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Book Excerpt: A Little Piece of Light

A little piece of light “Say his name.”

I stand in front of the stainless-steel mirror in my cell in the solitary housing unit. My face is bare of any makeup—there is nothing covering this up, no making it any prettier. This is me, facing myself. Facing what I did. “Say his name,” I whisper at the mirror. “SAY HIS NAME!”

I brace myself to sit on the slab of metal that serves as my bed in my cell. “Thomas Vigliarolo,” I whimper. “His name is Thomas Vigliarolo!” The crescendo of sobs breaks me. “I’m sorry, Mr. V!” I call out. Weak from the years of carrying this weight, my voice drops again to a whisper as I beg for his forgiveness. “I am so sorry, Mr. V. I am so, so sorry that I didn’t help you.”

Cries echo throughout the unit—my own, and the cries of the women around me. In this place, our cries are our only release. We cry for ourselves, and we cry for each other. With each other.

For many of us here, imprisonment began long before the day we registered in prison. Feeling trapped and isolated began years before we found ourselves confined to a six-by-eight cinder block room with no clock to mark the time. A prison worse than any government facility is the feeling that nobody loves you. Nobody wants you. You belong nowhere. As the men in my life told me from the time I was a child: Donna, you are nobody, and nobody will ever love you. Years . . . decades . . . lives of abuse and neglect spurred many of us to make one desperate decision that finally, ultimately led us here. Too often, by the time a woman commits a crime, her only goal has been survival.

For that lapse in judgment, that poor decision—that mistake— it’s likely she will forever suffer the worst prison of all: the inability to forgive herself.

I’ll never forget waking up to my friend’s words: He’s not breath- ing. It was a turn of events that I could not fathom. Even now, half a decade after leaving prison, not a day goes by that I don’t think about Mr. Vigliarolo. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of his family, the fear they must have felt as they imagined him in fear, wondering where he was for eleven nights and worried for what he might have been experiencing.

Say his name.

I’m sorry, Mr. V.

I know what it’s like to fear for the safety of the person we love. Family is protection. I know this because on the day I gave birth, that was my fiercest vow to my daughter: I’m not going to let any- thing bad happen to you. And I know this because, beginning in my childhood, I lived a life of suffering and tough choices for two decades, until I finally found my family in the most unexpected place: prison. In spite of all the pain I’ve experienced in my life, I’ve never wanted anyone to die. But it is here, in this most unlikely place, that I found the protection and support I needed to turn my life around.

I am Donna—but here, for twenty-seven years, I was inmate.

This is my story.

Meet Jack Everett Jr. from Second Chance Cowboy

JACK EVERETT, JR.


Name: Jackson Everett Junior, but please don’t ever call me that. Just plain old Jack is fine.
Age: 28 years old.
Location: Oak Bluff, California (San Luis Obispo County)
Height: 6’3”.

Profession: Good question. First and foremost—a rancher. But I’m also a lawyer. And soon, thanks to circumstances beyond my control, it looks like I’m going to be a vintner. Guess you could say I’m a little busy.

If your best friends had to pick four words to describe you, what would they pick? Protective as hell, loyal. Does that count as four?

What are you passionate about? My family.

Describe a typical Friday night. A bonfire out back, a cold drink, and the woman who broke my heart ten years ago back by my side.

What are three things you enjoy doing in your free time? Riding, teaching my son how to throw a curveball, and watching Ava Ellis paint.

What’s the last song you listened to? Ava singing Owen to sleep with “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Pretty sure I could listen to that every night.

Favorite book? The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.

If you could go back in time and change one thing in your life, what would it be? I’d have never let ten years get between me and Ava Ellis. I’d change everything about the last night I saw her when we were eighteen.

What are you looking for in an ideal mate? Fiery red hair with a spirit to match. Freckles that would take forever to count—and the woman who would let me count each and every one. A woman who is strong when I feel like I don’t have the strength left to fight yet still needs to lean on me when life pulls the rug out. Because life seems to be doing that a hell of a lot these days. And if she can paint—and likes to do it while wearing a T-shirt of mine that hangs off her shoulder so I can kiss those freckles—well then she just might be the perfect woman for me.

Favorite superhero? Well that’s a no brainer…Captain America, the first Avenger. And the answer can’t be wrong because my nine-year-old son agrees.

Favorite baseball team? The Dodgers, but we probably shouldn’t talk about that. I think the author of this book is a Cubs fan.

Favorite of your two younger brothers? What? Did Luke put you up to this? No way it was Walker. I’ll tell you what…whichever brother told you to ask me that question—the other one is my favorite.


An excerpt from SECOND CHANCE COWBOY

 

That night she lay in bed, exhausted but unable to fall asleep. At a quarter past eleven, her cell phone vibrated on her nightstand. She assumed it was a text, but when the vibrating continued, she remembered that she’d turned her ringer off after Owen had fallen asleep. She grabbed the phone quickly and accepted the call even though she didn’t recognize the number.

“Hello?” she said in a half whisper, tiptoeing to her door and closing it so she didn’t wake her son.

“You were sleeping. Shit. I shouldn’t have called so late. Sorry if I—”

“Jack?”

“Yeah.”

“I wasn’t asleep.”

“Oh.”

“And—I’m glad you called.”

He was silent for a few beats, so she waited, giving him his space.

“Red?”

“Yeah?”

“He’s my son.”

“Yeah,” she said again, her voice breaking softly as she crawled back into bed. He’d said it with such conviction she wasn’t sure what to make of it. But that didn’t matter. He knew about Owen and acknowledged him, and that was already more than she could have hoped for after all this time.

“Of course I want to meet him. I never for a second should have made you think I didn’t.”

“It’s okay.” She swiped at a tear, then rolled her eyes at herself. Hadn’t she cried enough for one day? But this was a happy tear. A hopeful one. She kind of liked it for a change.

“No,” he said. “It’s not okay. I was an asshole for letting you leave today without saying anything, but it’s been a hell of a two days.”

She laughed at this, and God it felt good to smile. The weight hadn’t lifted from her chest, but it was suddenly a lot lighter. “I think you’ve earned a free pass or a get-out-of-jail-free card. Or something.”

A deep, soft laugh sounded in her ear, and it only made her smile broaden.

“Jack Everett, did you just laugh?”

She heard the sound again.

“I think maybe I did,” he said.

She opened her mouth to say more but then bit her tongue. She liked being the reason he laughed, but knowing it was enough. She wasn’t going to break the spell by gloating.

“What about tomorrow after school?” he asked.

She grinned. “He gets out early. Noon, I think. Teacher in-service day or something like that. Are you free for a late lunch?”

“How about this great little barbecue place in town, BBQ on the Bluff? I hear they buy local, and from what Luke and Walker tell me, Crossroads Ranch has some of the best beef in the area.”

She laughed again. “Did you make a joke?”

“I think maybe I did.”

“We’d love to meet you for lunch,” she told him. “And as far as Owen knows, you’re my good friend Jack who I haven’t seen in years.”

He cleared his throat. “So, one o’clock?”

She let out a long breath and nodded, then remembered he couldn’t see her. “Yeah. One o’clock. We’ll see you then.”

“Red?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m glad I called, too.”

And then he was gone.

After the adrenaline wore off, her head sank against her pillow. She barely had time to double-check that her alarm was set before she drifted off into her first restful night of sleep in years.

She dreamed of kissing a boy under an olive tree—and what it would have been like if he’d stayed.

Start Reading THE BRIDGE by Stuart Prebble

To him, she seemed perfect. But what is Alison hiding?

THE BRIDGE, Stuart Prebble’s “brilliantly executed” (Dayton Daily News) new thriller, goes on sale today. It’s a gripping novel (with a stunning cover, if we do say so ourselves!) that asks the terrifying question: what if the woman of your dreams is not what she seems? Get started into the mystery with this exclusive excerpt.

IT WAS A sunny Saturday afternoon, and sightseers and tourists from all parts of the world crowded onto the South Bank, streaming in both directions across Waterloo Bridge. Some were walking to or from Covent Garden or the theaters; others stopped to admire the spectacular London skyline. At first glance the Madman seemed harmless enough, just a little the worse for wear from alcohol perhaps, or maybe celebrating a victory by his football team. Dressed in blue jeans and a gray hoodie, he muttered to himself and danced light-footed as he progressed, lifting his legs high like a week-old pony. Once or twice he paused and bent his knees to speak at eye level to a child, but later no one could identify the accent or decipher the words. Parents kept a watchful eye, but there seemed to be no reason for alarm. Then, with no warning, in a single sweeping movement and before anyone could intervene, the Madman scooped up the first tiny child, a four-year-old boy apparently selected at random, and swept him over the barrier.

There was a momentary snapshot of paralysis. The boy had made no sound. Was it some trick? Had the man switched the real boy for a dummy in some bizarre and ill-judged entertainment? Before anyone could take a breath the Madman had run half a dozen steps farther towards the next child, a three-year old girl in a pink dress with birthday ribbons in her hair. Once again he gripped the child under the arms and swept her up and over the barrier, her legs suddenly pedaling through nothingness. Even now, shock and disbelief immobilized bystanders. He darted forward again and grabbed another, and yet another. Each child was seemingly as light as a wafer, flicked up to shoulder height and thrust out into emptiness. Four small people, infants and toddlers, lifted up in the space of twelve or fifteen seconds and thrown over the wall before the Madman took to his heels and vanished like a phantom into the holiday crowds.

A mother fell to her knees, cracking bones against pavement, and shuffled towards the wall as if drawn towards it like a magnet. It took more moments for the screams from the bridge to catch the attention of people below on the South Bank, and fuller realization of what had occurred spread through the crowds like waves of poison gas across a battlefield. Scores of people held their heads and covered their ears as if to prevent the news from penetrating. Eyes were turned upwards towards the sound of the cries and then followed the pointing arms into the water below. Desperate and still confused, one father jumped from the bridge and hit the surface with the slap of raw meat against concrete, but even as he submerged, already the bobbing heads which were still visible had traveled a hundred yards in the churning foam. Another brave man jumped into the water from the riverbank and struck out with an urgent stroke in the direction of the fast-moving shapes. Both were overwhelmed within moments by the strength of the swell.

The first police officers arrived on the bridge within two minutes and began trying to calm the hysteria sufficiently to understand what had happened, but it seemed that no two accounts from among the many were sufficiently similar to produce a consensus. He was variously described as eighteen years old at one extreme to about thirty-five at the other. He had brown hair or black hair or auburn hair. He was tall, medium, and short, and had an athletic build or was running to fat. The only clear agreement was about the jeans and the gray hoodie, which made him a match for about two hundred other young men in the vicinity that afternoon. CCTV recordings examined later lost track of him minutes before the incident and lost him again as a pinprick in the crowd within seconds after it.

Continue reading “Start Reading THE BRIDGE by Stuart Prebble”

Start Reading The Prometheus Man by Scott Reardon

The Prometheus Man by Scott ReardonStart the year of right—with a bracing, nerve-jangling debut thriller. Scott Reardon launches a new series for Mulholland today with the publication of The Prometheus Man. Tom races against the clock to get to the bottom of a secret government program, a project so clandestine he must go under deep cover to infiltrate it. What makes this project so dangerous? Read the opening chapter below to find out what’s at stake.

Chapter 1

“You need to come in.”

The words came out so low and fast Karl wasn’t sure he’d heard them.

He rolled over in the bed. “Who is this?” Then he remembered he was on a cell phone and the line wasn’t secure. “Wait. Say again.”

“You need to come here. Right now.”

His feet were already on the floor the moment he recognized the voice. There were questions on the tip of his tongue, but the circumstances answered them before he could speak.

Did something happen at the lab?

—Of course something happened at the lab.

Are the police there?

—He wouldn’t tell you if they were.

“Fifty minutes,” he said and hung up.

He was actually only twenty minutes away, but Weaver—the voice on the phone—didn’t know just how frequently he switched hotels. Within minutes, he was out of Paris proper and heading for the lab. It was that hour of night when so much of the world was at rest that it became a sort of death. He sped across silent streets and empty highways, a world without people, until he reached the forest outside Versailles.

He pulled onto a service road. Once he reached a redundant power station, he skidded to a stop. The wind whistled across his windows and bent the trees in his headlights. He sat there for a minute, knowing he ought to call this in to Langley, ultimately deciding he wasn’t going to do that.

He drove around the power station and took the road another half mile to a warehouse whose only color came from ancient scabs of red paint.

The stars were out. Karl could see Weaver sitting on a cinder block surrounded by black leafless trees.

Weaver had always reminded Karl of Renfield, the attorney Dracula turned into his houseboy. He was short, severe-looking, and had the kind of temper that flares only when a back is turned. Weaver said nothing as Karl approached. His eyes were fixed on the horizon, though in the woods there is no horizon.

Without looking in Karl’s direction, he stood up and led the way to the lab. The entrance to it was inside the warehouse, which wasn’t actually a warehouse. And that was the idea. No road crew or stray backpacker could ever know what was here.

Inside, the lab was dark. It wasn’t supposed to be. Weaver flipped the switch to a light by the door.

And there was blood.

It was streaked over the plexiglass wall that divided the lab from the rest of the building. Where it wasn’t streaked, it was sprayed.

Karl saw a handprint in it.

“I locked them in,” Weaver said. “I had to.”

He stood waiting for the reaction, the explosion at what he had done. But Karl just turned and stared at him.

“One of them got loose,” Weaver said. “It was waiting for us.”

Karl glanced at Weaver’s jacket pockets, looking for the bulge of a weapon.

“I got out first and used the override. By the time I got back, it had dragged Dr. Feld to the door.”

“What override?”

“It was holding him against the glass.” Weaver closed his eyes. “I couldn’t see what it was doing to him, but he was still alive.”

Karl looked at the plexiglass. There were other partial handprints and, between them, runny smears where someone had tried over and over to wipe away the blood. Which would have been difficult, like scraping egg yolk off a plate after it’s congealed.

“It was keeping him alive on purpose.” Weaver pulled out another cigarette. “It was torturing him.”

“‘Animals don’t torture other living things.’ Your words, Dr. Weaver. And please don’t smoke in here.”

Weaver turned on him. The expression on his face was hard to look at. “You don’t get it. The code. It knew he had the code to get out.”

Then Karl understood the purpose behind the wiping. The last one alive would have tried to clear the blood off the glass, so he could see Weaver. Plead with him.

“Unlock the door,” he said.

Weaver grimaced like this was a sick joke.

“They could still be alive. Unlock the door.”

“But by now the rest of the sample could be loose too. I’m not going to—”

Karl shoved Weaver back against the wall and pressed his forearm into his neck. Weaver choked in silence, in acceptance.

“You override the override,” Karl said, “or whatever the hell it is you have to do to get that door open.”

Weaver worked on the door while Karl went into the woods. At the base of a little tree, he dug up the Sig compact he’d buried in a plastic shopping bag. When he got back, he found Weaver standing across the entrance from the lab door.

They hit the fluorescents inside, but only a few came on. The rest dangled by their wiring. The alarm system went off, but since they’d disabled the sirens long ago, the blue lights spun in silence, whipping shadows around the room. Through the strobing, Karl could see Dr. Feld. He was right by the door, right where Weaver had last seen him.

Deep gouges had been cut into his skin, splitting it wide along his legs, back, and sides. His foot, still encased in its Rockport orthopedic walking shoe, lay several feet from his body. His face wasn’t on right: something powerful had gripped it and twisted.

Feld’s assistant was stretched along the floor nearby, facedown, with one arm extended overhead. Patches of hair and scalp were missing from the back of his head. The other arm was so dislocated from its socket that the wrist rested on the back of his skull. Karl didn’t see Eric Reese, the youngest member of Project Prometheus and the only one he really knew.

With his weapon raised, Karl crept through the door. The spinning lights made it seem like in every corner of the room something was moving. He listened as hard as he ever had in his life. As he scanned the room for bodies, dead or alive, his eyes stopped on something else.

He didn’t recognize it at first—it looked so different from the way it had looked the last time he’d seen it and so different from the way it was supposed to look. Only its height was the same: four feet. The largest members of the species, Karl had been told, weighed 110 pounds. This one must have weighed twice that. Its hands had thickened, and the skin on them looked chunky, like raw hamburger microwaved gray. The musculature was all wrong. It was thick like a man’s, not lengthy like a chimpanzee’s.

The chimp was propped up against a desk with its hands in its lap, like a child being read a story. There was blood pooled under its body and a hollow space where its throat had been. Skin hung in rags under its fingernails. Though he would never admit it to anyone, though it wouldn’t go in any report, Karl knew its wounds had been self-inflicted. He knelt down and gently cupped the back of its head. Then he looked at Dr. Feld and his assistant and tried to imagine scenarios in which they bled out fast. He stayed there until Weaver came up to him.

“Contact Dr. Nast,” Karl said. “Tell him everything’s on hold.”

When he looked up, Weaver was staring at him. “I thought you knew.” He almost sounded sad.

“Knew what?”

Weaver hesitated.

“Knew what?”

“Dr. Nast got the go-ahead.”

“The go-ahead for what?”

“To start the next trial. They injected the first volunteer two days ago.”

Start Reading IQ by Joe Ide

IQ by Joe IdeJoe Ide’s debut novel, IQ, is one of the most fun novels we’ve read in the long time. IQ is a raucous take on Sherlock, if Sherlock were young, black, and lived in East Long Beach. Washington Post hails IQ as “one of the most original thrillers of the year,” and the New York Times Book Review calls it “a total laff-riot.” All we can say is buckle up, enjoy a few pages from Chapter One, and pick up a copy of IQ at a bookstore near you.

Chapter One: Unlicensed and Underground
July 2013

Isaiah’s crib looked like every other house on the block except the lawn was cut even, the paint was fresh, and the entrance was a little unusual. The security screen was made from the same heavy-duty mesh they used to cage in crackheads and bank robbers
at the Long Beach police station. The front door was covered with a thin walnut veneer but underneath was a twenty-gauge steel core set in a cold steel frame with a pick-proof, bump-proof, drill-proof Medeco Double Cylinder High Security Maxum Deadbolt. You’d need some serious power tools to get past all that and even if you did there was no telling what you’d be into. Word was, the place was booby-trapped. A cherry eight-year-old Audi S4 was parked in the driveway. It was a small, plain car in dark gray with a big V8 and sports suspension. The neighborhood kids were always yelling at Isaiah to put some rims on that whip.

Isaiah was in the living room, reading emails off his MacBook and drinking his second espresso, when he heard the car alarm go
off. He snatched the collapsible baton off the coffee table, went to the front door, and opened it. Deronda was leaning her world-class badonk against the hood, smothering a headlight and part of the grill. She wasn’t quite a Big Girl but damn close in her boy shorts and pink tube top two sizes too small. She was pretending to sulk, sighing and sighing again while she frowned at the sparkly things on her ice-blue nails. Isaiah chirped off the alarm, one hand shading his eyes from the afternoon glare.

“No, I didn’t forget your number,” he said, “and I wasn’t going to call you.”

“Ever?” Deronda said.

“You’re looking for a baby daddy and you know that’s not me.”

“You don’t know what I’m looking for and even if you did it wouldn’t be you.” Except she was shopping around for somebody who could pay a few bills, and Isaiah would do just fine. Yeah, okay, he did make her uneasy, he made everybody uneasy, checking you out like he knew you were fronting and wanting to know why. He looked okay, not ugly, but you’d hardly notice him at a club or a party. Six feet tall, rail thin, no chain, no studs in his ears, a watch the color of an aluminum pan, and if he was inked up it was nowhere she could see. The last time she’d run into him he was wearing what he wore now: a light-blue, short-sleeve shirt, jeans, and Timberlands. She liked his eyes. They were almond shaped and had long lashes like a girl’s. “You not gonna invite me in?” she said. “I walked all the way over here from my mama’s house.”

“Stop lying,” he said. “Wherever you came from you didn’t walk.”

“How do you know?”

“Your mama lives on the other side of Magnolia. Are you telling me you walked seven miles in the heat of the day in flip-flops
with all those bunions growing out of your feet? Teesha dropped you off.”

“You think you know so much. Could have been anybody dropped me off.”

“Your mama’s at work, Nona’s at work, Ira still has that cast on his leg, and DeShawn lost his license behind that DUI. I saw his
car in the impound yard, the white Nissan with the front stoved in. There’s nobody left in your world but Teesha.”

“Just because Ira got a cast on his leg don’t mean he can’t drive.”

Isaiah leaned against the doorway. “I thought you said you walked.”

“I did walk,” Deronda said, “just, you know, like part of the way and then somebody else came and I—” Deronda slid off the hood
and stamped her foot. “Dang, Isaiah!” she said. “Why you always gotta fuck with people? I came over here to be sociable, aight?
What’s the damn difference how I got here?”

It made no difference at all but he couldn’t help seeing what he saw. Things different or things not right or out of place or in place when they shouldn’t be or not in sync with the words that came with them.

“Well?” Deronda said. “You gonna make me stand out here and get heatstroke or invite me in and pour me a cocktail? You never
know, something good might happen.”

Deronda looked down at her ankle, turning it to one side like something was stuck to it, probably wondering where Isaiah’s eyes
were. On her dark chocolate thigh gleaming in the California sunshine or her dark chocolate titties trying their best to escape over that tube top. Isaiah looked away, uncomfortable deciding for the both of them what would happen next. She wasn’t his type, not that he had one. Most of his love life was curiosity sex. A girl intrigued by the low-key brother who was so smart people said he was scary. That hadn’t happened in a while. He opened the screen.

“Well, come on then,” he said.
Continue reading “Start Reading IQ by Joe Ide”

Start Reading “Power Wagon” by C.J. Box from The Highway Kind

The Highway KindNext week we publish a short story collection called The Highway Kind, an anthology edited by Patrick Millikin with a unique premise: the world’s bestselling and critically acclaimed writers share thrilling crime stories about cars, driving, and the road. We’ve got new stories by Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos, Diana Gabaldon, and C.J. Box, who contributed the story “Power Wagon” excerpted below.

A single headlight strobed through a copse of ten-foot willows on the other side of the overgrown horse pasture. Marissa unconsciously laced her fingers over her pregnant belly and said, “Brandon, there’s somebody out there.”

“What?” Brandon said. He was at the head of an old kitchen table that had once fed a half dozen ranch hands breakfast and dinner. A thick ledger book was open in front of him and Brandon had moved a lamp from the family room next to the table so he could read.

“I said, somebody is out there. A car or something. I saw a headlight.”

“Just one?”

“Just one.”

Brandon placed his index finger on an entry in the ledger book so he wouldn’t lose his place. He looked up.

“Don’t get freaked out. It’s probably a hunter or somebody who’s lost.”

“What if they come to the house?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess we help them out.”

“Maybe I should shut off the lights,” she said.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” he said. “They probably won’t even come here. They’re probably just passing through.”

“But to where?” she asked.

She had a point, he conceded. The old two-track beyond the willows was a private road, part of the ranch, and it led to a series of four vast mountain meadows and the foothills of the Wyoming range. Then it trailed off in the sagebrush.

“I saw it again,” she said.

He could tell she was scared even though there really wasn’t any reason to be, he thought. But saying “Calm down” or “Don’t worry” wouldn’t help the situation, he knew. If she was scared, she was scared. She wasn’t used to being so isolated—she’d grown up in Chicago and Seattle—and he couldn’t blame her.

Brandon found a pencil on the table and starred the entry he was on to mark where he’d stopped and pushed back his chair. The feet of it scraped the old linoleum with a discordant note.

He joined her at the window and put his hand on her shoulder. When he looked out, though, all he could see was utter darkness. He’d forgotten how dark it could be outside when the only ambient light was from stars and the moon. Unfortunately, storm clouds masked both.

“Maybe he’s gone,” she said, “whoever it was.”

A log snapped in the fireplace and in the silent house it sounded like a gunshot. Brandon felt Marissa jump at the sound.

“You’re tense,” he said.

“Of course I am,” she responded. There was anger in her voice. “We’re out here in the middle of nowhere without phone or Internet and somebody’s out there driving around. Trespassing. They probably don’t even know we’re here, so what are they doing?”

He leaned forward until his nose was a few inches from the glass. He could see snowflakes on the other side. There was enough of a breeze that it was snowing horizontally. The uncut grass in the yard was spotted white, and the horse meadow had turned from dull yellow to gray in the starlight.

Then a willow was illuminated and a lone headlight curled around it. The light lit up the horizontal snow as it ghosted through the brush and the bare cottonwood trees. Snowflakes looked like errant sparks in the beam. The light snow appeared as low-hanging smoke against the stand of willows.

“He’s coming this way,” she said. She pressed into him.

“I’ll take care of it,” Brandon said. “I’ll see what he wants and send him packing.”

She looked up at him with scared eyes and rubbed her belly. He knew she did that when she was nervous. The baby was their first and she was unsure and overprotective about the pregnancy.

During the day, while he’d pored over the records inside, she’d wandered through the house, the corrals, and the outbuildings and had come back and declared the place “officially creepy, like a mausoleum.” The only bright spot in her day, she said, was discovering a nest of day-old naked baby mice that she’d brought back to the house in a rusty metal box. She said she wanted to save them if she could figure out how.

Brandon knew baby mice in the house was a bad idea, but he welcomed the distraction. Marissa was feeling maternal, even about mice.

“Don’t forget,” he said, “I grew up in this house.”
Continue reading “Start Reading “Power Wagon” by C.J. Box from The Highway Kind”

Read the First Chapter of Revolver by Duane Swierczynski

Revolver by Duane SwierczynskiDuane Swierczynski’s new novel opens in 1965, but the events in the opening pages reverberate forward and backwards through the decades. The event crosses family lines, race lines, and legal lines, putting nearly all of Philadelphia in its cross hairs. Read the first chapter of Revolver below and discover the crime that sets everything in motion.

Stan Walczak – May 7, 1965

Officer Stanisław “Stan” Walczak usually takes his beer by the gallon, but he’s taking it easy this hot spring afternoon. He uses the backs of his thick fingers to wipe away the sweat beading up on his forehead. It’s seventy-two degrees and very humid. His Polish blood can’t stand the humidity.

He looks over at his partner, George W. Wildey. Unlike Stan, Wildey rarely breaks a sweat. He also hardly ever drinks. But after the week they’ve had, George said a cold one was most definitely in order. Stan couldn’t agree more.

They’re in plain clothes, but anybody setting foot in the bar would immediately tag them as cops. No white guy ever hangs out with a black guy in North Philly unless they’re undercover fuzz.

Technically, both are shirking duty.

A dozen blocks away, protestors are surrounding Girard College, and Stan and George are supposed to be there to help keep order. Over 130 years ago the richest man in Philadelphia willed most of his considerable fortune to establish a school for “poor, white, male” orphans on the outskirts of the city. Over the next 100 years, neighborhoods rose up around the campus. The neighborhood changed from German to Irish to Jewish and finally to black, even as the students of Girard College remained poor, white, and male.

After Brown v. Board of Education, however, blacks began to fight for their seats in the classroom. Picketing by the NAACP began seven days ago, and the commissioner dispatched a thousand police to the scene to make sure nothing got out of hand. The last thing the city wants is another riot like that clusterfuck on Columbia Avenue last August.

Stan and George were assigned to the protests from the very first day. Punishment detail, best they can figure. They must have pissed off someone high up. But despite fears of another riot, nothing has really happened. A few jokers trying to scale the twenty-foot wall onto the campus, but that’s been it. Otherwise, just a lot of standing around and waiting. Stan is pretty sure nobody will miss them. Continue reading “Read the First Chapter of Revolver by Duane Swierczynski”

Start Reading The Night The Rich Men Burned by Malcolm Mackay

nullHere’s a familiar scenario: two friends, finished with school, looking for work. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy—just enough to cover rent and maybe—maybe!—a car. In my experience, this kind of story leads to exhausting bartending gigs or grim retail jobs. But in Malcolm Mackay’s Glasgow, it leads to debt collection. In his new noir, The Night The Rich Men Burned, Oliver Peterkinney and Alex Glass are tempted by a life in which the only thing easier than the money is the slide towards ruin. Read the prologue below.

He ended up unconscious and broken on the floor of a warehouse, penniless and alone. He was two weeks in hospital, unemployable thereafter, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that, for a few weeks beforehand, he had money. Not just a little money, but enough to show off with, and that was the impression that stuck.

It had been a while since they’d seen him. Months, probably. They were heading back from the job center, having made a typically fruitless effort at sniffing out employment. They went in, they searched the touchscreen computer near the door, and they left. Two friends, officially unemployed since the day they left school together a year before, both willing to do unofficial work if that was available. They bumped into Ewan Drummond as they walked back up towards Peterkinney’s grandfather’s flat.

“All right, lads,” Drummond said, grinning at them, “need a lift anywhere?” He was as big and gormless as ever, but the suggestion of transport was new.

“Lift? From you?” Glass asked.

“Yeah, me. Got myself a motor these days. Got to have one in my line of work, you know.” He said it to provoke questions that would allow him to trot out boastful answers.

Glass and Peterkinney looked at each other before they looked at Drummond. There wasn’t a lot of work among their circle of friends. The kind of work that let a man like Drummond make enough money to buy a car was unheard of. They could guess what was involved in the work, but they wanted to hear it.

“Yeah, we’ll take a lift,” Peterkinney nodded. Continue reading “Start Reading The Night The Rich Men Burned by Malcolm Mackay”

Start Reading Shutter Man by Richard Montanari

Shutter Man by Richard MontanariThis is probably the scariest opening chapter of any novel that we’re publishing this year. If your ideal novel lives in the intersection between horror and police procedural, then head to your local bookstore for Richard Montanari’s new Byrne and Balzano novel, Shutter Man.

Who are you?
I am Billy the Wolf.

Why did God make it so you can’t see people’s faces?
So I can see their souls.

Philadelphia, 2015

At the moment the black SUV made its second pass in front of the Rousseau house, a tidy stone colonial in the Melrose Park section of the city, Laura Rousseau was putting the finishing touches to a leg of lamb.

It was her husband’s fortieth birthday.

Although Angelo Rousseau said every year that he did not want anyone to make a fuss, he had been talking about his mother’s roast lamb recipe for the past three weeks. Angelo Rousseau had many fine qualities. Subtlety was not among them.

Laura had just finished chopping the fresh rosemary when she heard the front door open and close, heard footsteps in the hall leading to the kitchen. It was her son, Mark.

A tall, muscular boy with an almost balletic grace, seventeen-year-old Mark Rousseau was the vice president of his class’s student council, and captain of his track team. He had his eye on the 1,000- and 5,000-meter events at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

As Mark entered the kitchen, Laura slipped the lamb into the oven and set the timer.

‘How was practice?’ she asked.

‘Good,’ Mark said. He took a carton of orange juice out of the refrigerator and was just about to drink from it when he fielded a withering glance from his mother. He smiled, pulled a glass from the cupboard and poured it full. ‘Shaved a quarter-second off my hundred.’

‘My speedy boy,’ Laura said. ‘How come it takes you a month to clean your room?’

‘No cheerleaders.’

Laura laughed.

‘See if you can find an egg in the fridge,’ she said. ‘I looked twice and didn’t see any. All I need is one for the apple turnovers. Please tell me we have an egg.’

Mark poked around in the refrigerator, moving plastic containers, cartons of milk, juice, yogurt. ‘Nope,’ he said. ‘Not a one.’

‘No egg wash, no turnovers,’ Laura said. ‘They’re your father’s favorite.’

‘I’ll go.’

Laura glanced at the clock. ‘It’s okay. I’ve been in the house all day. I need the exercise.’

‘No you don’t,’ Mark said.

‘What do you mean?’

‘All my friends say I’ve got the hottest mom.’

‘They do not.’

‘Carl Fiore thinks you look like Téa Leoni,’ Mark said.

‘Carl Fiore needs glasses.’

‘That’s true. But he’s not wrong about this.’

‘You sure you don’t mind going to the store?’ Laura asked.

Mark smiled, tapped the digital clock on the oven. ‘Time me.’

Continue reading “Start Reading Shutter Man by Richard Montanari”

Hap and Leonard Return!

Honky Tonk SamuraiIt gives us great joy to welcome back Hap and Leonard, the crime-solving odd couple who anchor many of Joe Lansdale’s most beloved novels. In Honky Tonk Samurai, the pair are tasked with a missing persons case that leads them to a prostitution ring operating in East Texas. Hap and Leonard don’t always play by the book, but when it come to injustice, there are no two more fearsome opponents. Read the opening chapter below, and click here for Lansdale’s book tour dates.

Chapter 1

I don’t think we ask for trouble, me and Leonard. It just finds us. It often starts casually, and then something comes loose and starts to rattle, like an unscrewed bolt on a carnival ride. No big thing at first, just a loose, rattling bolt, then the bolt slips completely free and flies out of place, the carnival ride groans and screeches, and it sags and tumbles into a messy mass of jagged parts and twisted metal and wads of bleeding human flesh.

I’m starting this at the point in the carnival ride when the bolt has started to come loose.

Continue reading “Hap and Leonard Return!”