of time."

"I know that," Vionna said. "But since we had to come here anyhow, and it was on my mind, I figured I might as well kill two birds while the sun shines. See, in the future, there is a thing called the internet, and on it, the guy who edits your manuscripts has what is known as a blog, and sometimes he posts little stories and things that don't actually fit into the books. Right now he's doing this one about Doctor Reverso, and I figure Mary and me have landed right in the middle of that whole thing. So, when it gets to be 2014, be sure and include this part in the story when you tell him about it, so it will get posted and people will see it. He can even include a link to Amazon dot com so people can buy the book."

"A what to what?" I asked. I was completely lost, and had no hope of rescue. I drank some more Scotch.

"Never mind that," said Mary Kelly. "We've done what we came here to do. Just remember what I said about the seeds. When the time comes, you'll understand. We must be on our way. We have more holes to patch in the wake of the White Centipede."

"Yeah," said Vionna. "In fact, we're going to Hollywood a few months ago to prevent the White Centipede from killing you. You probably remember this character called..."

Mary Kelly clapped a hand over her friend's mouth. "Don't tell him that!" she exclaimed. "Do you want to rupture the time stream even further?"

"No," said Vionna, swatting Mary's hand away, "I guess not. Well, so long Mister Centipede! We'll be seeing you. Don't forget about our book when it gets to be 2014."

"I won't," I assured her. "I promise."

She touched a button on her wristwatch, there was a flash of light, and they were gone. I took a deep breath, sat down, and finished off my tumbler of Scotch. This was shaping up to be quite a day, one I would long remember, in great detail.

One thing that can be said of the Black Centipede is that he always remembers his promises. He seldom honors them, but there are exceptions. And so, while I'm thinking about it: