Archive for the ‘excerpt’ Category

Third Degree

by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara, & Charles Salzberg

on Tour October 1 – November 30, 2020

Synopsis:

Third Degree by Ross Klavan, Tim O'Mara, & Charles Salzberg

“Cut Loose All Those Who Drag You Down”:

A crooked reporter who fronts for the mob and who’s been married eight times gets a visit from his oldest friend, a disgraced and defrocked shrink. The man is in deep trouble and it’s clear somebody is going to pay with his life.

“Beaned”:

After smuggling cigarettes, maple syrup, and coffee, Aggie discovers a much more sinister plot to exploit what some consider a precious commodity: the trafficking of under-aged children for the purposes of sex.

“The Fifth Column”:

Months after America’s entry into World War II, a young reporter uncovers that the recently disbanded German-American Bund might still be active and is planning a number of dangerous actions on American soil.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: October 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-1-64396-162-0
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from ”The Fifth Column” by Charles Salzberg:

I met with the managing editor, Bob Sheldon, and then he handed me over to Jack Sanders, the chief of the metro desk. Both nice guys. Both came from the same mold that gave us Dave Barrett and Bob Doering, my Litchfield bosses. I walked out of there thinking I’d done pretty good. As much as I hated to admit it, I think they were impressed with my having gradu- ated from Yale. “We don’t get many Ivy Leaguers wanting to work here,” the managing editor said. “I’d be happy to be the first,” I replied. And that was true.

That afternoon, it was the Herald Tribune’s turn and I didn’t think went quite as well. I could tell they were looking for someone a little older, a little more experienced. And I was sure my nerves showed, not especially what you want when you’re trying to impress someone and convince them you’re the right man for the job.

That morning, as I was leaving for my interviews, my aunt asked what I’d like for dinner. “I’m sure you could use a home- cooked meal,” she said, then started to probe me for my favor- ite foods.
“No, no, no,” I said. “I’m taking you out for dinner…”

“I appreciate it, Jakey, but you really don’t have to do that.” “Are you kidding? I want to do it. And believe it or not, they actually pay me for what I do at the paper. So, I’ve got money burning a hole in my pocket and what better way to spend it than taking my favorite aunt out to dinner. Just think about where you’d like to go. And do not, under any circumstances, make it one of the local luncheonettes. If I report back to my mom that that’s where I took you, she’d disown me.”

“You choose, Jakey. After all, you’re the guest.”

I got back to my aunt’s around 3:30. She was out, so I decided to catch a quick nap. I was beat, having been up before five that morning, meaning I got maybe three fitful hours of sleep. And even the excitement of being back in the big city didn’t keep my eyelids from drooping. And I had no trouble falling asleep, despite the sound of traffic outside the window.

I was awakened by the sound of Aunt Sonia unlocking the door. I looked at the clock. It was 5:30 p.m. I got up, straightened myself out, and staggered into the living room just as she was headed to the kitchen carrying two large paper bags filled with groceries.
“Remember,” I said, “we’re going out for dinner.”

“Are you sure, Jakey,” she said as I followed close at her heels into the kitchen.

“One-hundred percent sure. Here, let me help you put those things away.” She smiled. “You won’t know where to put them,” she said as she placed both bags down on the kitchen table.

“You think with all the time I spent here as a kid I don’t know where the milk, eggs, bread, flour, and everything else goes? And even if I didn’t, I’m a reporter, remember? I think I can figure it out.”

“I’m sorry, Jakey. I guess I can’t get the little kid out of my mind. I’ll put this bag away, you put away the other.”

“So, what’s new around here, Aunt Sonia?” I asked as I ferried eggs and milk to the icebox.

“New?”

“I mean, it’s not the same old Yorkville, is it?”

“I’m not sure what you mean, Jakey.”

“You do read the papers, don’t you? We’re at war with Germany, Italy, and Japan. This is Yorkville. It’s crawling with German-Americans, right?”

“Oh, that.”

“Yes, that.”

“I really don’t see much of a difference,” she said, stowing away the last of the groceries in the cabinet next to the stove. I got the feeling this was a subject she was not interested in dis- cussing, which made it all the more appealing to me. Maybe that accounts for my going into journalism.

“There’s got to be a little tension, doesn’t there? I mean, wasn’t there that big Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden a few years ago?”
“I don’t really pay much attention to the news, Jakey. Of course, I read everything your mother sends me that you wrote. But the news, well, it’s very upsetting.” She shook her head back and forth slowly.

“That’s putting it mildly,” I said as I pulled out a chair and sat down at the kitchen table.

“Have you decided where we’re going?” Aunt Sonia said. I could see she was still uncomfortable talking about anything having to do with the war. And then it hit me. Her son, my cousin Bobby, who was several years older than me, pushing thirty, in fact, recently enlisted and was now somewhere in Eu- rope. No wonder she was reluctant to talk about it.

“I thought the Heidelberg might be fun. I remember you taking me there as a kid. It was like one big party. I remember someone was at the piano playing these songs I’d never heard before. And this very strange music…”

She smiled. “Oom-pah music. And you were so cute. You got up and started swaying back and forth.”

My face got warm. “I don’t remember anything of the sort,” I said, embarrassed at the thought of doing something so attention-grabbing.

“You can ask your mother if you don’t believe me. But just let me change and freshen up and we’ll get going.”

***

Excerpt from ”Third Degree” by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg. Copyright 2020 by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg. All rights reserved.

Read an excerpt from “Cut Loose All Those Who Drag You Down” by Ross Klavan:

There are people who don’t like to hear that I’ve been married eight times, but for myself, I don’t trust anyone who’s only been married once.

Ex-Doctor Solly had only gone to the altar a single time, but he made up for it by having an obsession with hookers and by sleeping with at least three of his patients, which is a very bad thing to do especially for a shrink, hence the “ex” in ex-doctor. Women either can’t get enough of him or they immediately sense they’re standing beside Satan and they take off. But Ex-Doctor Solly has been married this one time and that was to the last woman that I’d married and why she agreed to that, frankly, to this day, I’ve never figured out.

They’d even had a kid together. She’d never wanted kids, not with me. And Ex-Doctor Solly? To him, having a child sort of balanced out with finding a tumor who wanted toys. Maybe she had the kid to get at me. Maybe she married him to get at me. Maybe it had nothing to do with me. But here’s Ex-Doctor Solly, heaving for breath with his skinny ass in my chair and graced by the holy light of Netflix flashing across his face.

“Jesus, gimme a fucking drink already, what are you waiting for, the Messiah?”

“I only have some…”

“Fine. Wait. Hold on, wait a minute.” What’s left of my Denver edible pops open his saucer eyes; he’s turning it round and round and round. “Where’d you get this?”

“Tanya brought it back for me from…”

“Good, great, OK, easy to get more,” as the rest of the cookie is crushed into his
mouth, mercilessly, fingertips pushing, shoving. It all disappears. “ButIstill- needadrinkgivemeanythingyouhave,” he says.

“I can’t understand you, schmuck, your mouth’s so full that…”

“A DRINK!” like he’s chewing on stinging bees, forcing a swallow. “Dick! What kind of friend are you, don’t you see? This is as bad as it gets.”

I come back with his drink, fit it into his hand, and Ex-Doctor Solly then slumps and slouches and leans forward, and if he could have X-rayed the floor, he would have.

“It’s bad, Dick, really, really bad,” he says. “Not bad like all those bads before. This is, like, bad whether we say so or not.”

“I’m not lending you money.”

“Dick. I’ve killed someone.”

“You’ve…”

“NO! Wait! Did I say ‘killed someone?’ Don’t listen to me, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m in a manic state…”

A small plastic box of meds makes rattling sounds in his hand, and he pops two of
something, I don’t know what. Swallows with the scotch, leans back, and blows a breath like he’s doing his own, personal nor’easter. Let me also tell you this: he’s looking worse than lousy. Even worse now that he’s actually stepped into the room. Everything’s settled on him, all of it, settled on him like in his mind he’s sliding awake and open-eyed into the back of an empty hearse—and a cheap one at that.

“It’s not exactly that I killed someone,” Ex-Doctor Solly says. “It’s that I was around someone who was killed. I was with somebody who died. Some people think I’m responsible for this death. Even if I’m not, they’re gonna make me responsible. Do you see what I’m getting at?”

“No,” I say.

“Do you have any more dope?”

In the kitchen, I stare at my one surviving edible lying peacefully in the drawer, and I now hide that away after a weak moment, which means I was toying with the stupid idea of playing “good host.”

I call to Ex-Doctor Solly, “Nothing left, I’ll get you another drink.”

By the time I’m back to the ex-doctor, he’s shivering enough to make the ice in his scotch glass clatter.

“You’re not gonna puke, are you?”

“Probably later,” he says. “I’m mixing scotch with THC and two anti-anxiety medications. OK. I’m all right for…” he looks at his watch, takes his own pulse, nods professionally, and finishes, “…maybe the next three hours and 17 minutes. That’s my educated guess.”

***

Excerpt from ”Third Degree” by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg. Copyright 2020 by Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Ross Klavan

Ross Klavan

Ross Klavan has published two other noir novellas with Down and Out: “I Take Care Of Myself In Dreamland” and “Thumpgun Hitched” both in collections with Charles Salzberg and Tim O’Mara. His darkly comic novel “Schmuck” was published by Greenpoint Press in 2014. Klavan’s screenplay for the film Tigerland was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and was directed by Joel Schumacher, starring Colin Farrell. He’s written screenplays for InterMedia, Walden Media, Miramax, Paramount, A&E and TNT. As a performer, Klavan’s voice has been heard in dozens of feature films including “Revolutionary Road,” “Sometimes in April,” “Casino,” “In and Out,” and “You Can Count On Me” as well as in numerous TV and radio commercials. In other lives, he was a reporter and anchorman for WINS Radio, RKO Network and LBC (London, England) and a member of the NYC alternative art group Four Walls. He lives in New York City.

Catch Up With Ross Klavan On: Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

Charles Salzberg

Charles Salzberg

Charles Salzberg, a former magazine journalist and nonfiction book writer, has been nominated for two Shamus Awards, for Swann’s Last Song and Second Story Man. He is the author of 5 Henry Swann novels, Devil in the Hole, called one of the best crime novels of 2013 by Suspense magazine, Second Story Man, winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award, and his novellas Twist of Fate and The Maybrick Affair, appeared in Triple Shot and Three Strikes. His short stories have appeared in Long Island Noir (Akashic), Mystery Tribune and the crime anthology Down to the River (edited by Tim O’Mara). He is a Founding Member of New York Writers Workshop and is on the board of MWA-NY, and PrisonWrites.

Catch Up With Charles Salzberg On:

CharlesSalzberg.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

Tim O'Mara

Tim O’Mara

Tim O’Mara is the Barry-nominated (he didn’t win) author of the Raymond Donne mystery novels. He’s also the editor of the short crime story anthology Down to the River, published by Down & Out Books. Along with Smoked and Jammed, Beaned completes the Aggie Trilogy.

Catch Up With Tim O’Mara On: TimOMara.net, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


10/03 Showcase @ Sylv. net
10/04 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
10/04 Review @ Tome Tender
10/05 Guest post @ BooksChatter
10/07 Showcase @ The Pulp and Mystery Shelf
10/08 Showcase @ Reading A Page Turner
10/12 Showcase @ nanasbookreviews
10/15 Interview @ Blog Talk Radio
10/15 Review @ Just Reviews
10/20 Interview @ A Blue Million Books
10/21 Showcase @ 411 ON BOOKS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHING NEWS
10/26 Review @ Quirky Cats Fat Stacks
10/27 Review @ Quiet Fury Books
11/01 Showcase @ EienCafe
11/04 Review @ Nesies Place
11/09 Review @ Jessica Belmont
11/16 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
11/19 Review @ Books with Bircky
11/30 Review @ eBook Addicts

 

Giveaway!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Ross Klavan, Tim O’Mara and Charles Salzberg. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on October 1, 2020 and runs through December 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

The Overly Honest Teacher

By Meredith Essalat

Synopsis:

As both a teacher and school principal, Meredith Essalat has lived the daily challenges of helping children navigate through their young lives. She has seen the struggles that parents have as they balance longer working hours with the demands of home life. And how it’s the teachers who are often caught in the middle. In an effort to stop pointing out each other’s flaws—and instead letting kids know they are supported—Meredith offers hard-won pointers, enabling parents, teachers, and students alike to encourage one another while holding everyone accountable for their actions.

Combining humor with straightforward, practical advice, the Overly Honest Teacher shows parents how to welcome everyday parenting gracefully. The results will be well-adjusted, positive, enthusiastic young adults ready to work hard and take on the world. And isn’t that what we all want for our children?

Read an excerpt:

“We should never stand by and watch as a child drowns (both literally and figuratively), but we also should never let them stay in the shallow end forever. I have watched parents come to school to spoon-feed their second-grade students at lunchtime. Watched them complete their projects, write their papers, solve their friendship failings. But while these well-intentioned guardians think they are helping their kiddos, they are actually holding them back from reaching their capacity for figuring things out for themselves. Realizing their individual abilities for conflict resolution and self-sustenance.

Pick them up when they fall down. Put a Band-Aid on their broken hearts and salve on their scraped knees. But when it comes to the speed bumps along their road of academic, social, and emotional exploration, pull up a lawn chair and cheer them on from the sidelines. It’s time for your kiddos to get in the game.”

Author bio:

Meredith Essalat is a K-8 school principal in San Francisco, CA and author of The Overly Honest Teacher. With a career in academia that has spanned more than 17 years, she started off in collegiate student activities before moving into both elementary and secondary academic communities. She spent nine years in middle school education as both teacher and Dean of Middle School Curriculum. In each of these opportunities, she witnessed the gamut of the scholastic, social, and developmental experiences of today’s student. She possesses a BA in Mass Communication, a California-Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, and a second M.Ed. in Educational Leadership. Essalat resides in California with her husband, Cameron. Visit OverlyHonestTeacher.com for her valuable lessons learned both inside and outside the classroom.

Catch up with Meredith Essalat on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

 

Book purchase links: Bookshop  I  Amazon  I  Barnes & Noble

Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond Banner

Dear Durwood

by Jeff Bond

on Tour August 1 – September 30, 2020

Synopsis:

Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond

Book two in the epic Third Chance Enterprises series, Dear Durwood is a standalone mystery pitting uncompromising principle against big city greed.

Durwood Oak Jones is a man of few indulgences. One he does allow is a standing ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine soliciting “injustices in need of attention.”

This month’s bundle of letters includes one from Carol Bridges, mayor of the dusty, blue-collar town of Chickasaw, Texas. For nearly a century, Chickasaw has relied on the jobs and goodwill of Hogan Consolidated, a family-run manufacturer of industrial parts. Now East Coast lawyers and investment bankers have taken aim at the company. The citizens of Chickasaw fear it may be acquired or bankrupted, leading to massive layoffs — effectively destroying the town.

Durwood and his trusty bluetick coonhound, Sue-Ann, fly to Texas to see what can be done. They find a young CEO born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Factory workers with hammers. A good woman, Carol Bridges, who knows her town is being cheated but can’t get to the bottom of how. And lawyers.

Dirty, good-for-nothing lawyers.

Book Details:

Genre: Action-Adventure / Western Romance

Published by: Jeff Bond Books

Publication Date: June 15, 2020

Number of Pages: 215

ISBN: 1732255296 (ISBN13: 9781732255296)

Series: Third Chance Enterprises

Purchase Links: Amazon | Third Chance Stories | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Dear Mr. Oak Jones: I am Carol Bridges, mayor of Chickasaw, Texas. We are located in the western part of the state, Big Bend Country if you know it. I thank you in advance for considering my injustice. Chickasaw is the home of Hogan Consolidated, a family-run manufacturer of industrial parts. Hogan employs 70 percent of able-bodied adults in Chickasaw, and its philanthropy has sustained the town for ninety years. It’s due to the Hogan family we have an arts center and turf field for youth football. Recently, East Coast lawyers and investment bankers have taken aim at the company. Multi-million dollar claims have been filed, accusing Hogan of putting out defective parts. It’s rumored the company will be acquired or liquidated outright. Massive layoffs are feared. My constituents work hard, Mr. Jones. They have mortgages and children to feed. I have tried to find answers about the Hogan family’s intentions, to see whether I or the town can do anything to influence the course of events. Jay Hogan, the current CEO, does not return my phone calls—and is seen dining at sushi restaurants in El Paso (85 miles away) more often than in Chickasaw. I have gotten the runaround from our state and federal representatives. I believe it’s their fundraising season. As mayor, I have a duty to explore every possible solution to the challenges we face. I do not read Soldier of Fortune regularly, but my deputy police chief showed me your ad soliciting “injustices in need of attention.” I feel certain injustice is being done to Chickasaw, though I can’t as yet name its perpetrator and exact nature. Alonso (our deputy chief) knows you by reputation, and assures me these details won’t trouble you. Thank you sincerely for your time, Carol Bridges Mayor of Chickasaw, TX Chapter One Durwood got to the Chickasaw letter halfway through the sorghum field. He was flipping through the stack from the mailbox, passing between sweet-smelling stalks. Leaves brushed his bluejeans. Dust coated his boots. He scanned for clumps of johnsongrass as he read, picking what he saw. The first five letters he’d tucked into his back pocket. The Chickasaw letter he considered longer. Steel-colored eyes scanned left to right. He forgot about the johnsongrass. An ugliness started in his gut. Lawyers. He put the letter in his front pocket, then read the rest. The magazine forwarded him a bundle every month. In September, he’d only gotten three. At Christmas time, it seemed like he got thirty or forty. Folks felt gypped around the holidays. Today, he read about two brothers who didn’t steal a car. About a principal who got fired for being too aggressive fighting drugs in his school. About a bum call in the Oregon state Little League championship twenty years ago. About a furnace warranty that wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Durwood chuckled at the Oregon letter. This one had been writing in for years. Maybe he figured Durwood didn’t read them, figured some screener only put a couple through each go-round and one of these days they’d sneak his through. But Durwood did read them. Every last one. He put the letter about the principal in his front pocket with the Chickasaw letter. Off his right side, Sue-Ann whimpered. Durwood turned to find the bluetick coonhound pointing the south fenceline. “I see,” Durwood said, of the white-tail doe nosing around the spruces. “Left my gun back at the house, though.” Sue-Ann kept her point. Her bad hip quivered from the effort. Old as she was, she still got fired up about game. Durwood released her with a gesture. “What do you say to some bluegill tonight instead? See what Crole’s up to.” Durwood called Crole from the house. Crole, his fishing buddy who lived on the adjacent sixty acres, said he was good for a dozen casts. They agreed to meet at the river dividing their properties. Durwood had a shorter walk and used the extra time to clean his M9 semiautomatic. Leaving, he noticed the red maple that shaded the house was leafing out slow. He examined the trunk and found a pattern of fine holes encircling the bark. That yellow-bellied sapsucker. Durwood wondered if the holes were related to the tree’s poor vigor. Out by the river, Crole limped up with his jug of moonshine, vile stuff he made from Jolly Ranchers. They fished. Sue-Ann laid in the mud, snoring, her stiff coat bristling against Durwood’s boot. The afternoon stretched out, a dozen casts becoming two dozen. Then three. In the distance, the hazy West Virginia sky rolled through the Smokies. Mosquitoes weren’t too bad, just a nip here and there at the collar. Durwood thought about Chickasaw, Texas. He thought about East Coast lawyers. About the hardworking men and women who’d elected Carol Bridges to be mayor and stick up for them. He thought about that CEO picking up raw fish with chopsticks in El Paso. He thought, too, about the principal who’d been fired for doing right. Crole said, “Got some letters today?” Durwood said he had. Crole grinned, showing his top teeth—just two, both nearly black. “Still running that ad in Soldier of Fortune?” Durwood lowered the brim of his hat against the sun. “Don’t cost much.” “They give a military discount?” Durwood raised a shoulder. He’d been discharged from the Marines a decade ago. He didn’t accept handouts for his service. Crole nodded to the bulge in his pocket—the letters. “Anything interesting?” “Sure,” Durwood said. “Plenty.” They fished into twilight. Durwood caught just five bluegill. Crole, twenty years his senior and luckier with fish, reeled in a dozen, plus a decent-size channel cat despite using the wrong bait. The men strung their catches on a chain. The chain rippled in the cool, clear water. The Chickasaw job appealed to Durwood. The opportunity to fight crooked lawyers, do something about these Wall Street outfits that made their buck slicing up American companies, putting craftsmen out of work until every last doodad was made in some knockoff plant in China. Still, Durwood had trouble imagining the case. What would he do, flip through documents? Sit across a folding table from men in suits and ask questions? Then he thought about the principal. About those gangs the letter had mentioned, how you could look out the windows of the dang school and see drug dealers on street corners. Intimidators. Armed thugs. Durwood had an easy time imagining that case. The sky had just gotten its first purple tinge when Durwood lost his bait a third time running. “These fish.” He held his empty hook out of the water, shaking his head. Crole said, “There’s catfish down there older than you.” “Smarter, too,” Durwood said. Still, the five bluegill would be enough for him and Sue-Ann. Durwood unclipped the fishes’ cheeks from the chain and dropped them in a bucket. Back at the house, Durwood spotted the yellow-bellied sapsucker climbing the red maple. Not only was he pecking the tree, the ornery creature kept pulling twigs from the gray squirrels’ nest, the one they’d built with care and sheltered in the last four winters. “Git down!” Durwood called. The sapsucker zipped away to other antics. Inside, Durwood scaled and beheaded the bluegill. Then he fried them in grease and cornmeal. Sue-Ann ate only half a fish. Durwood moved the crispy tail under her nose. “Another bite?” The dog sneezed, rattly in her chest. Durwood rinsed his dishes and switched on a desktop computer. He looked up Chickasaw. There was plenty of information online. Population, land area. Nearly every mention of the town made reference to Hogan Consolidated. It looked like Hogan Consolidated was Chickasaw, Texas, and vice versa. On the official municipal website, he found a picture of Carol Bridges. She wore a hardhat, smiling among construction workers. Handsome woman. Warm, lively eyes. Next, Durwood looked up the fired principal. The man lived and worked in upstate New York. For a few weeks, his case had been all over the local news there. A city councilman believed he’d been railroaded. Nineteen years he’d served the school district without prior incident. The only blemish Durwood found was a college DUI. Durwood hadn’t started with computers until his thirties. His calloused fingers regularly struck the keys wrong, but he managed. This one he’d gotten from the Walmart in Barboursville, forty-nine bucks on Black Friday. It had its uses. A tool like any other. “Well?” he said aloud, even though Sue was out on the porch. “Looks like a tossup.” Durwood changed computer windows to look again at Carol Bridges. Then changed back to the principal. At the bottom of the news story about the principal, he noticed a bubble with “47 comments” inside. He knew people who spouted off online were unreliable and often foolish. He clicked anyway. “Good riddance, got what he deserved!” “TOTAL RACIST WINDBAG, glad they fired him.” Durwood read all forty-seven comments. Some defended the man, but most were negative. It was impossible to know how much was legitimate. Durwood left judging to Him, and Him alone. But Durwood did know that the petitioner, the one who’d written the letter to Soldier of Fortune, was the principal himself. Not some third party. Not an objective observer. What had seemed like a case of obvious bureaucratic overreach suddenly looked less obvious. Now Sue-Ann loped in from the porch. Appalachian air followed her inside, nice as perfume. Sue settled at Durwood’s feet, wheezing, rheumy eyes aimed up at her master. He said, “What do you say, girl. Up for seeing the Lone Star State?” The dog sat up straight, responding to the action in his voice. The effort made her mew. That hip. Durwood laid his thumb down the ridge of the dog’s skull. He felt pained himself, thinking of documents, folding tables, and men in suits. Chapter Two It was a healthy drive, nearly two thousand miles, to see this Carol Bridges. Doubts remained in Durwood’s mind. Petitioners he met through the Soldier of Fortune ad fell through sometimes. It would turn out their letter was misleading or flat false. Other times the injustice had taken care of itself by the time Durwood arrived. Once he’d driven clear to Nebraska to help a man whose pride and joy, a 1917 Ford Bucket T he’d restored from salvage by hand, had been denied roadworthiness by some city councilman with a grudge. When Durwood knocked on his door and asked about the hot rod, the man said, “The Ford? Guy made me an offer, I sold her a few weeks back.” Durwood decided it was worth the trip to hear Carol Bridges out. If he didn’t like what she said, he’d tip his hat, get back in the Vanagon, and drive home. Crole observed, “You could call.” Durwood was humping supplies into the van. “Folks can say anything on the phone.” The older man looked to the horizon, where the sun would rise soon. His pajamas dragged the dirt, and he held his jug by two fingers. “They can say anything to your face, too.” Durwood whistled to Sue-Ann. “It’s different,” he said as the dog climbed in. “Lay off that shine, hm?” Crole looked down at his jug as though surprised by its presence. He answered, “Don’t kill anyone you don’t have to.” With a wave, Durwood took out. The van wheezed over mountain switchbacks and chugged steadily along interstates. By afternoon, Sue was wincing on the bare metal floor. Durwood bought her a mat next time he stopped for gas. They reached Chickasaw the following morning. Crossing the city limit, they saw fields of wheat and corn, and grain elevators, and dry dusty homesteads. Factories burped smoke farther on. Billboards shilled for some dentist, somebody else who wanted to be sheriff. Downtown Chickasaw was a grid, eight blocks square. Durwood saw the turf field mentioned in the letter and smiled. A boarded-up building with a sign reading, Lyles Community Outreach Center. A fancy hotel that looked out of place. Next door to City Hall, Durwood’s destination, was a coffee shop called Peaceful Beans. The logo showed the name written along the stems of the peace sign. The light bulbs inside had those squiggly vintage filaments. Durwood knew that these towns, rural or not, had all types. You got your vegan yoga instructors living next to redneck truckers—sometimes married to each other. City Hall itself was a stone structure, two stories high. A sign indicated the municipal jail was located in the basement. Durwood parked. His bones creaked as he stepped from the van and stretched. The woman working reception cooed at Sue, who’d rolled over on her back. The big ham. Durwood stated their business, declared his M9, and passed through a metal detector before being shown to the mayor’s office. Carol Bridges stood from her desk with a humble smile. “Mr. Oak Jones, thank you for traveling all this way for our town.” “You’re welcome,” he said. “Call me Durwood, please.” She said she would and handed him a business card with her personal number circled. Durwood placed the card in his bluejeans pocket. The mayor gestured to an armchair whose upholstery had worn thin. Durwood, removing his hat, sat. “My dog goes where I go, generally,” he explained. “She can sit outside if need be.” “Don’t be silly.” The mayor reached into a drawer of her desk for a biscuit. “If I’d known, I’d have brought in my German Shepherd.” She didn’t just toss the biscuit at Sue, as some will. Carol Bridges commanded the dog to sit first. Sue sat. The mayor squatted and offered the treat, palm up, her knees pinching below a dark skirt. Sue wolfed it down. Durwood said, “We saw the factories on the way in. How many employees?” “Forty-four hundred on the floors themselves,” she said. “Plus another eight thousand in support roles.” “And it’s all going away? Vamoose?” Carol Bridges crossed one leg over the other. “That’s how the winds are blowing.” She expanded upon what the letter had said. For the better part of a century, Hogan Consolidated had produced parts for various household products. Brackets. Pot handles. Stepladder hinges. Nothing sexy, Carol Bridges said, but quality components that filled a need higher up the supply chain. Five or six years back, Wall Street began taking an interest in the company. They believed Hogan was underleveraged and growing too slowly. Durwood stopped her. “What does underleveraged mean?” “As I understand”—the mayor fluffed her dark red hair dubiously—“it means you aren’t taking enough risks. Your balance sheet is too conservative.” “Too conservative?” “Right. You’re not expanding into new markets. You’re not inventing new products.” Durwood rolled her words around his head. “Suppose you’re good at what you do, and that’s it.” Carol Bridges looked out her window toward a pair of smokestacks. “Not good enough for Wall Street.” Thoughts of finance or economics usually gave Durwood a headache, but he made himself consider the particulars of the case now. “But Hogan’s a family-owned company,” he said. “Can’t they tell Wall Street to go to hell? Pardon my French.” “They were family-owned up until 1972, when they sold out.” Durwood sat up in his chair, recalling her letter. She seemed to read his thoughts. “They’re a family-run company. The CEO’s always been a Hogan, but the equity is publicly traded.” “Hm.” Durwood’s head wasn’t aching, but it didn’t feel quite right either. “I read your letter different.” “I apologize, I didn’t mean to be unclear.” The mayor took a step out from behind her desk. “I hope you don’t feel I brought you here on false pretenses.” They looked at each other. The woman’s face tipped sympathetically and flushed, her eyes wide with concern. On the wall behind her hung the Iraq Campaign Medal and the striped ribbon indicating combat action. “It’s fine,” Durwood said. “And they’re facing lawsuits, you said?” “Correct,” the mayor said. “A class-action suit has been filed by customers claiming injury as a result of faulty Hogan parts.” “What happened?” “A woman in New Jersey’s toaster exploded. They’ve got two people in California saying a bad Hogan hinge caused them to fall. One broke her wrist.” “Her wrist.” Carol Bridges nodded. “Falling off a stepladder?” She nodded again. “What’re the Hogans doing?” Durwood asked. “They have a strategy to stomp out this nonsense?” “No idea. I hear, just scuttlebutt from the cafe, that the company’s going bankrupt.” The mayor flung out an arm. “Somebody else says they’re selling out to a private equity firm—one of these outfits that buys distressed companies for peanuts and parts ’em out, auctions off the assets and fires all the workers.” Durwood leaned over the thighs of his bluejeans. “You mentioned the CEO in your letter. Eats sushi.” The woman smiled. “Jay Hogan, yes. He’s only twenty-eight, and I don’t think he likes living in Chickasaw much. He went to college at Dartmouth.” “Whereabouts is that?” “Dartmouth?” Durwood nodded. He’d once met an arms supplier in Dortmund, Germany, the time he and Quaid Rafferty had stopped a band of disgruntled sausage vendors from bombing ten soccer stadiums simultaneously. He’d never heard of Dartmouth. Carol Bridges said, “New Hampshire.” “If he doesn’t like the place,” Durwood said, “why didn’t he stay east? Work a city job?” She crossed her legs again. “I doubt he could get one. Around here, he was a screw-up. They got him for drunk driving regularly. I was with the prosecutor’s office back then. The police winched him out of the same gully four different times in his dad’s Hummer.” “Why’d they pick him for CEO?” “He’s an only child. When the father had his stroke, Jay was next in line. Only pitcher left in the bullpen.” Durwood drew in a long breath. “Now the fate of the whole town rests on his shoulders. Fella couldn’t keep a five-thousand-pound vehicle on the road.” Carol Bridges nodded. Durwood felt comfortable talking to this woman. As comfortable as he’d felt with a woman since Maybelle, his wife and soulmate, had passed in Tikrit. Carol Bridges didn’t embellish. She didn’t say one thing but mean another—leaving aside the misunderstanding over “family-run,” which might well have been Durwood’s fault. Still, comfort didn’t make a case. “I sympathize, Miss Bridges,” Durwood said. “I do. But I’m a simple man. The sort of business I’m trained for is combat. Apprehending suspects. Pursuing retribution that can’t be pursued within the confines of the law. This situation calls for expertise I don’t have.” He’d delivered bad news, but Carol Bridges didn’t seem upset. She was smiling again. “I have to disagree,” she said. “You need somebody knows their way around corporate law. Knows how to—” “You’re not a simple man. There’s a lot up there”—her warm eyes rose to his head—“that doesn’t translate into words.” Durwood held her gaze a moment. Then he looked down to Sue-Ann. The dog was sleeping. He said, “America is changing. For better or worse. A town like Chickasaw doesn’t get the better end of it, I understand. There’s injustice in that. But it’s not the sort I can stop.” “Of course. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting you can deliver us back to the 1970s.” Carol Bridges laced her fingers over her dark red hair. A funny thing was happening with her mouth. Was she chewing gum? No, that wasn’t it. Using her tongue to work a piece of food out from between her teeth? Durwood didn’t think so either. She was smirking. “All I’m asking,” she said, “on behalf of my town, is this: talk to Jay Hogan. Get a straight answer out of him. I can’t, I’ve tried. The rest of the Hogans live in Vail or Tuscany. We need somebody who can cut through the bull and find out the truth.” Durwood repeated, “The truth.” “Yes. If the jobs are going away, if I need to retrain my citizenry to…” She searched around her desktop for some example—pencils, folders, a stapler. “Heck, answer customer-service calls? I will. But we want to know.” Sue-Ann snored and resettled against Durwood’s boot. He said, “Talk to Jay Hogan.” The mayor clasped her hands hopefully over her chest. “That’s all I’m asking. Find out where we stand.” Durwood thought about the crop fields he’d seen riding into town. The dusty homesteads. The billboards—the dentist, man who wanted to be sheriff. He thought of the factories still putting out smoke. For now. The stakes were lower than what he fought for alongside Quaid and Molly McGill with Third Chance Enterprises. The planet itself was not imperiled. He wasn’t likely to face exotic technologies or need to jump from moving aircraft. So it went with these injustice cases—with injustice in general. Ordinary folks suffering ordinary hardship. “We did drive a couple thousand miles,” he said. “I suppose it makes sense to stay and have a word with Mr. Hogan.” Carol Bridges rushed forward and pressed his calloused hands in her smooth ones. She gave him the address of Hogan Consolidated from memory. Chapter Three Hogan’s main factory and corporate headquarters were in the same building. Durwood parked in a Visitors spot, and he and Sue walked up to the fifth floor where the executive offices were—over the factory. Stairs were murder on the dog’s hip, but she persevered. Durwood stopped every few steps for her. Through the stairwell’s glass wall, he watched the assembly line. Men and women in hardhats leaned into machine handles. A foreman frowned at a clipboard. Belts and treads and rotors turned. Even behind glass, Durwood could smell grease. Nothing amiss here. On the fifth floor, Durwood consulted a directory to find Jay Hogan’s office. His secretary wore nicer clothes than Carol Bridges. Looking at her neat painted fingernails, Durwood doubted she kept dog biscuits in her desk. “You—you honestly thought bringing a dog to see the chief executive of Hogan Consolidated was acceptable?” the woman said, looking at Sue’s spots like they were open sores. “OSHA would have a field day if they showed up now.” Sue-Ann laid her chin on her paws. Durwood said, “She can stay here while I see Mr. Hogan.” The woman’s nameplate read Priscilla Baird. Durwood suspected she’d be taller than him if she stood. Her lips were tight, trembling like she was about to eject Durwood and Sue—or flee herself. “I don’t know that you will see Mr. Hogan today,” she said. “You’re not on his schedule. Jones, did you say?” She checked her screen. “Won’t find me in your computer,” Durwood said. “Is he here?” Priscilla Baird glanced at her boss’s door, which was closed. “He is…on site. But I’m not at liberty to say when he’d be available to speak with arbitrary members of the public.” “I’m not arbitrary. I’m here on authority of the mayor.” “The mayor?” “Of Chickasaw, yes ma’am. Carol Bridges.” Priscilla Baird rolled her eyes at this. Durwood thought he heard, “Getting desperate” under the woman’s breath. Durwood waited. After thirty minutes, he tired of Priscilla Baird’s dirty looks and took Sue-Ann out to the van. She didn’t like dogs, fine. He wouldn’t be difficult just for the sake of it. He returned to wait more. The lobby had an exposed beam running down its center—pimpled, showy. Folks built like that nowadays. Slate walls displayed oil paintings of the company’s executives. Sitting out on tables were US Weekly and Field and Stream. Durwood read neither. He spent the time thinking what questions to ask Jay Hogan. All told, he waited an hour and a half. Others entered and were admitted to see Hogan. Men wearing pinstripes. A made-up woman in her late forties with a couple minions hustling after her. Some kid in a ballcap and shorts carrying two plastic bags. The kid left Hogan’s office without his bags. Durwood caught him at the door. “Pardon, youngster. What did you drop off?” The kid ducked so Durwood could read his hat. Crepes-a-Go-Go. An involuntary growl escaped Durwood’s mouth. He crossed to Jay Hogan’s door. “Excuse me,” Priscilla Baird said. “Mr. Hogan’s schedule today is terribly tight, you’ll need to be patient if—” “It just opened up,” Durwood said. He jerked the knob and blew inside. Jay Hogan was stuffing a crepe into his face with a plastic fork. Ham and some cheese that stank. The corner of his mouth had a red smear, either ketchup or raspberry jam. Probably jam. “The hell is this?” Hogan said. “You—what…Priscilla…” He placed a hand over his scrawny chest and finished swallowing. “Who is this person?” Priscilla Baird rushed to the door. “I never admitted him, he went himself. He forced his way in!” Durwood stood in the center of the office. He said to Hogan, “Let’s talk, the two of us.” The young CEO considered the proposal. He was holding his crepe one-handed and didn’t seem to know where to set it down. He looked at his secretary. He looked at Durwood. His hair was slicked back with Pennzoil, skin alabaster white—a shade you’d have to stay inside to keep in southwest Texas. Durwood extended his hand. “I can hold your pancake.” Jay Hogan stiffened at the remark. “Who are you?” “Name’s Durwood Oak Jones.” Hogan tried saying it himself. “Duuurwood, is it?” “Correct.” Durwood assumed Jay Hogan, like the mayor, wasn’t a Soldier of Fortune subscriber. “I’m a concerned party.” “What does that mean?” Hogan said. “Concerned about what?” “About this town. About the financial standing of your company.” As Priscilla Baird excused herself, Durwood explained his contact to date with Carol Bridges and the capacity in which he’d come: to investigate and combat injustice. There was no reason he and Jay Hogan shouldn’t be on the same side. If the lawyers were fleecing Hogan Consolidated or Wall Street sharks were sabotaging it, Durwood’s help should be appreciated. But Jay Hogan wasn’t rolling out the welcome wagon. “Injustice?” he sneered. “The company’s in a crap situation, a real hole. Not my fault. I didn’t build those hinges. I didn’t, you know, invent P/E ratios or whatever other metrics we aren’t hitting.” Durwood glared across the desk. Every not and didn’t stuck in his craw. He said, “What do you do, then?” “I chart the course,” Hogan said. “I set the top-line strategy.” “Top-line?” “Yes. Top-line.” Durwood resettled his hat on his head. “Thought the bottom line was the important one.” Jay Hogan made a sound between flatulence and a pig’s snort. “Look—we’ve held the line on wages, kept the unions out. Done everything in our power to stay competitive.” Durwood asked what his strategy was on those lawsuits. “Chester handles legal matters,” Hogan said. “Who’s that?” “Chester is the COO.” Durwood raised a finger, counting out letters. “Now what’s the difference between CEO and COO?” Jay Hogan made impatient motions with his hands. “The COO is the operating officer. He’s more involved in day-to-day business.” “Who deals with Wall Street? The money men?” “Chester.” “Who handles communication? Getting word out to the citizens of Chickasaw about what’s going on?” Hogan picked up his crepe again. “Chester.” He said the name—which was prissy to begin with—in a nasal, superior tone. Durwood’s fist balled at his side. “Fella must be sharp, you trust him with all that.” “Chester’s extremely smart,” Hogan said. “I’ve known him forever—our families go back generations. We attended all the same boarding schools.” “Boyhood chums?” Hogan frowned at the question. “Something like that.” “He’s about your age, then?” Hogan nodded. “Couple twenty-eight-year-olds running a company that dictates the fate of a whole town.” Durwood folded his arms. “Sound fair to you?” The CEO’s pale cheeks colored. “They’re lucky to have us. Two Ivy League graduates blessed with business instincts. Chester Lyles was president of our fraternity, graduated magna cum laude. We could be founding startups in Seattle or San Francisco where you don’t have to drive a hundred miles for decent food.” That name rung a bell somewhere for Durwood. Lyles. Recalling what Carol Bridges had said about the gully, he said, “You graduate magna cum laude?” “I don’t need to defend my qualifications to you or anyone.” Durwood nodded. “Must’ve just missed.” Jay Hogan stood up a snit. He looked at his crepe again in its tissue-paper sleeve and couldn’t resist. He took a quick bite and thrust a finger at the door, mouth full. “I’m done answering your questions,” he said. “As CEO, I’m accountable to a shareholder-elected board of directors, which includes presidents of other corporations, a former Treasury Secretary of the United States, and several other prominent executives. They’re satisfied with my performance.” “How many of them live in Chickasaw?” Hogan barked a laugh. “They understand the financial headwinds I’m up against.” “How about those bad hinges? From what I hear, Hogan used to make quality parts.” “Another Chester question. I don’t deal with quality control.” That’s for sure. Durwood saw he would get nowhere with Jay Hogan. This Chester was who he needed to find. Asking this one how the town of Chickasaw was going to shake out was like inspecting your John Deere’s hood ornament to judge if you needed a new tractor. Hogan was still pointing at the door. Finally, Durwood obliged him. On the way out, he said, “You got families counting on this company. Families with children, mortgages, sick grandmas. They’re counting on you. Hogans before you did their part. Now be a man, do yours. Rise to your duty.” Hogan didn’t answer. He had more crepe in his mouth. Walking down to the parking lot, Durwood passed the factory again. It was dark—the shift had ended while he’d been waiting for Hogan. His boots clacked around the stairwell in solitude. He considered what ailed Hogan Consolidated and whether he could fix it. He wasn’t optimistic. Oh, he could poke around and get the scoop on Chester Lyles. He could do his best working around the lies and evasions he’d surely encounter. Maybe he would find Chester’s or Jay Hogan’s hand in the cookie jar. The likeliest culprit, though, was plain old incompetence. Jay Hogan belonged in an insurance office someplace—preferably far from the scissors. Instead, he sat in a corner office of a multi-million dollar company. Did that rise to the level of injustice? Maybe. Maybe, with so many lives and livelihoods at stake. Durwood didn’t like cases he had to talk himself into. He was just imagining how he’d break the news to Carol Bridges if nothing much came of Chester when four men burst from the shadows and tackled him. *** Excerpt from Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2020 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.  
 

Author Bio:

Jeff Bond

Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. His books have been featured in The New York Review of Books, and his 2020 release, The Pinebox Vendetta, received the gold medal (top prize) in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

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