Monday, October 26, 2009

As You Are excerpt by Ethan Day

In As You Are by Ethan Day, all bartender and recent college graduate Julian Hallowell has had on his mind the past year is Operation Danny. Julian may have no idea what he wants to do with his life, but he definitely knows he‘s in love with the boy next door: the next door down the hall to be exact, housing his roommate and used textbook store owner Danny Wallace.

While Julian has done his level best to make Danny fall for him, all his hard work has been in vain. Danny doesn’t seem to view Julian as anything other than a roommate and friend. So when new guy in town Andy Baker asks him out on a date, Julian can’t think of a good reason to say no.

Instead, he institutes a Reverse Operation Danny plan, which he’s positive will purge all thoughts of love and lust for his roomie out of his head. He’s ready to move on and start looking for his next Mr. Right, and Andy just might fit the bill. But has he given up too soon?

As You Are
Loose ID (September 29, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1-60737-440-4


Feather duster in hand, I danced around the apartment shaking my groove thang. Annie Lennox was blaring from the speakers. I shimmied across the wood floors in my socks and yelled out over the music in my game-show-host voice, “With a CD titled Diva, this is the segment of the population to which Miss Lennox was trying to cater.” I shimmied back in the opposite direction. “Who are big nelly queers, Alex?”

Sliding across the wood floors like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, I stopped in front of the mirror, lifted the feather duster up to my face, and sang along with “Walking on Broken Glass.” I thrust my hips, doing my Elvis impersonation, and laughed at myself. My parents both loved Elvis. It wound up being one of the few things they had in common. I'd taught myself to do the wild hip-thrusting dance when I was about eight or nine. Not many things could put a smile on both of their faces simultaneously, but that was one of them.

I shook my hips and shoulders while admiring my ensemble as reflected back to me from the mirror. An old pair of cutoff jeans, an homage to the summer vacations spent at the lake as a kid. They was paired with one of the white wifebeaters I'd stolen from Danny. It had a spaghetti stain from the time Danny and I had waged a food war in the kitchen. Completing the picture: a red bandanna tied around my head like a biker boy.

I thrust my hands out into the air, letting my spirit fingers fly freely as I sang along with Annie about no longer caring for sugar.

“You need to lay off the sugar, anyway,” Danny said from behind me as he kicked the front door closed.

I jumped about a mile off the floor, placing the fisted feather duster over my rapidly beating heart. Danny burst out laughing and walked over to the kitchen counter to set down the canvas grocery bags.

“I'm such a heifer, I know.” I composed myself as I meandered over to the stereo and turning down the volume. “I had a double mochaccino and, like, twelve Hershey's Kisses for breakfast.”

“Great, candy is like crack to you. Now I'm going to have to survive another Julie sugar rush.”

“Don't knock it.” I pointed the feather duster at him. “My little fixes are what keep this apartment clean.” Danny was wearing an old pair of worn jeans that snuggly wrapped around his business, and an old Dave Matthews Band T-shirt.

“You just need another outlet to pour all that pent-up energy into.”


“No…like fucking.”

Pointing the feather duster toward his delectably denim-wrapped crotch, I asked, “Is there any decision that you don't make with that thing?”

“Which deodorant to use?” he mused, unpacking the bags. “No, wait, I'm pretty sure it was the muscular arm holding the hammer that made me choose Arm and Hammer deodorant.”

“You're hopeless… I sure hope you never suffer from erectile dysfunction. Your whole world would fall apart.”

“Hey!” He spun around with a serious expression. “That's not funny. I suppose you'd consider that some sort of cosmic justice.”

“You reap what you sow,” I said with a big cheesy grin.

“Julie, sex isn't a bad thing. As long as you have two consenting adults and everyone has a good time, who are you hurting? Besides, I've never heard any complaints.”

“How could you? You have 'em out the door before the sweat has time to dry.”

“That's not true.” Danny laughed. “God, you exaggerate.” He sighed and went back to emptying the grocery bags. “Do you want to grab a bite to eat before the reading?”

“Sure,” I said, “or we could just fix something here.”

“I don't think so.” Danny looked at me briefly before sauntering up to me and lightly rubbing his finger over the stain on my shirt. “This is what happened the last time we tried that.”

Goose bumps ran amok over my entire body as he stroked my stain. We stood looking at one another and smiling. He pulled the feather duster out of my hand and set it on the counter behind him, then he picked up the roll of paper towels and Windex, and shoved one into each of my hands. Placing his massive man-hands on my shoulders, he twirled me around, swatted me on the butt, and said, “Get back to work before I have to take you over my knee.”

I stood there for a few minutes mulling over that mental picture. Feeling my cock spring to attention, I thought, Good Christ, I do need to get laid. I nodded my head as I ogled the roll of paper towels in my hand. I decided to clean the bathroom first: kill two birds with one stone.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Golden Age of Gay Fiction edited by Drewey Wayne Gunn, excerpt by Victor J Banis

This excerpt from The Gay Publishing Revolution by Victor J. Banis is included in The Golden Age of Gay Fiction, edited by Drewey Wayne Gunn.

The Golden Age of Gay Fiction
MLR Press (September 16, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1608200485
ISBN-13: 978-1608200481


The rise of gay fiction in the aftermath of WWII coincided with the explosion in popularity of the paperback novel, and paperback books weren’t distributed or sold beside their hardcover cousins in the bookstores of the day. They were distributed along magazines, newspapers, and periodicals and sold mostly in bus terminals, train stations, drugstores, and five and dimes. The proprietors of drugstores, dime stores, et al., gave little thought to the high-mindedness of the literary and library mavens. If the garish covers with smoking guns, lascivious women, and from time to time, a half-naked man could sell books and boost profits, who cared what the critics thought? Cheap books, widely available in nontraditional outlets, made it easier to spread the word.

Contributing significantly to the availability of these choices was a new phenomenon that appeared in the early 1960s and is not often mentioned in the histories of the period, but which had great influence on what was to follow — the paperback bookstore, the very concept of which was revolutionary. By the early 1960s, paperbacks were no longer limited to the outlets to which they had previously been restricted. And it was the publishers on the fringe, the publishers of sex-oriented material, who were leading the charge. In the late 1950s and the early 1960s, a handful of publishers, most of them on the West Coast, had begun publishing and distributing sexy magazines and periodicals, and in time they added paperback novels to their wares. As these grew in popularity, bookstores devoted to them began to open in major cities like Los Angeles and New York. By 1962 most cities of any size had entire bookstores specializing in the enormously popular paperback books. At first, most of these publications were heterosexually oriented, but in time gay magazines and fiction found their way into the mix as well. It was in this different kind of bookstore where the new genre of gay paperback fiction would eventually be found. The gay male could walk into one of these stores and for the first time ever choose books of a kind never before available to him.

The Fall of Valor and The Divided Path were not, of course, the only works of gay fiction. There were others. Sometimes even so-called legitimate novels touched on homosexuality. James Jones’s From Here to Eternity (1951), for instance, had a homosexual subplot, a queer network hidden within the army, though that was whitewashed out of the movie. In Mickey Spillane’s Vengeance Is Mine (1950), tough guy Mike Hammer spends the novel lusting after femme fatale Juno before in the final pages ripping off her dress. Midst the fabric, bangles, and spangles dropping to the floor, it’s easy to miss the mention of foam rubber, but there’s no missing Spillane’s dramatic finale: “Juno was a man.” In all, we were mostly freaks or creeps, alcoholics or molesters.

And the truth is that it’s easy to list the books because there were, alas, so few of them. It especially seemed so at the time, perhaps because in those early days, before the paperback bookstore, they were so hard to find. Often, finding them was a matter of happenstance — as a teenager, for instance, I discovered a copy of The Divided Path on the paperback rack of Campbell’s drugstore in my little hometown of Eaton, Ohio. Ideally, you had a friend in a local bookstore who would let you know when something “of special interest” came available. Even when you found the books, however, it was often difficult to find the homosexuality in them. Sometimes it was so discreet as to be nearly undetectable.

There was a sad similarity to most of these books too. Michael Bronski describes this early gay fiction (in Writing Below the Belt, ed. Michael Rowe, 1997): “Young boy comes to New York, meets people in the theater, gets fucked over, and then commits suicide.” All of it wasn’t that bad — Lonnie Coleman’s Sam (1959) comes to mind as a notable exception — but the description certainly fitted a large portion of what was available.

While the publishing world did not have the sort of Hays Office moral code that the movies of the 1940s and 1950s had, neither did publishing exist in a vacuum. A publisher could do books on any number of sinful subjects: drug abuse, for instance, or rape — or homosexuality. But to do so was to take a certain risk. The essential point for the publisher was that he must not seem to espouse these behaviors nor condone them; to present these activities in a positive light was to invite criminal charges. It must be made clear that these were bad people, doing naughty things for which they must be punished by the end of the book. For gay protagonists, that mostly meant cure or kill. Here, then, is why the possibility of “happy ever after” simply did not exist in that early fiction. To have introduced that kind of choice for the characters would have been seen as approving of or espousing a homosexual lifestyle — a sure invitation to arrest and prosecution.

From the earliest days, writing and publishing gay fiction was dangerous. Editors and publishers were routinely arrested. The story is told that H. Lynn Womack, founder of Guild Press, worked for a time out of a mental institution where he was hiding from the police.

... by the late-1960s I was not only a writer myself, and a very busy and prolific one, but an editor, a writing instructor, an agent, and a publisher. With my partners, employees, students, and clients, I was supplying a very large portion of what was being published in gay fiction and nonfiction. Not until I looked back some years later was I able to fully appreciate the impact that we had on the publishing scene of that time. There was a joke in the industry then that the gay publishing revolution had mostly occurred at my kitchen table, and there was more than a grain of truth in that. It was a rare afternoon that did not see several of us consulting around that table. It was exciting, if a bit exhausting.

We were a motley crew. Jim Westlake’s exposé Prison Confidential (1969) had to be smuggled out of the Ohio State Penitentiary, where he was an inmate at the time. Since then there have been other writers writing from prison, but at the time this was sensational stuff.

Lance Lester (Cruising Horny Corners, 1967) was George Davies, a writer for the Disney people, who, as another sideline, did stories for a series of underground pornographic comic books of Mickey, Donald, et al. — gosh, didn’t the Disney folks want to find out who he was! George also wrote a hilarious spoof of the Loon books, Fruit of the Loon (1968), as Ricardo Armory.

What’s really important in all this, though, was not my success nor that of my writers, but that the genre of gay publishing had arrived — gay paperback publishing, at least; the hardcover publishers were slower to get on the bandwagon, though they got around to it in time. Suddenly, gay fiction went from being under the counter to occupying entire walls in bookstores — even entire bookstores and, eventually, entire publishing houses.

In the decade leading up to 1966, when my first gay books were published by Greenleaf, there were probably no more than two or three dozen genuinely gay novels published. In the decade following, there were thousands — probably no one can say with any certainty how many — some say as many as ten thousand, though the actual figure is almost certainly less than this; still, the very fact of that perception in itself says something about what happened. For the most part, these books were free from the burden of tragic endings or the limitations of genre. Perhaps the most dramatic change of all was that we were now free to write about gay people and the lives they really lived.

Not all these books, of course, were published by Greenleaf Classics, but many of them were. It was indisputably Greenleaf and its editor Earl Kemp who had led the way, who had opened the doors. So, yes, we had brought about a true revolution in gay publishing — and for the most part in that interim between 1965 (and more significantly, 1966) and 1969, which is to say, before the uprising at Stonewall. While historians treat gay political history as Before Stonewall and After Stonewall, in the publishing revolution it was mostly Before Greenleaf and After Greenleaf. Or more accurately, Before Earl Kemp and After Earl Kemp.

By writing at such length about the contributions of Earl Kemp and Greenleaf to gay publishing, I may be giving some false impressions which I should perhaps correct: Earl Kemp was and is heterosexual. Greenleaf was never exclusively, nor even primarily, a gay publishing house. For all the enormous numbers of gay books that they published, gay material nevertheless remained by far the lesser part of their total output.

Greenleaf was established by fantasy and sci-fi wunderkind William Hamling and New York literary agent Scott Meredith, though Meredith remained throughout a very silent partner.

Though the new publishing house justified its existence by printing paperback editions of classic novels, the intent from the beginning was to jump into the then-blossoming sexual revolution. Of course, they wanted to make some money by doing so, but there was also a conscious desire, certainly on the part of Earl, to contribute to what they saw as some fundamental and large-scale changes in American society.

Homosexual material was not a major goal for the newly established Greenleaf. Nevertheless when Earl Kemp bought The Why Not, he saw that novel as a way of advancing gay themes, a worthy frontier for their censorship battles.

The Guild Press and DSI were the first two publishing houses devoted exclusively to publishing gay works, but as victims of aggressive federal harassment both had suffered checkered histories, and by the early 1970s both were gone. In 1975, Winston Leyland launched the Gay Sunshine Press in San Francisco, and in 1977 in New York, Felice Picano launched Seahorse Press. What is significant in the efforts of Leyland and Picano is that they were able to venture into this realm with relative impunity without the fear of prosecution and possible imprisonment that haunted Lynn Womack, Earl Kemp, and the rest of us only a few years before. And that is due, of course, to those others, in particular Greenleaf Classics, who, regardless of their heterosexual primacy, had fought the battle to legitimize gay themes.

And it is due as well to all the many writers who made possible the kinds of books eventually offered by these newer publishers.

But that battle was still being fought in those years between 1966 and 1969, and we were just beginning to appreciate what was being won. It was a heady experience to come out from under the covers, to be able to go into a store and buy not one, but two, three, a dozen books of whatever sort we wanted. Funny books, scary books, cookbooks, westerns, mysteries — they were all there. And so were we. We held hands in these new books — and held hands eventually as we shopped. We walked together in the pages of those paperbacks and marched right out of the pages to walk — and eventually march — together in the streets. We shopped. And cruised. And chatted. And began to perceive that we were far less alone than we had heretofore thought.

And yes, I do believe that it was here, as much as anywhere — among the beefcake covers and the campy titles and the astonishing variety of stories and themes that were suddenly there for us to choose from — that the sense of community, of oneness, first took seed.

The paperback books of the 1960s weren’t just books to those of us writing and publishing them. They were our town hall meetings, where the newly emerging gay community first began to exchange ideas. They were our forum, our agora. They were statements as much as they were entertainment, a message to the rest of the gay world that new choices were there for them, in and out of our books. A message that a generation of gays and lesbians got and shared and that would soon lead to Stonewall and The Castro and the entire gay political revolution.

By the time Golden Sunshine Press and Seahorse Press were launched in the wake of Stonewall, gay publishing had already come of age. Our gay publishing revolution had already been accomplished.
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Man's Best Friends excerpt by P. A. Brown

In Man's Best Friends by P. A. Brown, New Mexico, the land of enchantment, weaves a spell of love around Todd Richards and veterinarian Dr. Keith Anderson as they struggle to make their love work amid terrible loss, betrayal and rustlers and make their dream of a bed & breakfast in Santa Fe a reality.

Man's Best Friends by P.A. Brown
MLR Press
ISBN# 978-1-6082--074-0 (print)
ISBN#978-1-60820-075-7 (ebook)


"Hold her head. Whatever you do, do not let her up."

I was practically sitting on Sally's head. Horses are funny animals. They can weigh in at over half a ton of nearly solid muscle, yet if you can immobilize their heads, you can prevent them from moving. That's what I was trying to do with Sally's Mark.

My lover, life partner, and best friend Dr. Keith Anderson lay stretched out on the stall floor. He had stripped off his shirt, and normally the sight of his beautifully sculptured bare chest would have had me thinking lascivious thoughts of how absolutely fuckable he was. But right now he was lying flat on his side, covered in straw, and blood, and other unimaginable filth, with one arm stuffed up a horse's ass. Definitely not the thing to inspire lustful thoughts.

I kept my eyes glued on the opposite, fly-specked wall. Normally I'm a pretty tough guy, but the sight of all that blood and writhing animal flesh was doing a real number on my stomach. I could hear a sickening squelching sound, and I wished I could redirect my ears as well as my eyes, but all I could do was to try to think of something else. Golf. Baseball stats. How about them Dodgers?

Keith grunted, and my eyes skated over him, instantly regretting the trip. His sinuous chest was sheathed in blood and straw, and his muscles stood out in stark relief as he strained to turn the breached foal inside our favorite mare. Keith caught my eye and frowned.

"Shit, Todd, you look green," he muttered. But if I was expecting sympathy, I was disappointed. All I got after that was, "Don't you dare throw up."

I ground my teeth together and looked away again.

"That's my baby," Keith said, and I smiled -- until I realized he was talking to the damned horse. "Come on, girl. We just have to get this little guy turned for you to do your job. But you gotta be ready, hon. That's a good girl."

I don't know if it worked on her, but it did a wonderful job of soothing me. Not that I wouldn't rather be anywhere else – grocery shopping, sleeping, enduring an audit of the books for the IRS – but any time I got to be with Keith was a plus in my ledger book. I'd loved the man passionately since I'd first met him a little over a year ago. It had been love at first sight for both of us when I took one of my dogs in to see the new vet. Love at first sight for the two humans, that is, though I like to think the dogs loved him too. It hadn't always been smooth sailing since then; we'd had our ups and downs. But now we ran this picturesque little bed and breakfast, just outside Santa Fe, that was doing very well, and added nicely to the income Keith brought in as a veterinarian, with a mixed small and large animal practice. It had sounded so glamorous when he told me he'd be looking after the equine trade, too. I hadn't realized at the time what that meant. If I'd known it meant middle-of-the-night sojourns up some pregnant mare's birth canal, I might have told him to reconsider -- at least, if he expected me to be part of the package.

Usually I'm not part of the deal. That was an honor that normally fell to our horse wrangler, Darrel, but he was with his own pregnant lady right now, our assistant manager, Mandy. She was having some kind of false labor pains, and Darrel refused to leave her side. So I was stuck with sitting on Sally's head while the love of my life swam in blood and guts and stuff I didn't want to think about. Talk about the end to a romantic evening.

We'd been invited to a posh gig at the home of one of Santa Fe's socialites, Mrs. Emanuel Henry Dominguez. Keith's parents had long been members of the Santa Fe community, and Keith had inherited their social standing. At first the socialites hadn't known what to make of this wealthy, good-looking, gay man, so they had tried to treat him like a bachelor. But Keith would have none of that. Invitations he received that didn't include my name were summarily rejected. The town socialites might have gone along with that, if Keith hadn't been such a big supporter of their favorite causes. As it was, they'd had to reconsider their priorities, and now the invitations to their soirees were routinely addressed to Dr. Keith Anderson and Todd Richards. The expediency of money.

This particular evening had been fun. We had attended the opening of a new art gallery featuring paintings I could actually understand, and a wine and cheese party that had edible food. I was in seventh heaven. After we arrived home, I entertained visions of tumbling Keith into bed for a late night romp when he decided to check up on Sally's Mark.

So there I was sitting on her head, trying not to watch the love of my life climb halfway up inside the mare in an attempt to save her foal.

"That's it. Now you're coming," Keith crooned encouragement. "Push now, girl. You're almost there."

I felt Sally's Mark heave under me, and her entire body went rigid. Then I heard more squelching sounds, and this time when I looked, I saw something wet and squirmy lying on the damp straw beside Sally. Under me, Sally gave a guttural sigh and lay still.

"Let her up, Todd." Keith was busy at the other end when I climbed to my feet and watched Sally heave herself up, shaking straw and lethargy away from her. She swung around to stare at the bloody heap on the floor between Keith's legs.

"Come on, girl. Get over here and have a look at him. How's my girl? Come have a look at your little stud."

Sally stuck her nose down and rumbled something in her broad chest. The little colt that Keith had done a fair job of cleaning up wiggled under his touch.

Keith and I backed away from the pair. It was up to Sally now. She had to bond with her new foal, and give him his all-important first feeding, or all Keith's efforts were going to come to nothing.

We held our breath as Sally snuffled at the newborn. Then she nuzzled it, and it jerked its knobby head up and made a minuscule sound that was barely audible in the big box stall. Sally reacted to it.

She snorted and began nosing the foal in earnest. She licked him vigorously. In turn the foal began to try to get its spindly legs up under it. When the foal actually tottered to its feet less than ten minutes later, I knew we had a winner on our hands.

"And look!" I whispered fiercely. "He's a paint. Look at the chest on that thing!"

The little red and white newborn stood beside its exhausted mother and windmilled its tiny stump of a tail in circles. Its nose was buried between mom's legs, searching for that all-important first drink. We left them to get acquainted, and walked back to the house arm in arm. I was no longer mindful of the crud all over Keith; I was too tired to care, and I felt too damned good over the new arrival. For his part, Keith was as depleted as the mare, and just as exhilarated.
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Monday, October 5, 2009

Like Coffee and Doughnuts excerpt by Elle Parker

In Like Coffee and Doughnuts by Elle Parker, Dino Martini is an old-school P.I. in a modern age. Sure, he may do most of his work on a computer, but he carries a gun, drives a convertible, and lives on the beach. Best friend and mechanic Seth Donnelly will back him in a fight, and there's not a lot more Dino could ask from life.

Until his world is turned upside down.

A dangerous case and a new apartment are just the start. His friendship with Seth has turned into a romance, only Dino has never had a boyfriend before. Can he handle this sudden twist? Just as he begins to believe it's possible, he loses Seth in more ways than one...

Like Coffee and Doughnuts
Lyrical Press (May 18, 2009)
ISBN: 978-0-9824170-5-8


When I went into Ed's Garage looking to get backup from my friend Seth, I knew immediately my job was going to be harder than I'd thought. Seth and his latest "date," a blonde with short spiky hair and pretty legs, were tangled up on top of a red Ford Torino necking like the world was coming to an end. Neither one of them had a shirt on, but she wore a black and pink polka dot bra. She also wore a pale green skirt under which Seth's hand had disappeared. My timing wasn't good, but I was glad I hadn't come any later.

She saw me first and gave me a pretty smile, apparently not too disturbed by a stranger walking in on her fun. Seth was doing something to her neck that might have been kissing, but reminded me of the way he ate.

She prodded him and said, "Hey, we've got company."

When Seth raised his head, he looked surprised, but that quickly changed to irritation when he saw who it was. He didn't need to say a word for me to know exactly what he was thinking.

I smiled. "I thought you had to have the hood up to do a tune up."

"Not when we start with me first," he said. "Don't you have someplace better to be?"

"I'm sorry, I had no choice. Believe me, I did not want to do this, but duty calls."

"Tell duty to call back in about an hour, Dino." He went back to what he'd been doing.

"You're Dino?" the girl asked, lighting up. "I've heard about you."

"Dino Martini, at your service," I said. "Nice...bra."

"Thanks." She grabbed a fistful of Seth's hair and pulled him up to look at her. 'Don't be rude to your friend. He's obviously here for something important."

"He's here because whatever job he's got going this evening involves a high likelihood of him getting his ass kicked." He turned to look at me. "Am I wrong?"

I shrugged. "Hard to say with a case like this, but I don't like to take chances."

"What now?" Seth looked defeated already, which was good, because it meant this wouldn't be nearly as difficult as I'd thought.

"Cheating wife," I said. "You know how those can be."

"Yeah, yeah, all right."

Seth Donnelly is about five foot seven, has an unruly mop of carrot colored hair, and although he's thirty-three, he often acts like he's twelve. He's my mechanic, but he's also been a good friend for a lot of years, and there's no one I'd rather have next to me in a fight.

He slid off the hood of the car and told the girl, "I guess I'm gonna have to catch you some other time."

"That's okay," she said, climbing down and pulling her shirt on. "I have to get to work anyway. Can you look at my car tomorrow?"

"Sure, bring it by after three."

She gave him a quick kiss, got in the Ford and drove out, turning left, toward the beach. I was willing to bet she worked in one of the tourist bars down in John's Pass.

"Sorry about that," I said, turning to Seth.

"No sweat. Buy me dinner and we're square. She's cute enough, but her brother's the one I'd really like to nail."

I shook my head. "You bring a whole new meaning to the word 'sleaze', you know that?"

"Oh, come on, it's not like that. She knows. She's just in it for the fun and the free service on that wreck she drives. Did she look especially brokenhearted to you?"

"No," I admitted. "I can't say that she did."

"So tell me about the case," he said, grabbing his shirt off the workbench.

"Not that much to tell. This guy's had me following his wife for a while, and I finally caught her cheating on him with a long haul trucker. Turns out she's been meeting up with all kinds of them off a website called The Hot Trucker's Hookup."

"No shit, are you serious?"


"Sweet deal for the truckers, man. They can line up something everywhere they stop."

"That's pretty much the idea," I said. "They've got quite the little community on there."

I had followed Amy Ware all the way out to Florida's Interstate 75 and wound up spending an afternoon playing "Peeping Tom" through the ground floor window of a cheap hotel. On my fifth pass, I nearly swallowed my cigarette. She had her guy trussed up in a horse's harness and reins with the thing in the mouth and the whole nine yards, and she was ridin' him for all he was worth. I took easily fifty shots of that.

I'm kind of a mix between the old school P.I. and the modern "private investigator," which means I do my fair share of computer searches and background checks on top of the more traditional tailing of cheaters and mystery solving. But I drive a Mustang convertible, I carry a gun, and I live on the beach.

Well, close to the beach.

You are what you drive, they say, and I am a 1966 model of stylish sophistication with a sporty rakishness and a lot of muscle. Instead of Vintage Burgundy, though, I'm your average Italian color, and I have maybe a moderate amount of muscle. When I was a little younger, I had the classic Italian greaser look going on. Now I don't have quite enough hair on top to pull it off, but I'm told I still look pretty damn good.

I named the car Matilda because of her white ragtop, which makes her look like an old lady. She is, without a doubt, my most prized possession. I bought her eight years ago, after an especially lucrative case, and while she was in pretty good condition to begin with, Seth and I restored her to the level of perfection she exists in most of the time these days.

Outside, Seth dropped into the front seat next to me. He looked in the side view mirror and scrubbed his fingers through his hair. That's what passes for styling for him. He plucked his sunglasses out of the collar of his shirt and slid them on. It never fails to impress me how he can make slovenly look good.

"You goin' in carrying on this one?" he asked.

"I don't think so," I told him. "This guy is money. If he gives me trouble, it's going to be of the fist swinging variety, which is why I wanted you along."

"Are we gonna run it the usual way, then?"

"If you expect to be fed."

Certain people do not take bad news well, and if they can't lash out at the object of their anger, they'll often take it out on the closest thing available. I generally happen to be sitting across from them at that point, and I've learned to take precautions.

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