Fresh Meat: Shotgun Lullaby by Steve Ulfelder

In Shotgun Lullaby by Steve Ulfelder, Conway Sax must  help a recovering substance abuser who reminds him a little too much of his estranged son (available May 14, 2013).

The third Conway Sax novel by Steve Ulfelder opens with Conway beating down a guy over a lemon car sold to a new Barnburner, one Gus Biletnikov. In other words, Conway’s still acting as a half-assed investigator-slash-enforcer for the special group of AA members he credits with saving his life. And he’s still doing it with his perfect blend of heart, gruff, and bullheaded luck.

A long time ago, after more tries than you could count, I finally put together some sobriety. A couple of months, my longest dry stretch since I was fourteen.

It was awful. I didn’t know what I was doing. My knuckles were white, my teeth were ground to nubs, my nightmares lasted all day.

It was slipping away, and I knew it. I was feeling shame already over the next backslide. Had a feeling it would be the last one, the one that carried me all the way down.

And then I stumbled into a Barnburners meeting.

They were different. You saw it the minute you stepped into the basement at Saint Anne’s. The old-timers arranged fifteen or so chairs jury-style, so they could watch the speaker at the podium and keep an eye on the crowd, too. Anybody who spoke or laughed or sneaked out for a smoke earned a dirty look or a little talking-to. I learned that night the Barnburners’ watchword was “serious AA for serious people.”

Soon enough, I would learn more. The Barnburners were born after World War II of a bizarre wreck between AA, which was new at the time, and a vigilante biker group—combat veterans who trusted nobody but fellow dogfaces and took a blood oath to watch each other’s backs.

Barnburners take care of Barnburners. And the small Meeting After the Meeting crowd runs the show.

At its heart, though, Shotgun Lullaby is a book about family, biological and otherwise. And the Barnburners are definitely a kind of family. They look out for one another. They take care of each other’s problems. And they hold one another accountable.

The night Butch Feeley told me to stick around for the Meeting After the Meeting was and is the best night of my life. My silent vow: I would do anything this crowd asked me to.

And I do.

And I take the weight that comes with it.

Mary Giarusso—Switchboard Mary, gossip queen, organizer of events, keeper of the telephone tree—patted the bench next to her.

A ninety-two-year-old Barnburner who got confused easily had been ripped off by gypsy roofers. They’d squeezed him for eight thousand that he knew of, maybe more.

“Keeps it in a focking cigar box,” Carlos Q said. “I’ll take that one. Kick the shit out of these gypsies, then talk that fool into getting a savings account.”

“Isn’t that one more up my alley?” I said.

Most everybody looked at their hands or the picnic tables before them while Butch Feeley slipped Carlos Q a picture of the roofers’ license plate.

“What?” I said, picking up the vibe. They’d talked about me before I joined them. It was obvious.

Butch cleared his throat. “Whyn’t you sit this one out, Conway? Looks like your plate’s pretty full as it stands.”

I felt redness crawl up my neck. “I can handle both.”

“Don’t look to me like you can handle neither,” Carlos Q said, eye-locking me.

Conway is living with his girlfriend and her two kids, the oldest with an eating disorder, and her family is his family. He has an ex-wife he doesn’t really speak to and a grown son who won’t speak to him. It’s Roy, his son, who most has him feeling extra-loyal to Gus. Barnburners might look after Barnburners, but Gus hasn’t been with them that long. He’s only marginally one of theirs, but he looks too much like Roy. He does the things Conway wishes Roy still did—like riding dirt bikes with the old(er) man—but he also does some things Conway hopes to hell Roy doesn’t (namely the drugs that landed him in the Barnburners’ basement Meeting).

“Cokehead. Rehab kid. College kid. Big bullshitter. Probably doing AA because Daddy made him. I had to guess, I’d say he’ll quit the coke and drink like a fish for the next twenty years. Then he’ll come back to AA for real.”



“But you care about him a lot.”

I waved a hand. “I’m just helping out a Barnburner.”

“Nonsense.” She smiled.

“Okay. I like the kid. He’s got a heart. He’s scared. If he works at it, he could be a man.”

“What’s your next move? As if I didn’t know.”

“I need to figure out who’s got a problem with Gus.”

“And look into it.” She sighed as she spoke.

“Of course.”

“Conway Sax takes in another stray.” She said it softly. “He reminds you of your son. You can admit it to me. You might even want to admit it to yourself.”

“Everybody’s a damn shrink.”

Which is why, when three people get gunned down at the Almost Home halfway house—one of them in Gus’s room—Conway wants to make sure Gus wasn’t the target. Which means getting into Gus’s life, meeting his family, and finding out that there are people who make Conway’s domestic difficulties look positively quaint. (Three words: “Spurnings and strikings.”)

Not everyone comes out better than when they went in, especially Conway, who does a few more things he shouldn’t but has to. Not everyone gets a happy ending, but then, most of these characters are aiming for hanging on, keeping it together, and getting by. By those standards, most of them come out on top and the ones that don’t? Some you’ll mourn. Others you’ll feel they had it coming. Kind of like family.

See more coverage of new releases in our Fresh Meat series.

This Sweepstakes has Ended. See our Sweepstakes feature page for current opportunities.

To enter for a chance to win one of 3 hardcover copies of Shotgun Lullaby by Steve Ulfelder, make sure you’re logged in as a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, fill out entry at beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) May 13, 2013. Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 a.m. ET on May 20, 2013 (the “Promotion Period”). Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules at Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010

Neliza Drew is a tofu-eating teacher and erratic reader with a soft spot for crime fiction. She lives in the heat and humidity of southern Florida with three cats and her adorable hubby. She listens to way too much music, writes often, and spends too much time on Twitter (@nelizadrew).

Read all posts by Neliza Drew on Criminal Element.


  1. Gordon Bingham

    Looks very good!

  2. mosaix

    Special AA Barnburners! Yes!

  3. L L

    Nice excerpt

  4. T.D. Hart

    Conway Sax gets it wrong so often. He’s stubborn, scarred, and terrified of screwing it all up again.

    How can you not love a guy like that?


  5. Steve Ulfelder

    Neliza, I’m grateful for such a thoughtful take on the book – thank you!

  6. Kristen Heyl

    Sounds like a great book. I would love to win.

  7. Jody Darden

    Always looking for a good new read! This sounds like it fits the bill.

  8. Neliza Drew

    Thanks. It was a terrific read.

    @T.D. Hart

  9. Bob Keck

    I’m in recovery myself so I’ll bet I’d really enjoy this read. Thanks for offering this.

  10. Sheila Korman

    I would love to read this book—thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

  11. Max Cage

    I love this bit in the description:

    “…half-assed investigator-slash-enforcer for the special group of AA members he credits with saving his life.”

    Would love to read it!

  12. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read this book

  13. Jeffrey Tretin

    Thank you sounds great!

  14. Kat Emerick

    Sounds like an awesome book!!

  15. Dayna Foster

    Looks like an intriguing read

  16. Pam Howell

    The book sounds interesting. Thanks for the exerpt.

  17. Mike zinn

    Sounds great.

  18. Michael Gonzales

    Sounds like an interesting read

  19. vicki wurgler

    thanks this book does sound good

  20. Shaunterria Owens

    I love stories like this one – kind of reminds me of Easy Rawlings. Bullheaded and loyal to a fault 🙂

  21. Kelley Tackett

    Seriously, is there a better name than Conway Sax? I don’t think so.

  22. Linda Kish

    I would love to read this book.

  23. Deborah Dumm

    I can’t wait to read this series. Sounds very good!!!!!!!!

  24. erin f

    looks fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

  25. Judith Barnes

    Sounds like great summer reading.

  26. Marie-Louise Molloy

    [b]New to me author and series, would like to get better acquainted![/b]

  27. Karen Terry

    I just love to read and win books.

  28. ravensfan

    This looks like a great series. Would love to win the book!

  29. Suzanne Rorhus

    Can’t wait!

  30. Tina Branco

    Oh – I want more of this one. Enter me please.

  31. Nancy Zahar

    Thanks for the chance to win.

  32. Mary Ann Brady

    Sound like a really interesting read. Would love to win this Thx.

  33. Robin Weatherington

    [b]Looks great!![/b]

  34. Cheryl Rydberg

    Sounds like another good read. Thanks!

  35. Linda Deming

    Would love to read this series. Winning this book is the start of my wish list!

  36. Allison Moyer

    I love complex characters who don’t always get it right. Sounds like a good read. Thanks for the drawing!

  37. Gwen Stackler

    I am all over this one:)

  38. Terry Heald

    Lovin’ the thought of winning this one to read on vacation. Thanks for the sweepstakes opportunities.

  39. Joanne Mielczarski

    I’m ready to read – and win!

  40. Mike Rogers

    Looks great!

  41. charles weaver

    Sounds Great!
    Looking forward to a new Barnburners adventure.
    And a free copy would be even better!

  42. Suzanne Gonneville

    I love a good lullaby.

  43. Andrew Kuligowski

    Hi Neliza, from one Florida-based Drew (ANdrew in this case) to another!

    I haven’t read your material yet, but if the G-ds who run random draws are benevolent, I’ll be jumping in with this volume and then have to catch up.

  44. Lori Myers

    Sounds like a good read!

  45. Ginny Horton

    This sounds like a great read with a complex character. I love the fact that Hank Phillippi Ryan gave a recommendation on the cover. Thanks for the opportunity to win. I’m not acquainted with Steve Ulfelder’s books but really impressed that he was an Edgar Award finalist.

  46. Joyce Mitchell

    Sounds interesting – thanks for the chance to win.

  47. caite fitzgerald

    loved the first two. can’t wait to get my hands on this one, one way or another. but to win one would be best! 😉

  48. Cindi Hoppes

    I loved the previous two books by this author…It would be
    great to win this third book!
    Many thanks, Cindi

  49. Linda Rodriguez

    I love Steve Ullfelder’s books! And this one looks absolutely terrific!

  50. Rosemary Simm

    I haven’t read any of Steve Ullfelder’s books, but I really love his character, Conway Sax. He isn’t that know it all type, but rather bumbles through life like the rest of us. Sounds like a good series to read.

  51. Karen Appleby

    Would love to be the winner of this book. Always looking to add new authors to my favotire’s list.

  52. Jim Belcher

    Bikers, veterans, crime. What a mix. cannot wait.

  53. William Hamilton

    I haven’t been able to find Steve Ullfelder’s books in our local bookstores or library. Hope I get a chance to read this one.

  54. Angela Dyrcz

    Looks like a good one!

  55. Kay Gornick

    Looking forward to this.

  56. shannon Baas

    I would love this.

  57. Marguerite Beal

    Looks like a good summer read.

  58. Anita Yancey

    Sounds like a really great read. I would really enjoy it. Thanks for this chance.

  59. Dan Carr

    Sounds like I will like this!

  60. Kent Hill

    Thank you for the peek at a new novel. Looking forward to reading this in its entirety.

  61. Justine Heredia

    Awesome title! Love shot guns but what chick doesn’t?

  62. Pat Murphy

    Just what I need for a summer read.

  63. Barbara

    can’t wait to win!

  64. Janet Stewart

    Would love to read this one!

  65. Deanna Stillings

    New author to me. Count me in….Dee

  66. Dorothy Hayes

    I love crime fiction that addresses current issues, put me down for this one!

  67. Jackie Wisherd

    I would enjoy reading this book. Great title.

  68. Tricha Leary

    Would love these

  69. peter greene

    Sounds like an interesting puzzle

  70. susan beamon

    Murder mystery in the adiction community sounds like puzzles within puzzles compounded by the desire to avoid dealing with problems and the desire for severe privacy. What a tangled web for our hero to wander in and maybe untangle. Let me have a copy of this one.

  71. MaryC

    Would love to read it.

  72. Melissa Dials

    Two faves–mysteries and families with problems!

  73. Heather Martin

    Books with messed up, but decent, characters are the most fun to read.

  74. Steven Wilber

    Looks interesting

  75. barbara studer


  76. John Maline

    Lets get it on!

  77. David Vinther

    sounds good

  78. Charles Fraker

    Thanks for the contest. Looks like another good read.

  79. Tiffany Duncan

    Sounds good!

  80. lynette barfield

    Love his books. Would love to have a copy.

  81. Steve Ulfelder

    Good luck everyone!

  82. Vicky Boackle

    this looks terrific.

  83. Doris C. Losey

    loved the first two in this series.

  84. cheryl wong

    looks like a good read

  85. runner

    Groovy Shotgun!

  86. Susan Mahaffey

    Looks like a great read. Hope I win!!!

  87. Juli Lear

    Looks like a good series. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  88. Bruce Hamilton

    This is my kind of a book

  89. Anna Mills

    I have nothing to say other than I will MAKE time to read this!!

  90. Brenda Tucker

    Sounds like a great read, thanks.

  91. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  92. Debbie Lucas

    Books for beach time!

  93. Taylor Duncan

    Sounds awesome!

  94. Taylor Duncan

    Sounds awesome!

  95. Patricia Nicklas

    Looks like a good read. Enjoyed the excerpt

  96. Brandi Drake

    Sounds interesting!

  97. lynette barfield

    Would love a copy.

  98. Shauntea Crutcher

    I would love to read this book.

  99. John Clark

    Sounds like one I want to read and then add to our library mystery collection.

  100. vickie dailey

    characters sound interesting – think it would be a great read – thanks for the opportunity to win

  101. Marisa Young

    New author to read – great!

  102. Diane Chenier

    My kind of read.

  103. Daniel Morrell

    sounds like a good one!

  104. Lori Walker

    This book has a great cover!

  105. CherylMc

    seems to be good read

  106. vanessagalore

    I liked the first book in this series, and I’ll be reading this one as well.

  107. Michael Lee Smith

    I really relate to this book .. can’t wait to read it

  108. Susan Smith

    Sounds great

  109. Ed Nemmers

    I would love to read the work of Steve Ulfelder!

  110. Brenda Elsner

    Sounds like another great read!!

  111. Kari Flores

    Looks like a good book, would love to read it.

  112. liz l

    Seems like a good book

  113. Peter Tomaszewicz

    Reading is fundamental

  114. Shirley Zolenski

    Awesome giveaway!!! Thanks

  115. Buddy Garrett

    It sounds great. Thanks.

  116. Theresa Kim

    would like to win!

  117. Tim Moss

    Count me in!

  118. Sand Lopez

    Sounds like a good one!

  119. Cassandra Marquez

    count me in for a copy 🙂

  120. Helen Gibbs

    Sounds like a good read for summer.

  121. Daniel Vice

    This looks great

  122. Edward Vandenberg

    This looks like a good book. Thanks for the excerpt.

  123. Heather Cowley

    I’m ready for it. Boom!

  124. LeAnn Knott

    Looks like a good book for the front porch reads this summer!!! I need a little mystery!

  125. matt lehman

    looks like a winner!

  126. Joe Hauser

    Very nice!

  127. Helen Gibbs

    Seems like a good book.

  128. Debra Kidle

    Hope to win!

  129. David Kidle

    This book sounds like a great read!

  130. Patricia Fultz

    Looks good!

  131. Dayna Foster

    Looks like it will be an exciting read

  132. Loren Palmer

    sounds great, i’m all in!

  133. cheryl HEAD

    love the cover art.

Comments are closed.

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