FM: <i>Well Read, Then Dead</i> by Terrie Farley Moran FM: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran Laura K. Curtis Crime comes to life for this cozy Florida book club. <i>Boston Mob</i>: A New Excerpt Boston Mob: A New Excerpt Marc Songini A historical retelling of the reign of the ruthlessly violent Boston mafia. Now Win <i>This</i>!: The Hard Hitting Sweepstakes Now Win This!: The Hard Hitting Sweepstakes Crime HQ Brace yourself before entering! <i>Last to Know</i>: A New Excerpt Last to Know: A New Excerpt Elizabeth Adler The body might have burned in the fire, but she had already been stabbed to death.
From The Blog
July 25, 2014
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing: First Trailer for The Imitation Game
Joe Brosnan
July 24, 2014
Erotic, Gothic, Belgian Vampires: Daughters of Darkness (1971)
Brian Greene
July 24, 2014
Committing Word Crimes with Weird Al
Crime HQ
July 23, 2014
The Movies of 1944: Double Indemnity
Jake Hinkson
July 18, 2014
The Eye: Nabokov on Spies, Suicide, and Sunset Boulevard
Edward A. Grainger
Mon
Jul 14 2014 8:45am

Death Becomes Her, Or is it That Fabulous Veil?

“Death Becomes Her,” the fall exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center presents a stitch-by-stitch account of what the well-dressed widow was wearing a century or two ago.

There were rules for such things, naturally, and we can thank high-profile mourners, such as Queen Victoria and her daughter-in-law Queen Alexandra for elevating the social importance of mourning attire. (Mourning gowns belonging to each woman will be part of the exhibition.)

Yet according to Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, mourning wasn’t always seen simply as a bereaved wife’s dedication to her departed spouse. “The veiled widow  could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances,” he says. “As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.”

Just who was she peering at through her long black veil?

Death Becomes Her” runs from October 21, 2014 to February 1, 2015, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Fri
Jun 6 2014 8:45am

Take A Walk Among the Tombstones with Liam Neeson

Can “the Pride of Ballymena play a bred-in-the-bone New Yorker” like Matt Scudder in the 1992 crime novel A Walk Among the Tombstones? Scudder's creator, Lawrence Block, who points out that Neeson is an American citizen and New Yorker now, asks and answers emphatically:

I saw a final cut of the film six months ago, and loved it. Liam is Matthew Scudder; he embodies the role perfectly, and his screen presence is commanding. Scott's [writer and director Scott Frank's] script is true to the spirit of the novel while incorporating changes that enable it to work on the screen. (And he's retained a great deal of my dialogue, and it's a treat to hear those lines come out of Liam's mouth.)

So there.

Opens September 19th in the U.S. (a week later in the U.K.) Oh, yes, think we're in. You?

Fri
May 30 2014 2:00pm

Gotham: The City Without Batman

How can Gotham be an interesting show if it doesn’t have Batman?

It’s a question I’ve been asked numerous times since Fox Television announced that Gotham would join their fall schedule. The show will focus on a young Jim Gordon investigating the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and track the evolution of the city that becomes the eventual home of Batman.

For casual fans of Batman, Gordon and the police department seems an odd focus. But to comic fans, there are two clear influences for this show and they’re two of the best Gotham-focused stories ever written: Batman: Year One (1987) by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli and Gotham Central (2003-2006) by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark.

[This is going to be good...]

Tue
May 13 2014 8:45am

“Shining” Work: Alcoholic Court Reporter Jeopardizes Verdicts

An alcoholic Manhattan court stenographer went rogue, channeling his inner “Shining” during a high-profile criminal trial and repeatedly typing, “I hate my job, I hate my job” instead of the trial dialogue... and now officials are scrambling to repair the damage.

One high-level source said his “gibberish” typing may have jeopardized hard-won convictions by giving criminals the chance to claim crucial evidence is missing...

... Judges have been holding “reconstruction hearings” at which everyone involved in a case has to testify about what they remember.

The fired stenographer, who's been in rehab, denies he gave less than “100%” diligence to his job or the thirty cases under review, but you can read the rest via the New York Post.

Image is an artist's rendering.

Tue
May 6 2014 12:30pm

Now Win This!: Four Knaves Sweepstakes

You bet we've got four knaves for you: Jimmy, Moe, Alex... and, uh, Dismas? This handful of trouble includes fresh titles from Johnny Shaw, Reed Farrel Coleman, Marc Guggenheim, and John Lescroart—such a deal!

This Sweepstakes Has Ended

This is NOT a Comments Sweepstakes. You must click the link above to enter.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. Promotion begins May 6, 2014, at 12:30 pm ET, and ends May 20, 2014, 12:29 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[See all the suits in this sweepstakes...]

Tue
Apr 22 2014 12:00pm

Now Win This!: Dread Half-Dozen Sweepstakes

We've got eggs on the brain and a half-dozen freshly-hatched crime titles on our hands!

This Sweepstakes Has Ended.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. Promotion begins April 22, 2014, at 12:00 pm ET, and ends May 6, 2014, 11:59 am ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[Pop the Carton to Reveal the Dread Half-Dozen...]

Sun
Mar 16 2014 1:00pm

A Debut Revisited: Cold Caller by Jason Starr

Cold Caller by Jason StarrI can be a pretty difficult guy to get along with sometimes.

Umm, yeah.  That understatement is made by Bill Moss, the narrator and protagonist of Jason Starr’s first novel Cold Caller. Initially released in 1997 by No Exit Press of the U.K. and then published in the U.S. by Norton the following year, Cold Caller is a savage, nightmarish work of contemporary urban noir. Comparisons to Jim Thompson immediately abounded. Starr was just beginning what continues to be a celebrated career.

But about that debut. So, Moss is a guy who has an M.B.A. and who currently resides in New York City. He used to hold a high-level advertising job, but that gig came to an end and now he’s a telemarketer. The phone “cold calling” job was only supposed to be something to keep a paycheck coming in while he looked for another position more suited to his skill set. But at the time of the story he’s been stuck doing the menial work for two years. He’s good at it, but what business school grad wants to be a time clock-punching phone pest? In his personal life Moss has a live-in girlfriend. He and his steady are both in their early 30s. She’s ready for the altar but Moss says he only wants to get married after he’s gotten his career back on track. In the meantime he can’t get it up for her, although he still finds her attractive. And he’s obsessed with having a foray with a prostitute.

[Telemarketing, prostitution, this novel's got it all...]

Tue
Mar 4 2014 11:30am

Fresh Meat: Brooklyn Graves by Triss Stein

Brooklyn Graves by Triss SteinBrooklyn Graves by Triss Stein is the second traditional mystery featuring historian Erica Donato, who'll research Tiffany glass as well as the murder of a family friend (available March 4th, 2014).

Erica Donato is a single mother of a teenage daughter and an overworked, underpaid, dissertation-writing apprentice historian. In the space of one twenty-four hour period, all of the balls she has been juggling drop around her. At work, she is assigned a historical research project involving the Tiffany family—yes, that Tiffany. Between exploring dilapidated mausoleums containing Tiffany artwork in Green-Wood Cemetery and digging through turn of the century letters, Erica must complete all of her other academic work.

Then Erica’s daughter, Chris, drops a bombshell. A good friend of the family, Dima, who worked as a custodian at Chris’ school, has been killed. He was shot through the head and found lying on his front lawn. In the days after the news breaks, Erica tries to help her friend, Natalya, Dima’s wife, navigate the waters of police interviews and grief. However, as she works to help Natalya, Erica discovers there’s more to this family than meets the eye.

And history doesn’t always stay in the past.

Brooklyn Graves is the second novel in the Erica Donato series. Here history meets modern Brooklyn. With her contacts and background in New York history, Erica is where the past and present meet. She sees connections and links where others don’t.

Neat, historical touches are woven throughout the story. Erica’s first brush with Tiffany artwork takes place, macabrely enough, in a cemetery: Green-Wood Cemetery. There are mausoleums with stained glass windows attributed to Tiffany’s work. Erica visits the cemetery with the preeminent Tiffany expert, Dr. Thomas Flint. Together they learn there may have been damage to the windows, a circumstance that greatly bothers Dr. Flint and causes Erica a mountain of follow-up work.

[The broken-windows theory of solving murders?]

Thu
Feb 13 2014 9:00pm

Fresh Meat: Nothing Personal by Mike Offit

Nothing Personal by Mike OffitNothing Personal by Mike Offit is a financial thriller written by a Wall Street insider about a young MBA who whose mentor at the bank gets murdered (available February 11, 2014).

As I've mentioned before, I’m often on the lookout for good business-themed mysteries and thrillers. Not ones where the hero or villain happens to be a businesscritter, but ones where business is vital to the functioning of the plot, where the mystery or thrills grow out of the supercharged environment of high finance or corporate skullduggery.

Nothing Personal, career securities trader Mike Offit’s debut “novel of Wall Street,” promises: “Warren [the hero] soon finds himself at the center of two murder investigations as a crime spree seemingly focused on powerful finance wizards plagues Wall Street. The blood-soaked trail leads to vast wealth and limitless risk…” Financial and personal mayhem! Good stuff, right?

Not so much. Nothing Personal is a crime novel, but not a murder novel. The crime isn’t in the couple of killings, which in many ways are beside the point; it’s in the way day-to-day business is done in the corporate finance world in which Our Hero works.

[Greed stains as bad as blood...]

Tue
Feb 4 2014 4:30pm

Fan Favorites: 2014’s Mystery Conventions

2014 promises to be chock full of wonderful mystery conventions and conferences ranging from Bouchercon— the world’s largest crime fiction convention—to more tightly-focused conferences like Malice Domestic, which specializes in traditional and cozy mysteries. Thrillerfest is, of course, primarily about thrillers, and Left Coast Crime is regional, but also offers the year's only humorous mystery award. Most conventions feature opportunities not only to meet your favorite authors and get your book signed, but also to make tons of new friends who love crime fiction as much as you do.

So, here's a rundown of the major crime fan conventions and conventions taking place in 2014:

[And don't forget your chance to win...]

Tue
Jan 21 2014 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: NYPD Puzzle by Parnell Hall

NYPD Puzzle, a Puzzle Lady mystery, by Parnell HallNYPD Puzzle by Parnell Hall is the 15th humorous mystery about Cora Felton, the grandmotherly-appearing and fraudulent Puzzle Lady, whose wise-cracking and sleuthing will put her under suspicion of murder by New York's Finest (available January 21, 2014).

Cora Felton would probably bite your head off if you asked her for help doing the Sunday crossword puzzle. Parnell Hall brings back The Puzzle Lady, this time getting herself in the middle of a New York City murder. This series is definitely character-driven, with a protagonist that is sarcastic and cranky… so you might think that you would immediately dislike her. However, I found myself drawn into the fast pace, and the reward was seeing the side of Cora that she keeps hidden. Being a great-aunt and someone who tends to “pick fights” gives an image of a gray-haired, unhappy woman, but learning that she had an affair with a married man puts a unique spin on Cora, especially when her heart starts to show:

Cora managed to get as far as the Mobil station before she pulled off the road and collapsed, weeping, on the steering wheel. She killed the lights, prayed Sam Brogan wouldn’t drive by. The car was in the shadows, but even so. Her red Toyota was too distinctive not to be noticed.

Schmuck. That total schmuck. How could he be so heartless? Of course, it was the doctor’s first affair and his first marital reconciliation. He had probably eaten enough humble pie in suffering the tortures of atonement to be ready to strangle a nun, let alone the woman who had put him in that position. It was no surprise he was rude to her, particularly on the job and in the presence of the chief of police.

Even so.

Cora cried herself out. She rolled down the window, lit a cigarette, and sat there smoking.

[And that's not the end of her romantic adventures!]

Sat
Dec 21 2013 11:30pm

The Bad Old Days of 1973: Serpico at 40

Serpico (1973) U.S. movie release posterForty years ago this month, Serpico hit movie theaters. It’s important to remember the context in which the film came into the world. The sixties had long since curdled into the seventies. New Jersey still bore the scars of the horrific Camden riots. Vietnam lay in ashes. The economy was entering a recession which would last until 1975. Watergate—which had begun as a small story about a burglary at the Democratic National Headquarters—had metastasized into a full-blown White House scandal. Just a month before, a sweaty Richard Nixon had gone on television to try and reassure an increasingly skeptical public that “I’m not a crook.” And in New York, the city was still reeling from the revelations of the Knapp Commission, which has exposed rampant systemic corruption in the police department.

Into this swirl of bad feelings, Serpico was released. Directed by the great Sidney Lumet, from a screenplay by Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler based on the book by Peter Maas, it told the true story of the hero of the Knapp Commission findings, a brave cop named Frank Serpico. Frustrated with the corruption around him, Serpico had worked to expose the rottenness in the NYPD and nearly been killed for his efforts.

[How's that for gratitude?]

Wed
Dec 18 2013 4:30pm

Lost Classics of Noir: Hardman by David Karp

Hardman by David Karp, published 1953 by Lion BooksA hardboiled novel about a hardboiled novelist.  A main character who is a hard man, who has the last name Hardman. Might as well just get straight to the point, huh?

Get to the point David Karp did with this no-frills novel from 1953. Originally published by Lion Books (who, in their short run over the late ‘40s to mid-‘50s also issued titles by the likes of Jim Thompson, David Goodis, and Day Keene), Hardman is the kind of raw, unsentimental book that thrills the noir-loving set.

That main character’s full name is Jack Hardman. He comes up as a streetwise New York kid, whose parents don’t give a damn about him, and who’s often in trouble with authority figures. As a very young man, he gets pulled in for a statutory rape charge. The judge who hears the case sees some potential in Hardman’s character and sentences him to probation, under his own watch. The judge reads some ultra-realistic writings Hardman does, where he describes the brutal lifestyle he has led to that point, including depictions of the grim people and places therein, and the judge believes he has a potential writer under his care. The judge shows Hardman’s scribblings to a friend of his who is a professional in the publishing world. This man agrees that Hardman is meant to be an author, then off goes the story.

Fast forward some number of years, and Hardman is now a wildly successful writer. His books are not of such literary quality that he’s likely to win any awards or receive critical acclaim, meanwhile, they’re salacious enough that his publisher and literary agency are always on the verge of being sued by some kind of decency-protecting organization. But the books sell in large numbers to a loyal audience always ready to pounce on his next release. Hardman allows no distractions while he’s writing his godless novels, will even turn down the offer of some steamy nookie from his best ladyfriend when he’s at work on a book. He doesn’t do revisions and generally doesn’t read any of his own works after he turns them in. He is a fierce man who focuses clearly on what he wants at a given moment.

Hardman is a bully. People are just objects to him, to be used if they serve a purpose, to be ignored or abused otherwise. Throughout the story, he terrorizes and brutalizes innocent bystanders unlucky enough to cross his hedonistic path. Some of his most viciously boorish antics take place at the office of his literary agent, who happens to be a childhood “friend” (the quotes are needed there because it’s a huge stretch to say that Hardman is a friend to anybody).

[Art hasn't made free a gentle spirit...]

Sat
Dec 14 2013 5:00pm

The Sentinel (1977): You Had Me at Gateway to Hell

The Sentinel (1977)The Sentinel is a movie that evaded me for decades. I love religious horror films like The Omen, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, and most recently This is the End. So I should have loved The Sentinel, with the tagline She's living in the gateway to hell. It also stars many of my favorite actors: Burgess Meredith, Chris Saradon, Eli Wallach, Jerry Orbach, Christopher Walken, John Carradine, and Beverly D'Angelo. The problem is not that it's not terrible, but that it's not terrible enough.

I love a good bad movie, see. The problem is the ones that aren't good enough or bad enough, and just sort of limp along like a dog wiping itself on the carpet for 120 minutes. And that's what The Sentinel felt like. In fact, if a dog ate the famous religious horror films mentioned above, and then wiped itself on a white shag carpet for 120 minutes, it would be easier to watch than The Sentinel.

Let me synopsize the movie for you, and I had to read two different sources to do this, because the direction by Michael Winner (Death Wish, The Mechanic, The Big Sleep '78, but also, tellingly, Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood) is so confusing that it often feels like watching disjointed reels with missing footage. But here goes...

Editor's Note: Strange images and spoilers ahead...

[If that doesn't convince you to read on, what would?!]

Mon
Oct 28 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Keeping Secrets by Cathi Stoler

Keeping Secrets by Cathi Stoler, a New York mystery featuring Laurel Imperiole and Helen McCorkendaleKeeping Secrets by Cathi Stoler is the second novel in the Laurel and Helen New York Mystery series, in which the reporter and private eye team up to help a young women in fear of her life (available November 1, 2013).

Laurel Imperiole is an investigative journalist working for Women Now magazine, headquartered in New York City. When she receives a disturbing e-mail from a reader, Anne Ellsworth, she feels duty bound to help. Anne is a lonely young woman who suspects that her fiance, David Adams, isn’t all that he seems to be. Laurel senses the opportunity to write an article on how women in relationships can tread the fine line of respecting their partners’ privacy while still protecting themselves in an age of rampant identity theft, contrasting Anne’s situation with her own.

Laurel herself has rebounded hard into a six-month relationship with the very private Matt Kuhn, whom she thinks she’s falling in love with. She believes he’ll serve as a good complement to Anne’s duplicitous fiance. With this in mind, she gives Anne solid advice on how to dissociate herself from David, but finds Matt oddly hostile to her story idea. And when Laurel later sees Matt in the city, despite his claim of being in Italy, she turns to the only person she thinks will understand her fears and, better still, know what to do about them.

This person is the redoubtable private investigator Helen McCorkendale, an older woman who happens to be dating Laurel’s father, Mike. She welcomes Laurel’s concerns as a refreshing break from the insurance investigation her old friend and ex-lover, Joe Santangelo, has asked her to help his company with. The case has led Helen unsettlingly close to the Mafia, so a simple background check seems like something quick and easy to close while she distances herself from the insurance case.

But then Anne disappears, leaving a letter in her abandoned car for Laurel, and the police get involved. This wouldn’t be so bad if the guy in charge of the investigation wasn’t Aaron Gerrard, a cop with whom Laurel had a disastrous break-up immediately before meeting Matt.

[Complications upon complications...]

Wed
Oct 9 2013 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Crooked Numbers by Tim O’Mara

Crooked Numbers by Tim O'MaraCrooked Numbers by Tim O'Mara is the second mystery featuring former NYPD cop turned Brooklyn teacher Raymond Donne (available October 15, 2013).

A former officer and a gentle man.

Tim O’Mara hit what many declared a long ball with his debut novel, Sacrifice Fly.  He might be on a streak given his second, Crooked Numbers. Protagonist Raymond Donne displays an identifiable swing—damaged cop turned schoolteacher can’t help but get involved when a former student dies—backed by teammates who include a newspaper reporter, an uncle who is head of detectives for the NYPD, and the bar buddy who serves as a go-to guy for IT and research needs. As in his debut, O’Mara also includes a helpful kid, the dead one’s good mom suffering through loss, and the glorious and squalid backdrop that is New York City.

In the new book, Donne has been named as Dean of Students at the private school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he taught during Sacrifice Fly. When he once more looks into the death of a former student, this time at the behest of the dead boy’s mother, the trail leads west. O’Mara describes the journey from what used to be one distinct city to another this way:

If you look at the New York City subway map, you’ll see that if you want to get from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, all you have to do is jump on the L train, transfer at Eighth Avenue to the C, and you’ll be there in only forty-five minutes. Maybe less. Five miles. Geographically.

Demographically, the Upper West Side might as well be on the other side of the world. It is an area where real estate is valued by the square foot, not by how many people you can squeeze into a two-bedroom apartment. Doctors and lawyers are your neighbors, not professionals you go to on really bad days. In this part of the city, the first sign of spring is not robins, but women on cell phones suddenly walking alongside their own babies’ strollers, as women whose skin is a few shades darker push their children for them.

[So many different lives in competition...]

Mon
Sep 16 2013 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye

Seven for a Secret, a Timothy Wilde thriller of historic New York City, by Lyndsay FayeSeven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye is the second historical crime novel featuring Timothy Wilde, a copper of Gotham's fledgling police force in 1846, sworn to uphold slave-catching laws while confronted by a vile trade that abducts even free people of color into bondage (available September 17, 2013).

Timothy Wilde knows New York City intimately, and it's spoiling for a fight. Heaving with change, beset by the tensions of industrial expansion, ethnic groups clash as the Civil War looms in the not-too distant future. His hometown is being inundated by Irish refugees of the potato famine, as well as free colored people, also vying for work and undercutting employment among the rest of the city's striving mish-mosh of residents. The reinforcement of nasty old bigotries and spawning of new ones would worry any man sworn to uphold order, but Timothy Wilde's also innately curious about people, a man who's rubbed shoulders with outcasts and empire-builders alike.

This city plays with its residents a mortal game of musical chairs, and when the langing pianofaorte shops, the consequence for the loser is either a slow death or a short one. There is simply not enough here. Not enough work, enough food, enough walls with roofs topping them. Maybe there would be if we filled in half the Atlantic. But today, there aren't enough chairs for the tens of thousands tearing their way into the parlor for a try.

[“...who pitches whom on the hardwood first?”]

Sat
Sep 14 2013 7:00pm

Set Your DVRs: Five New Crime TV Shows to Watch

According to TV Guide, there are fifty-seven new shows premiering this fall. Fifty-seven. That’s a lot of shows. Clearly, not all of them will succeed, but there are five new shows with criminal elements (ha) that I am excited about. So, I thought I’d share a bit about each one.

Here are my top five, in reverse order of interest (trailers included!):

5) Ironside

This is a remake of the late '60s, early seventies show starring Raymond Burr as Robert Ironside, a paraplegic chief of detectives who doesn’t mess around.  This version has been updated and features Blair Underwood (L.A. Law) as Ironside.  There has been some controversy, because a paraplegic actor was not given the Ironside role. Other stars include Brent Sexton (former Sheriff Hunter Mosely on Justified), Spenser Grammer, and Kenneth Choi.

Ironside premieres on NBC on October 2 at 10/9c.

[Rolling on...]

Sun
Aug 4 2013 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Good Girl, Bad Girl by Christopher Finch

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Christopher FinchGood Girl, Bad Girl by Christopher Finch is a debut novel featuring private investigator Alex Novalis, who's hunting for a missing girl in the art world of 1968's New York City (available August 6, 2013).

Booted from his gig at the D.A.’s office investigating art crime—primarily forgeries and fraud—Novalis isn’t all that keen on the idea of hunting down a rogue teenage girl, especially one who’s technically an adult. He would also prefer not to be answering to her wealthy parents or skulking around his old haunts in pursuit of an artist he finds distasteful at best, a guy last seen with the blonde, ethereal (and aren’t they always in this sort of story?) Lydia Kravitz.

“...I don’t know if you believe in evil, but to me it is something very real, something tangible that curdles the soul. Lydia has that quality of curdling the soul. What makes it so much worse is that she appears to be such an innocent. An angel. It’s an illusion.

Good Girl, Bad Girl is quite noir and at times it’s hard not to picture the classic P.I. in his trenchcoat and hat, even though Novalis is a bit more modern, a lot more artsy, and way more enlightened when it comes to the “gals.” What he is, rather, is a guy who likes to drink well enough, but given a choice he’d pick a joint. He knows art, artists, and has good tastes, but he’s cynical though perhaps not so much as some of his friends in art scene.

[Nothing nice to say? Please sit by me...]

Sun
Jul 7 2013 10:00am
Excerpt

Sugar Pop Moon by John Florio: New Excerpt

John Florio

Sugar Pop Moon by John FlorioSugar Pop Moon by John Florio is a debut crime novel set during Prohibition (available July 9, 2013).

Jersey Leo is the quintessential outsider—an albino of mixed race. Known as “Snowball” on the street, he makes a living as the bartender at a mob-run speakeasy in Prohibition-era Hell's Kitchen. Being neither black nor white, he has no group to call his own. His own mother abandoned him as a baby. And his father-a former boxing champ with his own secrets-disapproves of Jersey's work at a dive owned by one of New York's most notorious gangsters. So when he inadvertently purchases counterfeit moonshine (“sugar pop moon”) with his boss's money-a potentially fatal mistake-he must go undercover to track down the bootlegger who took him in. The clues lead to Philadelphia, where he runs into a cleaver-swinging madman out for his femurs and a cold-blooded gangster holed up on a Christmas-tree farm. Now with a price on his head in two cities, Jersey seeks help from the only man he can trust, his father. As the two delve into the origins of the mysterious sugar pop moon, stunning secrets about Jersey's past come to light. To ensure his future, Jersey must face his past, even if it means that life will never return to normal.

 

Chapter 1
1930

Nobody forgets running into an albino. At least that’s what Jimmy McCullough said the day he put me to work at the Pour House. He looked me straight in the eye and told me a four-eyed geezer could spot a bleached coon like me from a mile away.

“Stick to misdemeanors,” he said. “Because you’re sure as hell gonna get busted.”

I’ve since found out he was right.

I’m Jersey Leo, a walking cup of coffee with a splash too much milk, a steaming mug of cocoa with one too many marshmallows, a sideshow attraction in a circus that rolled into town when Prohibition started eleven years ago.

Business at the Pour House is booming—the bar is jammed and it’s not even six o’clock. All the regulars are here because they’ve got nowhere else to go: New York City is trudging its way through an afternoon snowstorm, not to mention a yearlong blizzard of pink slips.

The Pour House is fairly large; it takes up a doublewide brick row house at 323 West Fifty-Third Street. The building stands out from the blocks of decaying tenements and aborted dreams known as Hell’s Kitchen. It has its own walkway and stoop, not to mention a bouncer waiting to pat you down right inside the door. A dining room fills the front half of the place and holds eight polished mahogany tables. A pair of pocket doors separates it from the barroom, a square space with an L-shaped bar running across the back and right walls. It’s a far cry from a fancy nightclub, but the Pour House is friendly, familiar, and always open. Most of our customers are regulars—the place has them hooked by their wallets, their tongues, and their souls.

[Continue reading the excerpt from Sugar Pop Moon by John Florio...]