The Man of Mystery

The Man of Mystery

It was like that because it had to be like that.

As he explained to the assistant in the new department store.

“Sorry Ma’am, but I cannot divulge my name. That would go against orders.”

“Oh yes, of course. Certainly Sir, I understand.”

At the cosmetics counter the young assistant wore upon her face the most plastic of smiles.

He wore a white naval uniform, which was pristine, yet frayed at its well-worn cuffs.

Unfortunately, the store itself had that sad and lifeless air of a newly-built hotel. This manifested itself in the strong smell of bleach and the disinterest on the faces of the figures passing through it. The only purchases in their hands being small and inexpensive ones, as if they had only bought them to justify the time they’d wasted inside its off-white walls…’

Lunch was taken at a cafe inside an old rusted bus out on the ring road. Dressed in a set of blue oil-stained overalls and a pair of black steel toe-capped boots, he sat and stared out of the window as he ate his plate of sausage, egg and chips.

The view was the sole reason why it was a regular part of R16 Route B.

There was something about its mildewed concrete islets, its graffiti-strewn flyovers, its mess of motorway intersections and the industrial parks on the horizon, with their chimneys belching thick plumes of brown smoke up into the city sky that he found ‘almost alien yet so very intriguing‘. Perhaps it was its ‘grotesque geometry’, or, perhaps it was the ‘asphalt-like absurdity of its enforced and unnatural poetry’.

“I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

He took off his horn-rimmed spectacles, put them back into the top pocket of his shabby tweed jacket and returned the leather-bound book to the grey-haired owner of the antique bookshop.

“Not a problem Sir, not a problem at all. Perhaps though, you might like to take a look at these?”

The service there was excellent and the owner very well informed. The four erotic Japanese woodblock prints on display were especially good, with the last one in the set worth mentioning in detail.

In the print, a balding man has just withdrawn and ejaculated over the plump stomach of a prone and naked geisha. He is looking down at his swollen flaccid penis, while she is smiling and looking up into his eyes.

It is not the beautiful simplicity of line that entices and reflects the instinctive yet base nature of the act depicted, nor is it the juxtaposition of clear, warm reds of the clothes with the pale pinks of the bodies that makes this particular print so enthralling.

No, what makes it so intensely gripping, are the detailed and grotesque expressions on the faces of the two figures. The horror in the man’s down-turned eyes as he realises that he cannot control this primal urge and the grimace spread across his face as he watches all of his imaginary mastery and virility wither away into nothing more than a flaccid piece of flesh. All of which is contrasted most painfully, yet beautifully, with the mockery that dances upon the geisha’s upturned lips and the coldness in her piercing stare, as she reveals to him with the fullest savagery and severity: the impotence of his desires and the treachery hidden behind a woman’s painted smile.’

He nodded and took off his long-haired wig and beard.

It had been a good day and much had been done.

Having placed them where they belonged, he took off his dirty puffa jacket and jeans and hung them up next to the tweed jacket, blue overalls, white naval uniform and the hundreds of other ‘identities’ which spread around the dark subterranean room on aluminium clothes rails.

Taking his notes, he then sat down behind his desk to write up his daily report. It had been a while since the powers-that-be had been in touch but he paid that fact no mind at all. It was like that because it had to be like that.

However, before he began, he afforded himself the luxury of gazing round the room at the routes, maps, plans and charts which covered every inch of wall. All of them meticulously planned out, drawn and coded.

Yes, there lies the true beauty behind this mortal boredom. That is where it can be found. The true meaning deep within the senseless void of man’s repeated thought and action. There, far, far beyond the inane mystery of his modern world laid out for all its primate slaves to understand in a most primitive and devolving tongue of multi-storey car parks, light bulbs, shaved pudenda and ever bigger screens displaying nothing more than the inattentive limitations of their moaning star-struck cerebellums…

He shook his head. He was getting carried away.

He began to write.

He had a lot of work to do.


© J H Martin

The Man of Mystery first appeared in Black Heart Magazine

Underwood : Bricks & Stoves & Barred Windows

Bricks & Stoves & Barred Windows

Underwood is a place for writers to showcase their work and a place for readers to enjoy their creations.

Their third issue is out now and showcases poetry and fiction by Jeff Fleischer, Joseph Crisafulli, Matt A. Hanson, Spencer K. M. Brown, Annette Sisson, Matt Dodge, Randy Lee White, Brody Smithwick, Byron Lafayette, Katelyn Andell, Kevin Baggett, Karen Frederick, Chris Espenshade, Cheryl Sim, Rebecca Bihn-Wallace, Austere Rex Gamao, David Elliott, Deni Dickler, Fabrice Poussin and David Davies, as well as Bricks & Stoves & Barred Windows, a new short story by J H Martin.

Free to read and free to share, make sure to check out Issue 3 of Underwood here.

Straylight: Peach Blossom Fool

Peach Blossom Fool

Straylight Literary Arts Magazine is an online and print literary arts magazine. Publishing innovative works of fiction, poetry, and art, both from the Americas and from around the world. Straylight prides itself on being on the edge of literary innovation.

Published biannually, their latest print issue is out now and features a fresh and eclectic mix of art, writing and poetry by artists from all over the world, including Peach Blossom Fool; a new poem by J H Martin.

To find out where and how you can buy a copy of Issue 13.2 of Straylight, please contact Straylight via their website, or follow them on the usual social media channels

Kōan Magazine: Le Salon De Jardin

Le Salon De Jardin

Koan Magazine is a new literary magazine from the good people at The Paragon Press.

In its first issue, Koan Magazine presents an eclectic mixture of prose, poetry and artwork, which occupies the threshold between the real and the imagined, the every day and the magical, and the readily credible and the fantastic.

Included in its pages are contributions from artists from every part of this empty globe, including Le Salon De Jardin, a new poem by J H Martin.

You can read the first issue here.

Coffin Bell: The Days of the Locust

The Days of the Locust

Coffin Bell is a new quarterly online journal of dark literature that publishes poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and creative nonfiction that explore the darkest themes.

Volume 1, Issue No. 4 is out now and  features a dark mix of waking nightmares, dark CNF, dystopian flash and the most cursed of verse, including The Days of the Locust, a new short piece of dark fiction by J H Martin, which you can read here.

Underwood: City Stained Rouge

City Stained Rouge

Underwood is the flagship magazine for Underwood Press LLC. 

It’s about the craft.

It always has been.  Compelling stories that are well told.

We are a micro press.  And we are a craft press.  We have Vandercooks in our bones, a Chandler & Price in the garage, and Heidleberg Windmills in our dreams.  Letterpress printing is our past and our future.  The ink that gives life to the machines stains our fingers and runs in our blood…

The inaugural issue of Underwood is out now and features. amongst many other fine, fine thingsCity Stained Rouge; a new short story by J H Martin.

You can read the first issue of Underwood here.

Rue Scribe: For the Record

For the Record

Rue Scribe is the small literature journal of Underwood Press LLC.

“Think Small.”

It was the advertising slogan for the Volkswagon Beetle developed by the  Doyle Dane Bernbach agency in 1959.  Since then, it has been called the single best advertising campaign of the 20th Century. We think it fits us perfectly.

We think small as in Small Literature – small but powerful.

Get rid of any fluff. Distill it down to its essence and then distill it again.

Get to the point.  Get to the point, now.

Featuring a well packed and constantly updated supply of powerful short fiction and poetry, Rue Scribe also features For the Record; a new short piece of fiction by J H Martin, which you can read here.

SunLit Fiction: Dragons


SunLit Fiction is a publisher and podcast of short contemporary fiction.

This week on their podcast and their website, they feature Dragons; a short story set in Myanmar, by J H Martin, with the story being freely available to read on their website as well.

Listen, read, like and share the story with anyone you may know who has an interest in MyanmarBurmese culture and Asia.

တစ်ခါသေဖူး ပျဉ်ဖိုးနားလည်

Curating Alexandria: 阳光

阳光 (Sunlight) - J H MARTIN 2018


Curating Alexandria is a new web and eBook publication dedicated to supporting new fiction and other new works of art centered around or inspired by classical mythology, folklore and legend.

To anyone paying attention, the world of publishing has radically changed in the last decade. To say that the market is crowded is an understatement. Social media allows anyone and everyone to present their lives as celebrity, to chatter in endless self promotion. Self publishing has lowered the bar for what creations enter the market. For many readers and authors, this has been a frustrating turn of events. Curating Alexandria exists, not to add to the noise, but to offer interested readers a well curated, well edited collection of emerging talent.

Their first anthology is now on sale and features new works on classic themes from artists all over the globe, including 阳光 – a new short piece of prose by J H Martin.

To help them continue to support new writing talent and to share the beauty of new works of art centered around or inspired by the most timeless of themes, you can purchase your own paperback copy of the anthology here.

Havik: Machination



Havik is an annual literary anthology assembled and curated by Las Positas College, Livermore, California. 

Their 2018 anthology: Rise, is out now, and features a diverse and vibrant mix of art, creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction from artists all over the world, including Machination; a new piece of visual art, by J H Martin.

To find out where and how you can both find and purchase your copy of Rise, please follow Havik on either Instagram or Facebook.

Internet Void: OK – Crap


Internet Void is an online journal of art, fiction and poetry.

We are a group of dedicated librarians, researchers, cretins, and cronies scouring the fabled internet void for fiction, poetry and art to add to our growing library currently filled with noise. Together we go out into the void with our instruments and buckets. Together, we look for the work hurled into the void.

If you’re out there, we hear you.

Their latest edition – Collection 1: Pulled from the Void – is out now, showcasing and curating a fresh and eclectic mix of both art and writing, including OK – Crap; a new poem by J H Martin, which you can read here.

The Scene & Heard: Le Soleil


Le Soleil

The Scene & Heard is a literary and visual arts journal of artistic reflections, that promotes, celebrates and fosters the creative process of artists and writers by showcasing their work internationally.

Publishing seven print issues a year, as well as online through Medium, The Scene & Heard gives a global platform to art, photography, fiction, non-fiction and poetry, including Le Soleil, a new poem by J H Martin, which you can read here.

Obra / Artifact: 虚


虚 (Xū)

In the tradition of the bifurcated narratives of writers like Denis Johnson and Robinson Jeffers, this publication exists in tandem with itself: Obra constitutes the online wing, with the best of each online issue and other material being co-opted for hardcopy Artifact postcards that include poetry, prose and visual media…

We seek the reappraisal of traditional genre lines, looking to expose the new and exciting work being done around the Americas: anywhere that genre, medium, and craftsmanship are being broken down into their component parts and recombined in compelling ways, Obra / Artifact hopes to be…

Issue #3 of Obra / Artifact is out now. Entitled; ‘Mythos’, the issue is centred around the theme of myths and mythology, and features a fresh and eclectic mix of poesía (poetry), essais (non-fiction), and imaginação (fiction) from writers all over the world, including 虚 (Xū), a new short piece of fiction by J H Martin.

You can read, buy and download a copy of the new issue here.

Weatherings: Un Autre


WeatheringsFutureCycle Press

Edited by poets David Chorlton and Robert S. King, Weatherings is three anthologies in one – Homeland: Writings About Homelessness,  Metamorphosis: Writings About Ageing, and Our Place: Writings About the Earth.

These writings have not been gathered under the illusion that literature can do anything to house those who sleep on the streets, turn around the trend towards a dramatically changing climate, or grant comfort and reassurance to the elderly. These themes have been chosen, however, in part because they rarely receive due attention in the political language of our time. There are elected representatives who would love to take away Social Security and think about how to do it between speeches that go against what the majority of scientists see as being beyond argument with regard to rising temperatures and what that implies for life on this planet for all species…

…As editors, we wanted to make the point that one can address problems with imagination and good writing. Poetry, especially, has become isolated from society as a whole and has a following primarily among other poets. This need not be the case, as we think that these pages contain work that can be appreciated by the public at large as much as by fellow writers. Weatherings may set an example both in establishing priorities and in using language to better observe and understand them. Being sensitive to the natural world is the first step toward preserving it…

…This is a book conceived as having a use beyond giving its contributors another line in their resumes. While its themes are familiar to everyone, the viewpoints here should open new ways to think about them.

Poets and writers featured in the combined anthology are:

Homeland: Writings About HomelessnessBint Arab, Shawn Aveningo, Mary Jo Balistreri, Ruth Bavetta, Nina Bennett, Nancy Bevilaqua, Alan Catlin, David Chorlton, Joan Colby, Steven Deutsch, M. Ayodele Heath, Janis Butler Holm, Paul Hostovsky, Laura M. Kaminski, Lidia Kosk, Lee Kottner, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Cynthia Linville, Marjorie Maddox, J H Martin, Catherine McGuire, James B. Nicola, Scott Owens, Connie Post, Sarah Russell, Paul Saluk, J. J. Steinfeld, Julie Fowler, Wally Swist, Sherre Vernon, Lillo Way.

Metamorphosis: Writings About Ageing Peggy Aylsworth, Nina Bennett, Marion Brown, David Chorlton, Carl Chrisman, Beth Copeland, James Croteau, Anthony DiMatteo, Heather Dobbins, Bonnie Durrance, Laura Foley, Taylor Graham, Karen Greenbaum-Maya, Nancy Gustafson, Lois Marie Harrod, Karen Paul Holmes, Paul Hostovsky, Ann Howells, A. J. Huffman, Joseph Hutchison, Robert S. King, Judy Kronenfeld, Lori Lamothe, Linda Lowe, Stephanie Madan, John McKernan, James B. Nicola, Lynn Pedersen, Richard King Perkins II, Jean Queneau, Mary Ricketson, Kristin Roedell, Suzanne Schon, Lucille Gang Shulklapper, Judith Skillman, Carol Steinhagen, Carole Stone, Meryl Stratford, Laurence W. Thomas, Sara Toruño-Conley, Lillo Way, Abigail Wyatt, James K. Zimmerman.

Our Place: Writings About the Earth Paula Ashley, Ruth Bavetta, Marion Brown, Jefferson Carter, David Chorlton, Allison DeLauer, Bill Glose, Lynn Hoffman, Karen Paul Holmes, Joseph Hutchison, Laura M. Kaminski, Lee Kottner, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Lori Lamothe, Laura LeHew, James B. Nicola, Scott Owens, Lee Patton, Lynn Pedersen, Linwood Rumney, Eric Paul Shaffer, Wally Swist, Lillo Way, Martin Willitts, Jr., Diana Woodcock, Ray Zimmerman.

Published by FutureCycle Press, and part of their Good Works project, all proceeds from sales of Weatherings are donated to Friends of the Earth. Copies of the 214-page anthology cost, either, $19.95 (print), or, $2.99 (Kindle), and can be purchased here.

ISBN 978-1-938853-40-1

eFiction: 雲鬢花顏金步搖

Prettiest Girl in Town - Moriyama Remix


eFiction Publishing is a periodical production company that delivers the best in short fiction in monthly fiction magazines. eFiction publishes genre-specific magazines with each magazine available in all formats on the date of publication.

The company allows readers to read story submissions and vote on them. The highest voted stories are selected, edited, and then put into the issue.

eFiction Vol. 6 No. 01 is out now featuring, ‘Etiquette’ by William Masters, ‘Gunnin’ for More’ by Barnabei Parker, ‘Reflection’ by April Jones, ‘The Stonewall Deception’ by Daniel R. George, and, ‘雲鬢花顏金步搖 (The Prettiest Girl in Town)’ by J H Martin – a short story set in China.

The issue is available in all formats and costs just $3.99.

You can purchase your copy here.

Empty Mirror: Three Poems from Burma


Three Poems from Burma

Empty Mirror is based in northwest Washington state, USA.

Established in 2000 as a book-selling site specializing in collectible Beat Generation and small press poetry books, over the past decade, Empty Mirror has morphed into an on-line arts magazine with a focus on poetry, essays, reviews, interviews, literary fiction and art.

Waso Lapyae‘, ‘Less Talk – Less Enemies‘ and ‘Stained Bus Window‘ – three poems from Burma by J H Martin are featured in their latest edition and can be read here.