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Short Story


Running Hot

Running Hot

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Winner of the CWA's John Creasey Dagger

What's the best thing about Hackney?

The bus outta here!

And that's exactly where Elijah "Schoolboy" Campbell needs to be in a week’s time, heading out of London's underworld. He's taking a great offer to leave it all behind and start a new life, but the problem is he's got no spare cash. The possibility of lining his pockets becomes real when he stumbles across a mobile phone. But it's marked property, and the street won't care that he found it by accident. The street won't care that the phone's his last chance to change his life. And he can't give it back because the door to redemption is only open for 7 days.

7 days to exchange the mobile for cash.
7 days to cut the mobile's line rental to the Faces tracking his every move.
7 days to get out of a world where bling, ringtones and petty deaths are accessories of life.

Schoolboy knows that when you’re running hot all it takes is
One call
One voicemail
One text
to disconnect you from this life – permanently. And getting deeper into his old lifestyle may mean that he never catches that bus.


A book's 'voice' is what determines its greatness and Mitchell's voice is unmistakably great. This is a great London story. Lee Child, One of his six best books, The Daily Express, July 2006
Lock, stock and a twenty year old mobile phone, at last I know my way around the North London gun belt. Nigel Planer writer, actor and comedian
Dreda Say Mitchell is an exciting new voice in urban fiction … her prose has an individually slangily poetic zip Nicholas Clee, The Guardian [Read all of the Guardian’s review here]
Packed with suspense and fascinating detail about a culture rarely portrayed in fiction…We need more art like this. Christina Patterson in ‘A Week in Books’ in The Independent, 18 November 2005
[Read the full article]
Very sharp… an impressive first book with a strong sense of place and community. Christopher Tayler, The Sunday Telegraph
Confidently paced tale, told in language both lyrical and salty. Hephzibah Anderson, The Daily Mail
Sharp-eyed, even sharper-tongued chase story…distinctly different, well worth seeking out. Philip Oakes, The Literary Review
Fast-moving, colourfully written, touching and informative, Running Hot should be the start of a fantastic career. Natasha Cooper, The Times Literary Supplement
A fantastic piece of debut writing. Robert Elms, BBC Radio London
An excellent debut novel…the narrative bustles along at a terrific pace…characters Dickens would relish. Judith Cutler, Shots Magazine
A taut and exhilarating debut…the tempo is rapid-fire from the start…the dialogue is terrific and this is also a very funny novel. George Osgerby, Tribune
Swaggeringly cool and very funny…maintains a cracking pace. Gregor White, The Sterling Observer
Has a rhythm unlike anything I've ever read. So perfectly visually described that I felt I was looking at a painting...A mixture of despair and hope, of friendship, betrayal and family loyalty. My kind of book. Mitchell's writing is brilliant. Janine M Wilson, Seattle Mystery Bookshop
Pacy, solid read. Tim Clare, The Big Issue
Takes urban writing to a whole new level….a gripping read. Andrea Enisuoh, New Nation
Running Hot is unlike any other novel you will have read before. Mark Kebble, Angel Magazine
Fantastic…every young person must read this. DJ Hector Selector, Supreme Radio


Mehmet Ali lay in east London's number one outdoor spot to die. He lay two doors down from Kwame’s Hotshot Barbers and three doors up from Rosaman’s Cabs. Over him rocked the bodies of two men as they stomped, twisted and sliced their shoe heels into him. An hour earlier his attackers had been jerking their bodies to the pounding energy of Judge Dredd’s Nightsound. Now they continued their dance by fucking him up. At first their movements had been light, verbal in nature, with the need to find what they were after. But their tactics had changed once they realised his lips weren’t going to tell them anything. After they had found him, as they knew they would, they’d dragged him to Cinnamon Junction, right on the main road. They had known that this spot was too notorious, too in-your-face, for any of the cars passing on Monday at 2.23 a.m. to stop and help. Anyway, any car cruising the Junction at that time of morning had its own business to attend to.

Benji, the more bullish of the two, stopped, tipped his cornrowed head back on to the wall and breathed, allowing the greatness of power to balloon within his body. His leather-gloved hand grabbed the forearm of his partner.

“We’d better stop and find it…”

“Whatever”, Josh responded, his dark brown skin spinning on two much booze and barbs.

“Let’s see if the fool’s hurting enough to spill”, Benji continued loudly, wanting their victim to understand the next move.

So they demanded from him. Yelled at him. Shook him so many different ways that the only music serenading the new day was the cooing pain coming from Mehmet’s throat. But their dance had been too synchronised, too perfect in its damage, as he only heard the blood draining and drying around his ears. They demanded from him once last time. He wasn’t giving it up and they knew it.  Frustration intensified their blows. In the middle of a slanted heel movement, Benji wobbled as his head snaked towards the road.

“I can hear Bluebottles”, he whispered, as his black shoe meshed with bone.

“I can’t hear a thing”, Josh answered, slowing his attack.

“He’s made a total mess of your Clarks”, Josh continued.

Benji quickly glanced down at his shoes. The leather was now polished with the richness of blood.

“Forget about my shoes. We can’t afford to get caught so let’s settle for 10”, Benji continued, “and then check back, because let me tell you if we don’t find the ting – this’ll be us soon enough”.

As they scattered, their victim had already decided he would never tell them. Better to be dead at the Junction than at the hands of his own people. He shouldn’t have gone for that drink. He should have gone straight there. He used his trainers to scrape into the pavement and pushed himself back and away from the road, needing to check that the merchandise was still secure in his trainer.

Mehmet Ali died at 2.31 a.m., just as the last anonymous car had blown by, throwing a Tennant’s can from its window, which rolled like the softest lullaby on his still stomach.

Schoolboy, known to the criminal justice system as Elijah Campbell, stepped off the X66 bus as it hit the junction and hit 2.33 a.m. He tensed as a police car screamed past, carrying its hysteria long into the distance. His ear strained against his locks, waiting for the shrill of the Bluebottle’s siren to fade. He relaxed. He moved, shoulders curving forward, head swinging low, a posture he had long ago perfected in his twenty-nine years to hide himself from the glare of life. His hood weaved and glided against the bones and ridges of his face like a skateboarder in concrete paradise. He shuffled back from the peeling metal rail, which guarded the pavement from the road, needing to sort out his thoughts. Only a few people realised that 2.30 to 3 was the Junction’s serene zone.

No people.
No aggravations.
No unexpected moments.

His eyes shut down as the weathered stench of one too many slashes against the wall streamed past. Nothing like touching other people’s lives to spoil a pure moment. He refocused. He’d already made his decision. He was going whether anyone liked it or not. Michael would expect to see him and commitment on Sunday. And commitment meant bringing his own knives. Knives he didn’t have. Forty quid, that’s all he needed. But being a giro-slave and opening his home to the wrong people meant he had no silver to spare. He needed to gather the cash quickly because in a week’s time he wanted to be tucked on to the West Coast mainline headed for Devon. He shook his head. He still couldn’t believe it. Bloody Devon, the type of place where those that thought they were in the know would assume his middle name was either Winston or Delroy.

As the voices of the passing car engines scatted high and low, Schoolboy began running through schemes and names, which could get the knife relief fund started. Option number one was Terri-baby, his current. She’d do anything for him. Well, nearly anything. But he was too fucked with her. Too fucked that Little-Miss-Middle-Class-Self didn’t think he was good enough to meet Daddy and Step-Mommy. Good enough to shag on their sofa though. Option two was Emmanuel, who had been one of his main boys. The only trouble was four months ago Manny had become Mr. Ten Days Church of the Living Lord, standing on the corner of Dalston Lane and Kingsland Road pleading with the punters at Ridley Road market to get into the rhythm of the resurrection. Which left Eve. Option number three. Evie, his up–and– coming sister. He knitted his fingers through his dreads, massaging his scalp, needing to get his story straight. Evie wasn’t stupid. She knew the street, but every now and again her chosen life made her forget. Made her so radical, she wanted to help people like him. He spat a large gob onto the floor. She was so full of piss sometimes.

His whole head whipped away from the melting spittle as his stare fixed on to what looked like the upward palm of a naked foot and accompanying leg, the only visible signs of a body.