No products in the cart.
Format: Paperback, 382 pages
Publisher: Marksman Studios; 3 edition (October 31, 2014)
Edition Language: English
He is a product of the ghetto’s of Jamaica and is about to learn the true meaning of the word, survival. Simba Ranking is a talented Dancehall deejay, who has learnt to live with the harsh realities of downtown Kingston, Jamaica and emerge a wiser ‘yout’. The violence and poverty is what he wanted to escape from and only through dancehall music would he achieve it. And then his future is suddenly determined when he meets the mysterious and sensual Monique St. John. She is the woman of his dreams rich and highly connected, making his ascent to the top almost assured. But the dream turns to a horrible nightmare as Simba finds out Monique is married to one of the most ruthless and influential politicians on the island, Hugh St. John. The Saint finds out from his sources his wife has been less than faithful to him and pledges Simba will pay for that act of disrespect with his life. Suddenly the odds are stacked against him and for Simba Ranking time was running out. He is relentlessly hunted by the Saints hired assassins through the Dancehall’s of Kingston, New-York and London. To survive he has only his ruthless ambition to succeed, Monique by his side ‘an a’ big Four-Fifth in his waist.
Anton Marks grew up in Jamaica and was enamored by its characters, culture, history and swagger. He had no option but to write. He wanted to frighten, amaze, confound, arouse and thrill readers with an imagination fuelled by the island and his love of genre fiction and film. His first novel began a trend of bestsellers that would transport readers to the ghettoes of Kingston Jamaica in Dancehall, futuristic London – In the Days of Dread, government agents in – Bushman, the futuristic world of vice in – 69 and a supernatural thriller – Bad II the Bone. His next offering will be a young adult fantasy novel entitled – The Last Prince of Alkebulahn and the second in the Bad II the Bone series Good II Be Bad. Expect great things as the Marksman continues writing the most creative and exciting novels in the new Urban Fantastic genre. www.anton-marks.com
YOU CAN BUBBLE, RANKING…” she whispered in his ear breathlessly.
“Yuh know that baby. Bedroom, dancefloor me nuh partial. You know mi have deh timing.”
Simba Ranking smiled, whining expertly to the slow groove, Sonia tight against him, locked in the way he liked it. His hand on the slope of her ass, giving her gentle nudges with the palm of his hand to keep her close and the friction hot. The lovers’ rock music vibrated loudly from the battered speakers; its rough edges annoying to a digital stereo ear, but posed no problem for the ghetto people who were there to dance and enjoy themselves. And he was a part of this scene as it was a part of him. This place was no uptown ‘cool profile’ establishment. This place was a dancehall in its rawest form, and the sound reflected the feel of the people; rugged and uncompromising. It was an unapologetic expression of life on the edge and Simba felt alive here, mellow.
The woman in his arms snuggled even closer, her head on his chest, totally absorbed in the music and the mood. She moved with him like they were seasoned dance partners, the rhythm dictating the sway of her hips. With her, there was no clumsy stepping on toes or the cru-crum-crum of appendages impacting in a clumsy clinch. She knew all the moves and much more.
Yes, Iya, dis Katty yah, definitely have potential, Simba thought, but as always, he kept his options open and scoped the venue from pillar to post. He was glad he had made the right move at the right time. The girl was not only ‘fit’, but also fresh on the scene, a new face to the jaded dancehall circuit. From the moment he prepped her entering the dance, he figured that here was a woman who knew what she had and knew what to do with it. Small waisted, fat bumper – like a lobster she had all ‘deh meat inna deh tail’ and big breasted to boot. She had the proverbial Coca-Cola bottle shape, and she drew the hungry stares of the sharks that could smell fresh pussy like their aquatic counterparts smelled blood. The Ranking couldn’t resist such a combination at the best of times, but under his sensi she was positively irresistible. What finally made up his mind about being with this woman tonight was how she danced to herself deflecting the advances of the wolf’s and kissed her teeth from some of the bad-minded comments from the skettels marking their territory. If she was confident enough to go to a dance without a posse in toe then tonight was her lucky night.
Simba casually looked around, still held close to his new woman and clocked the familiar faces – the good, the bad and the ugly, all situated about a ‘lawn’ bustling with activity. He spied Big Breast Patsy from Twelfth Street leaning on the bar; Bow-Legged Sharon from Portmore stood to her right, deep in conversation, and Cherry Lips Barbara, ‘the whining machine’ over by the turntables. Tonight Simba wasn’t in the mood for the old faces. He needed a new vibe, and he felt only new girl Sonia could give it to him. There was no disrespect to the ghetto girls that he knew and loved, but for a ‘cocksman’ like him variety was a part of the game. That was just the runnings.
And so two smiles and a Heineken later it was as if Simba and Sonia had known each other for years. She gripped him tighter still, her lips moving silently to the words of the song as she pressed herself closer to him. Simba felt the softness of her breasts and absorbed her subtle aroma. He kept his thoughts of slackness in control for the real thing that he knew would come later. He pulled her even closer so that their lips were touching, albeit lightly, and their crotches rubbing against each other, their waists rotating in perfect sync.
The girl was sexy, no doubt about that, and she knew it. Simba’s hardness made his point of view crystal clear, but he was in no rush to get away and neither was she. When it came to romancing the women, he regarded himself as a connoisseur amongst Yard man. He believed his reputation must precede him at all times, even if it meant a few well-placed lies. Because women talked, and when they talked about him he wanted them to say he was the best. He liked to give off the impression of cool detachment – a man who didn’t care one way, or another what happened because women were no problem for him. The Ranking had to rush, ‘no gal’.
His hand slipped down to her backside again and caressed it in full. Sonia cooed with pleasure, a signal in Simba’s ears to continue, and he did. He gripped more firmly, pulling her closer to him, his manhood rubbing the bush of her pubic pleasure showing in his eyes.
Sonia was deh lick, feh real.
Skate City was packed to the rafters with the excited faces of ghetto people as they cast off the worries and problems of political violence and day to day living in the ghetto and let full volume rub-a-dub music touch them to their souls. Congregated for the first time and celebrating a tentative cease-fire between the warring gangs in the garrisons where the people most affected by the political madness from both parties?
Dis dance yah nice! Simba thought as he caressed the nape of Sonia’s neck. Even the open air venue of the concrete skating ring could not cool it down. The music was hot, and the ravers generated more heat, but it was also one of those warm Jamaican evenings, clear skies and an atmosphere filled with the scent of good sensimillia. Normally the Ranking would stay away from any dance that had a political agenda attached to it. The politics ‘ting’ had corrupted and destroyed too many lives, many of them he knew personally. And in his way he had helped to spread their warped cause but he had learned his lesson.
This unity dance was worth him breaking his promise. He had seen too much bloodshed in his twenty-three years, especially in the ghetto. If he could do anything to help heal the wounds and give peace a try, he would do it without a murmur. Simba sighed, releasing those thoughts and focused instead on the merriment. He blew out a gush of hot air as if that could somehow cool him down, but it only reminded him of the ever-expanding crush of people still trickling inside adding more body heat to the already sweltering proceedings. Everybody was sweating. Even the Ranking felt a bead of sweat trickle down his armpit and winced as his string vest absorbed it. On a night like this, the last thing he wanted was his crisp shirt to be damp with perspiration. His starched brown African linen shirt and matching baggy trousers had withstood the friction sparked with Sonia’s whining, but streaks of sweat would not do. He needed to look and feel fresh when he held the microphone. His mind couldn’t be focused on how he looked, but on delivering ‘intelligent’ lyrics in a style that ‘nuh bwoy’ could imitate. No matter, there was still time to cool down. Right now he wasn’t about to let go of Sonia before this song was over.
The lovers’ rock tune took its time, with Bishop, the operator eventually, barking the ‘whine an’ grine ting’ to an end, making the Cool Ruler eventually fade out. It was as if Sonia hadn’t even noticed, for she continued dancing seductively, with Simba tight against her. She was in no mood to let go yet. So in the few moments of silence that it took the operator to select another record, Simba took the opportunity to whisper in Sonia’s ears a brief run-down of what he would like to do to her body if she gave him a chance. Sonia giggled, and Simba mentally scratched one more notch on his soon-to-be-smoking gun.
“Well a’right!” The selector’s voice echoed through the speakers.”Yuh a hear me, crowd a people!” Bishop’s voice was authoritarian, confident. “Right yah now, ting an ting, come up to bump, man!” The operator’s manic laugh resonated over the hum of human excitement, followed by a few bars of the theme from the movie The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.
“Wid no further hitch or stick, gal pickney. Mad up! Mad up! Calling Simba Ranking! Simba Ranking, you’re wanted at the I-trol tower…Ranking! Come hold deh mike, my yout’. A long time yuh deh ‘bout, my boss… Step up nuh man!”
The Ranking took a deep breath and eased himself out of Sonia’s tight embrace.
“Mi soon come baby!” he said, turning in the direction of the set. “Just keep it warm, seen.”
“Nuh must.” She said matter-o-factly and smiled. Her hips still swinging to the tune as the young deejay disappeared through the swaying wall of ravers.
Simba made his way steadily and confidently up to the turntable. The stragglers were in their positions. The young hopefuls waited in the wings for a ‘bligh’ from the selector so they too could be blessed with the opportunity to chat on the mike. Simba saw himself in many of them, but that was then, now he was everyone’s focus. The sound was set up in the middle of the stage, an array of tape recorders of every size and form surrounding every speaker. The largest, yet invariably cheapest recorders belonged to private individuals who wanted their personal recordings of this session. The smaller, ‘hi-tech’ recorders belonged to unscrupulous vendors who would have the tapes duplicated several hundred times before the night was out for sale at the markets in the morning.
A true sound man didn’t mind this unauthorized duplication, for they knew that it was a way of promoting their set throughout Jamaica and even internationally. Simba was a true sound man, and he considered the plethora of recording equipment to be a ‘big up’ rather than a diss. To him it was an achievement that tapes of Nubian Hi-Power, the sound he chatted for, had now reached as far afield as Flatbush in New York and Brixton in London.
Simba got the dancehall bug early; he had long forgotten how but he couldn’t have been more than five or six years old. He remembered how, even that young, he would steal away at night to listen to the different sounds in the area—sometimes by himself and sometimes with other pubescent ‘runaways’—and he always got in without paying. At first, he was so small he could sneak in without the gate man seeing him. As he grew older he became more adept at convincing the door men to let him in. The only obstacle to his passion was the severe beatings with a Ginep switch which his father or Mama Christy used to dish out when he came home. But all the beatings in the world couldn’t stop him. He was already hooked, and it was an addiction he had no intention of kicking.
He didn’t know it at the time, but those early sessions were to be his education, because the cream of deejays passed through the sounds he followed. Reggae legends: Big Youth, U-Roy, Tapper Zukie, I-Roy, Prince Far I, Doctor Alimantado, Trinity, Brigadier Jerry…the list went on and on. These artists, some of them already stars, never forgot their roots and regularly held dances in the ghetto at ghetto rates. They inspired a whole generation of ghetto youth to make something worthwhile of their lives. One such youth was Simba Ranking.
As he grew older Simba got into writing lyrics and shadowed the control towers every Saturday night for a chance at holding the coveted ‘mike’ to drop his new lick. The race, however, is not for the swift, but for he who endures to the end, Mama Christy would say. With only a Red Stripe beer to quench his growling hunger, Simba would sometimes wait through an entire session for his opportunity. It was worth the waiting, because the music was in his blood, it was his life.
Eventually, his persistence paid off. Operators like Bishop and Mikey D finally decided that the young Simba was ready and started passing him the microphone on a regular basis. Simba soon repaid their confidence in him by tearing up their dances week after week with his particular mix of ‘gun an’ gal’ lyrics. In his teens, Simba had built up a reputation amongst the dancehall fans as a born showman and entertainer, a ‘yout’ with potential. If you can make it in reggae music, you can make it in any music. Because the dancehall audience is as merciless as it is merciful; the hands that will big you up is the same hands that will use you as target practice. If you perform well, you won’t find a more loyal crowd to boost your ego or bank balance but if you don’t have the lyrics, the riddims, the sweet tone of voice or just as importantly a rep, you stand little chance of surviving.
Despite his street level support, Simba hadn’t reached anywhere near the potential he knew he had. After all this time, he was making little money from his PA’s around town. Some nights he would leave a session without enough dollars for a box dinner at Mr. Chin’s. It had got better, but nowhere near his expectations. But in time he knew things would be different, and the dance would bring him fame. Then he would proudly take his mother away from the ghetto to a dream home in Portmore, where hardship would be nothing more than a bad memory. No guns, no violence. Just music. First, though, certain things had to be worked out correctly. Particularly the business side of things. What he needed was a manager to promote him and hit record to carry his voice all the way across the world. That would be it. Deh big time! His dreams of fame remained with him always and he hadn’t been idle. He had dropped a few tunes for a couple of producers, but nothing was released.
Is just a matter of time, champion!
As Simba mounted the stage and took the microphone from Bishop, he felt the butterflies flutter in his stomach as they always did. Even after all this time, it still gave him an adrenaline rush to stand in front of a crowd with a microphone in his hand. There was something breathlessly sexy about the power it gave him and at the same time it chilled him to realize that one slip would result in public humiliation, not just in Kingston, or Jamaica, but outernationally. It was too late for second thoughts. His natural talent would take over as it always did, and the lyrics would flow. This was his ultimate calling in life, and it deserved nothing but his best.
“I wah big up all deh girls dem,” Simba’s hoarse voice growled through the speakers. “Cah Simba love yuh bad, bad, bad man! Sonia, hol’ it tight, seen?”
He paused a moment, then suddenly exploded into the microphone:
“OPERATOR, COME DUNG!!”
The operator did, and the Firebrand riddim followed. As if he was a seasoned veteran, Simba ‘rode’ it with ease. He seemed to know just the right combination of words to thrill or amuse the audience. As the rhymes shot from his mouth like bullets, the crowd swayed with him. He lifted their spirits with his brand of reality lyrics and dramatized every line like a seasoned actor. The crowd responded with unrestrained enthusiasm. Simba Ranking was a deejay who spoke to their hearts and to their feet:
Dah riddim yah sound gravilicious
Bwoy diss, we leave dem in deh forest
Dem tink dem gun big but my one shoot deh far-ist
But we nah defend deh war-ist
Ghetto living hard already widout deh pain
So all bad man, deh Ranking a show dem
Look feh fame, play deh game
The Ranking hit them with a mixed set of cultural and bad bwoy lyrics to show his lyrical dexterity. And when he called confidently for the downtown posse to “flash unuh lighters,” his request was met instantly as lighter flames all around lit up the dance. The boisterous shouts of his name above the din of special sound effects from Bishop was evidence enough that he had pleased them.
“Live good inna yuh neighborhood.”
He finished on a high.
His set over, Simba passed the microphone to the next deejay in line, a Greenwich Farm youth called Woodpecker, who arrogantly strode on stage with a look of sheer contempt. He held the microphone close with both hands; lips twisted in a screw just as the tune burst from the speakers. And just like his bad attitude a flow of lyrics came from his mouth filled with obscenities and threats directed at the rival opposition party. His intentions were made even clearer. As the tune continued he stepped up his torrent of abuse, intent on upsetting the peaceful vibes. The fact that the session was being held in opposition party territory didn’t seem to perturb him, he just continued to curse them, relentlessly.
A fearless but suicidal move on his part.
The crowd, which consisted of mainly opposition party supporters, started to show signs of a mood swing. The feelings of ‘one love’ were transforming to agitation and hostility. People began cursing openly. A bottle arced out of the audience, shattering to Woodpecker’s left, warning enough for him to stop what he was doing and exit the stage…quickly. But instead he simply threatened the anonymous culprit and persisted to the very end of his set. When he’d finished, Woodpecker came off the stage with a sardonic grin on his face.
He was aware that he had upset portions of the revelers who had come to Skate city to forget, but he didn’t care, and simply stepped into the midst of his posse who circled him in a protective shield. They were not intimidated by the vicious stares in their direction, but simply kept their hands very close to their waists.
The vibe had changed for the worse. Simba, feeling edgy, led Sonia towards the exit at the far end of the rink. He’d been going to dances long enough to spot the signs of trouble. He saw the expressions of anger at Woodpecker’s insults spread through the ravers like ripples through a pool of water. Suddenly he recognized a tall, dark figure in the middle of the crowd wearing a black beret smoothed to his skull, Italian shirt ringed with a thick gold chain around his neck and his signature rag in Jamaica’s national colors in his back pocket. The sight sent a cold shiver down his spine. It was Tony Hewitt, a local gunman for the opposition party. His beret was pulled low over his eyes, but Simba could still recognize his unsmiling face.
“Bloodclaat!” Simba said out loud . “Deh don on yah?”
Simba’s stomach tightened at the implications.
Tony Hewitt and his men protected the opposition party’s interests in his neighborhood. Depending on who was making the assessment, Hewitt was either a cold-blooded murderer or the Robin Hood of the ghetto. Either way, he was a ruthless legend. Everybody knew the story of how he had survived an ambush in the night by a rival posse outside a dance when he was shot eight times – taking two in the head and one in the groin. Hewitt went after the men who ambushed him and put exactly eight bullets – including two in the head and one in the groin, into each one. None of them survived. Simba knew for sure that Tony Hewitt didn’t take people ‘dissing’ his party lightly. He had a bad feeling about this. The gunman’s sudden appearance could only mean one thing.
Blood pan deh dance floor.
The Ranking watched keenly as the gunman disappeared and reappeared amongst the revelers near Woodpecker’s position. Hewitt stood glaring through the crowds at the deejay who had dissed not just his party but him personally. Woodpecker was too preoccupied with his spars to have noticed anything out of the ordinary. Simba grimaced. It was as if he was the only person in the dance who had seen what was about to go down. He sized up the situation and imagined the carnage that was about to unfold. As bad as Tony Hewitt was, he was on his own, while Woodpecker had a posse of five or six roughnecks around him. Simba figured that at least one of them must be strapped to be so bold in the first place.
And if that was the case, it would be a bloodbath. He had to think fast. It was about to go down, but there was nothing he could do to warn anybody else. Maybe he was blowing the whole thing out of proportion. Still, he decided, see an’ blind hear an’ deaf, the unspoken ghetto code. He weaved his way through the revelers were Sonia stood. He reached out and touched her arm.
“What you seh we leave dis place yah, now baby,” said Simba with a twinkle in his eye, trying to play down the urgency of his request.
“You horny, eh man. Mek we wait lickle first nuh,” she teased him smiling.
But Simba was no longer in any mood for games. He took Sonia’s hand and led her towards the exit. Sonia protested a first, but only halfheartedly. She was secretly looking forward to what the lover man had to offer.
Simba couldn’t help feeling a twinge of cowardice as they stepped through the gate into the cool night air. He would have previously hung around to watch the altercation between the gunman and Woodpecker, but his days of guns and badness were over. He left that to the young bloods that could not be reasoned with. Too many of his friends had died for the sake of politics or survival and his name wasn’t going to be added to the list. As long as neither he nor his family was being threatened directly, he didn’t want to know.
Simba skipped across the road with Sonia beside him. There was virtually no traffic on the Constant Spring Road even though the State of Emergency had been lifted. As he led the way towards his parked Honda 90, Sonia laughed out loud.
“A you this, Ranking?” she burst out laughing, pointing to the rusty motorbike balancing precariously on a kickstand. “You sure it can manage two people?”
The Ranking smirked at the comment and shrugged his shoulders. “Yuh see my wheels, me nuh want no gal diss it, seen. When mi change it to 300 Yamaha next week, you same one a go want feh spread out ‘pon it, so if yuh a come, just hitch ‘pon deh back.”
Sonia was hesitant at first but decided that a Honda 90 was better than no transport at all but only just. She climbed on, lapping her skirt under her, and held onto the DJ from behind. She wasn’t convinced in the slightest by Simba’s boast, but that didn’t matter, she would enjoy the ‘ride’ in any form it came. As he cranked the engine to life the sound of gunshots rang out from across the road.
“Jesas Christ!” Sonia squealed as screams of panic pierced the night air. As he revved up the 90, another volley of gunfire erupted from Skate City.
Simba didn’t even flinch; to him the outcome was obvious. Unconcerned, he simply eased the bike away from the kerb, looking forward to a night of serious ‘bed wuk’. He would read about the carnage in the Daily Gleaner tomorrow. No problem.