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Start reading A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block

Next month we are publishing A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block, the newest installment in the celebrated Matthew Scudder series. Start here with the prologue to the novel Booklist, in a starred review, called: “Genius…the prose, as always, is like the club soda Scudder sips in the opening pages: cool, fizzy, and completely refreshing.”

LATE ONE NIGHT . . .

“I’ve often wondered,” Mick Ballou said, ” how it would all have gone if I’d taken a different turn.”

We were at Grogan’s Open House, the Hell’s Kitchen saloon he’s owned and operated for years. The gentrification of the neighborhood has had its effect on Grogan’s, although the bar hasn’t changed much inside or out. But the local hard cases have mostly died or moved on, and the crowd these days is a gentler and more refined bunch. There’s Guinness on draft, and a good selection of single-malt Scotches and other premium whiskeys. But it’s the joint’s raffish reputation that draws them. They get to point out the bullet holes in the walls, and tell stories about the notorious past of the bar’s owner. Some of the stories are true.

They were all gone now. The barman had closed up, and the chairs were on top of the tables so they’d be out of the way when the kid came in at daybreak to sweep up and mop the floor. The door was locked, and all the lights out but the leaded-glass fixture over the table where we sat with our Waterford tumblers. There was whiskey in Mick’s, club soda in mine. Continue reading “Start reading A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block”

Continue reading The Bayou Trilogy

Next week, we are re-publishing Daniel Woodrell’s three Rene Shade novels, Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, The Ones You Do in one beautiful package called THE BAYOU TRILOGY. We will be excerpting the first chapter of each of the 3 novels here over the next few weeks. We began with Under the Bright Lights and continued with Chapter 1 of Muscle for the Wing. We conclude with The Ones You Do, which the Chicago Tribune praised for  its “Fine writing…. Deeply atmospheric and oozing with the mojo of the swamp… Woodrell’s work echoes that of William Kennedy, William Faulkner, and Walter Mosley.”


Part I

Criminentlies

(cry-men-ent-lees)

1

AFTER HIS wife stole the gangster’s money and split on him, she wanted to rub his nose in her deed, so she sent him a note. John X. Shade was sitting on a stool behind the bar in the main room of Enoch’s Ribs and Lounge, his gray head bowed, his lean shaky fingers massaging his temples. The safe gaped open and empty behind him, and a bottle of Maker’s Mark, sour mash salvation, sat sealed and full on the bar top before him.

The note that was meant to make him feel pitiful as well as endangered was delivered by his ten-year-old daughter, Etta. She came in the side door and through the sea shell and driftwood decor of the lounge where her mother had been the musical entertainment before taking up thievery, carrying a small pink vinyl suitcase that had a picture of Joan Jett embossed on the lid. The girl had thick black hair cut in a fashion her mother, Randi Tripp, considered hip, this being a feminine sort of flattop with long rat-tail tresses dangling down the back of her neck. She wore a green T-shirt that was pro-manatee and raggedy jeans that were hacked off just below the knees. A black plastic crucifix hung lightly from her right ear. Her actual name was Rosetta Tripp Shade, but she preferred to be called Etta.

“Mail call,” she said and tossed the envelope onto the bar beneath John X.’s chin. She climbed up onto a stool across the rail. “She said you should read it pronto.”

Enoch’s wasn’t a popular spot until late at night when last-call Lotharios from along the Redneck Riviera would fill it up, rooting around after pert and democratic Yankee tourists whose off-season dream vacations had yet to be consummated. It was not open at all this early in the day, so the two were alone. Hot Gulf Coast sun beat in through the smoked windows, warming the joint. On the walls there were community bulletins announcing upcoming fish frys, Gospel shows, ten-K runs for various Mobile charities, and several large, glamorous glossies of Randi Tripp, the ’Bama Butterfly.

John X. started to rip the envelope, then saw the sweat on his daughter’s face and felt a trickle stream down his own temples. He shoved the shiny beverage cooler open and said, “I ain’t King Farouk, kid, but I’ll spot you a bottle of RC.”

Etta grinned and grabbed the cold bottle of Royal Crown Cola that he slid to her.

“Well, I ain’t Madonna, neither,” she said, “but I could drink one.”

He opened the envelope and unfolded the letter. It was on yellow paper scented with lilac, and he spread it flat on the bar to read.

Continue reading “Continue reading The Bayou Trilogy”

Chapter 3 of Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark

Keep reading GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark, which is on sale now. If you missed the Prologue, Chapter 1 or Chapter 2, catch up here.

3

Lieutenant Hales pulled up to the Biltmore, guided me out of the car, and walked me to the front entrance. Through the fog of denial and disbelief, the shocked features of Angel, the doorman, floated before me.

“Rachel, what’s wrong?” he asked as he opened the door and took the elbow Hales wasn’t holding.

“She’s had a tough night,” Hales said tersely.

“I’ll take it from here,” Angel said proprietarily, with an accusatory glance at the lieutenant.

I didn’t have the energy or the sentience to explain that it was nothing the lieutenant had done. I remained mute as Angel led me inside and steered me toward the elevator.

He managed to get me to my room, and I meant to thank him, though I’m not sure the words made it out of my mouth. All I know is that the moment the door closed behind him, I pulled out the bottle of Russian Standard Platinum vodka someone had given me a while ago and poured myself a triple shot.

I looked at the television. Was the story being aired yet? I decided I didn’t want to know. And I couldn’t bring myself to call Toni. Talking about it would make it real. Right now, all I wanted was oblivion. I tossed down my drink, then poured myself another and didn’t stop pouring until I passed out cold.

Continue reading “Chapter 3 of Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark”

Chapter 2 of Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark

Keep reading GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark as we prepare for the book’s publication on April 20th. If you missed the Prologue or Chapter 1, there’s time to catch up here. Stay tuned to the site next week for a Marcia Clark Extravaganza.

2

Scott turned and wove through the throng of police and firemen and made his way into the motel. I slid into the driver’s seat and tried not to think about the “passengers” that’d ridden around in the cargo space behind me.

A few more clouds of smoke drifted out as firefighters began to emerge from the building. One of them was rolling up the hose as he walked. They’d been here only a few minutes; if they were already wrapping up, this couldn’t have been much of a fire.

I watched the hunky firefighters at work and was pondering the truth of the old saying—that God made all paramedics and firemen good-looking so you’d see something pretty before you died—when a deep, authoritative voice broke my concentration.

“Miss, are you with the coroner’s office?”

I’d been sitting sidesaddle in the van, facing the motel. I turned to my left and saw that the owner of the voice was somewhere around six feet tall, on the lean side but tastefully muscled under his blue uniform, his dark-blond hair just long enough to comb. His eyes were a gold-flecked hazel, and he had wide, pronounced cheekbones, a strong nose, and a generous mouth. The bars on his uniform told me he was brass, not rank and file. His nameplate confirmed it:

LIEUTENANT GRADEN HALES.

His skeptical look annoyed me, but his presence made an already weird scene even more so. What the hell was a lieutenant doing here? I mustered up my best “I belong here” voice and replied, “I’m a DA, but I’m waiting for Scott.”

I expected that my status as a prosecutor would end the discussion. Wrong.

Continue reading “Chapter 2 of Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark”

Continue Reading The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell

This month we are re-publishing Daniel Woodrell’s three Rene Shade novels, Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, The Ones You Do in one beautiful package called THE BAYOU TRILOGY. We will be excerpting the first chapter of each of the 3 novels here over the next few weeks. We began last week with Under the Bright Lights. And continue this week with Chapter 1 of Muscle for the Wing, a book which had the New York Times “swooning” and of which the Washington Post Book World raved, “Off-the-wall characters, quirky and bizarre, yet as authentic as any I’ve ever met in a novel. Woodrell succeeds—in fact triumphs… and spins a hell of a yarn to boot.”

1

WISHING TO avoid any risk of a snub at The Hushed Hill Country Club, the first thing Emil Jadick shoved through the door was double-barreled and loaded. He and the other two Wingmen were inappropriately attired in camouflage shirts and ski masks, but the gusto with which they flaunted their firearms squelched any snide comments from the guests seated around the poker table.

Jadick took charge of the rip-off by placing both cool barrels against the neck of a finely coiffed, silver-haired gent, and saying loudly, “Do I have your attention? We’re robbin’ you assholes—any objections?”

The table was a swank walnut octagon, with drink wells and stacks of the ready green on a blue felt top. The gentlemen who had assembled around it for an evening of high-stakes Hold ’Em were well dressed, well fed, and well heeled, but now their mouths hung loose and their poolside tans paled.

Continue reading “Continue Reading The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell”

Chapter 1 of Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark

Keep reading GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark as we prepare for the book’s publication on April 20th. If you missed the Prologue, catch up here.

1

“Guilty? Already? What’d they do, just walk around the table and hit the buzzer?” Jake said, shaking his head incredulously.

I laughed, nodding. “I know, it’s crazy. Forty-five-minute verdict after a three-month trial,” I said as I shook my head. “I thought the clerk was kidding when she called and told me to come back to court.” I paused. “Now that I think about it, this might be my fastest win ever on a first-degree.”

“Hell, sistah, that’s the fastest win I done heard on
anythang,
” Toni said as she plopped down into the chair facing my desk. She talked ghetto only as a joke.

“Y’all gotta admit,” I said, “homegirl brought game this time.”

Toni gave me a disdainful look. “Uh-uh, snowflake. You can’t pull it off, so don’t try.” She reached for the mug I kept cleaned and at the ready for her on the windowsill.

I raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got a choice: take that back and have a drink, or enjoy your little put-down and stay dry.”

Toni eyed the bottle of Glenlivet on my desk, her lips firmly pressed together, as she weighed her options. It didn’t take long. “It’s amazing. For a minute there, I thought Sister Souljah was in the room,” she said with no conviction whatsoever. She slammed her mug down on my desk. “Happy?”
I shrugged. “Not your best effort, but they can’t all be gold.” I broke the small ice tray out of my mini-fridge, dumped the cubes into her cup, and poured the equivalent of two generous shots of Glenlivet.

Toni shot me a “don’t push your luck” look and signaled a toast.

I turned to Jake and gestured to the bottle. “Maybe a token?” I asked. He was a nondrinker by nature, but he’d occasionally join in to be sociable.

Continue reading “Chapter 1 of Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark”

Start Reading The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell

This month we are re-publishing Daniel Woodrell’s three Rene Shade novels, Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, The Ones You Do in one beautiful package called THE BAYOU TRILOGY. We will be excerpting the first chapter of each of the 3 novels here over the next few weeks. We begin with Under the Bright Lights, a novel which  Washington Post Book World praised for its Poetic prose and raw dialogue” and which the San Francisco Examiner called “a flawless novel.”

1

JEWEL COBB had long been a legendary killer in his midnight reveries and now he’d come to the big town to prove that his upright version knew the same techniques and was just as cold. He sat on the lumpy green couch tapping his feet in time with a guitar he scratched at with sullen incompetence.

It was hard to play music in this room, he felt. There was a roof but it leaked, and great rusty stains spread down the corners of the apartment. The walls were hefty with a century’s accumulation of layered wallpaper bubbled into large humps in their centers. The pipe from the stove wobbled up to and through a rip in the ceiling where some industrious derelict had tried to do a patch job by nailing flattened beer cans over the gaps. It was altogether the sort of place that a man with serious money would not even enter, a man with pin money would not linger in, but a man with no money would have to call home. For a while.

“Suze,” Jewel called. “Bring me a cup of coffee, will ya?”

“What?” Suze yelled. “I can’t hear you, I’m in the john.”

Continue reading “Start Reading The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell”