Sugar 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.
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...]