Thursday, June 12, 2008

The P-Town Murders excerpt by Jeffrey Round

In the P-Town Murders by Jeffrey Round, Agatha Christie meets Oscar Wilde with a dash of Mae West - a high-camp, madcap, She-Done-Him-Wrong murder mystery with a pair of unforgettable gay heroes at its core.

In a place that’s “to die for,” no one expects to die for real. So muses undercover detective Bradford Fairfax after an anonymous caller reveals to him that his ex-boyfriend, party boy Ross Pretty, has died from an ecstasy overdose in “the gayest place on earth” — Provincetown, Massachusetts. Brad takes time out from his current assignment—preventing the assassination of the Dalai Lama—to bury Ross. But as the body of another “overdose” victim washes up on the shores of P-Town, Brad becomes convinced that Ross’s death is no accident, and his intention to bury his former lover suddenly turns into a full-scale murder investigation.

The P-Town Murders
Cormorant Books reprint (June,2008)
ISBN: 9781897151280

Excerpt: Chapter 2

The towers of Boston receded as the water churned beneath the big boat. Sunlight winked on the waves. Despite the bright September afternoon, the air was cool. Brad waited till the city had all but disappeared before making his way inside the cabin.

He looked around at the gay men sporting their festive moods and colourful clothes, the stylish lesbians accompanied by wellgroomed dogs, and a handful of straight families with fiercely hip three-year-olds doing intergalactic battle on Game Boys. Somehow, these wildly different tribes all managed to get along together in Provincetown.

Over in a far corner, a handsome muscular man sat clad only in a pair of boxers. Brad’s eyes played over the sculpted chest, plucked to within an inch of its derma’s life. The man’s stomach was so flat it was concave. Brad felt a twinge of abdomen envy mixed with a tingling of lust.

Across the table from the boxer-clad beauty, a slightly plump young man leaned forward, frowning with effort as he applied makeup to the demigod.

I’d like to be his blush brush, thought Brad.

The near-naked man turned and caught Brad’s eye. His smile flashed fun across the cabin. And maybe something else.

“Don’t move!” squeaked the makeup artist. “You’ll ruin my work.”

Brad smiled. Only on the P-Town ferry! He moved on till he came to the snack bar, stopping to stare at an assortment of snacks beneath the glass. Hardly anything nonfat or low carb, he noted grimly. At his neighbourhood supermarket, Brad shopped exclusively in what he called the “No Fat-No Fun” section. Maybe it was time to live a little.

He decided on an apple turnover, giving himself a mental slap on the wrist. Just one won’t hurt, he thought, though he knew that was always how it started.

The server looked at him with concern. “You sure you want this?” he asked, as though he’d read Brad’s mind. Brad flushed and thought of his midriff. Was it showing already?

“It might get a bit rough out there,” the man said, with a nod toward the water.

Brad smiled. “I like it rough.” No reaction from the server. Brad’s smile faltered. Definitely straight, he decided. “I’ll be okay,” he said with a shrug. “I’ve done this trip before.”

“All right,” the man said. “Just thought I should warn you.”

“I stand warned.”

Brad continued through the cabin, settling in to read the New York Times, a publication he liked to refer to as “that amusing concoction of lies.” Two front-page stories vied for his attention: Hurricane Isabel was threatening offshore Maryland, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was threatening the rest of America in his campaign to become governor of California.

“I’m not afraid of Democrats,” Arnie declared in a fervent interview. “I married one.”

Isabel was a woman of fewer words, but her 150-mph winds kept the country’s attention regardless.

It wasn’t until he reached the back page of section one that Brad found a brief write-up on the Dalai Lama’s upcoming lecture series in New York. To conclude his visit, the guru-in-exile had scheduled an open-air talk in Central Park the following Sunday. If Grace was so worried about him, Brad wondered, why didn’t she just advise him to cancel his trip? Of course there could be any number of reasons, but it seemed the sensible solution.

He’d just finished the article when a loud squawking burst from the back of the cabin. He looked up to see Marilyn Monroe charging through the room. It was the man in boxers, now wearing a platinum wig and false eyelashes. He teetered through the cabin on high heels, a pink boa trailing behind.

“Help! Save me!” Marilyn cried to the room as everyone erupted in laughter.

“Norma Jean, I am not finished with you!” the makeup artist screamed as he raced after the charging figure.

The fugitive spied Brad sitting with his paper and suddenly turned coy. He sashayed over and ran the boa’s feathery tip across Brad’s cheeks.

“Hey, big boy!” he whispered in imitation of a very-Hollywood Marilyn. “How’s about a little fun later, just you and me?”

“Norma Jean!”

Brad suddenly found his face pressed into the man’s taut midriff.

“Please don’t let them take me,” Marilyn cooed in mock fright. His voice lowered and Brad thought he heard the man say, “I know who you are. I’ve got to talk to you about Ross Pretty.”

Before Brad could react, the irate makeup artist reached his prey. “I’m not finished with you!” he cried, grabbing the unfinished Marilyn by the biceps and pulling him out of the room.

Marilyn gave Brad a last reluctant glance. “And I’m not finished with you, honey,” he crowed over the crowd’s approving roar. “By the way, everybody,” he said, turning to the room. “I’d like to take this opportunity to invite y’all to my show at the Post Office Cabaret, starting tomorrow night!”

Brad watched, intrigued, as Marilyn disappeared in a flurry of high heels and feathers.

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