Monday, July 27, 2015

The Hired Man excerpt by Dorien Grey

In this newly revised edition of The Hired Hand, private investigator Dick Hardesty is hired by businessman Stuart Anderson to conduct routine background checks on potential store managers, he becomes reacquainted with a former trick, Phil Stark, who has undergone an amazing transformation from bar hustler to professional escort. When Anderson is murdered, Hardesty is hired by the escort services owners, Arnold and Iris Glick, to keep Phil and the agency away from police scrutiny. Two subsequent murders make this impossible, and Hardesty embarks on a mission to find the identity of the killer

The Hired Man
Untreed Reads (July 14, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 1611879280
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611879285


I must have finished the conversation with Tim somehow because suddenly I was aware that I was sitting there, with the phone still in my hand, listening to a dial tone, afraid to move for fear I would throw up. 

Slowly, I eased the phone back onto the cradle and leaned forward with my elbows on my desk and cupped my hands over my nose and mouth, forcing myself to take slow, deep breaths.

I had to tell Phil, but I couldn’t do it by phone. When the nausea had subsided, I let my motor responses take over. They got me out of the chair, walked me to the door, made sure it was locked behind me, then walked me to the elevator. By the time I reached my car, I was sufficiently pulled together to let my mind, which had been spinning wildly out of control, shift into gear.

How was I going to tell Phil? What could I say? I didn’t even know Billy’s last name, which meant that Phil was going to have to go with me to the coroner’s office to try to identify the body.

Having sex with a guy doesn’t make you best friends, and I’d only met Billy a handful of times, if that. But what I knew of him I liked. A lot. He was funny and sexy as all hell, and sweet and young, and beautiful and full of life and some son of a bitch had taken all that away from him and I still thought I might throw up.
A blaring horn from the car behind me made me realize the light had turned green, and I moved along.
I parked about half a block from Phil’s apartment and idly thought I should have brought the photo Billy had lent me of Phil and Anderson and Glen O’Banyon and whoever else in hell it was in there with them. I walked down the hallway to Billy’s…. no, to Phil’s…apartment and knocked on the door. A full minute went by and I was about to knock again when the door opened. Phil took one look at my face and all the color drained from his own. His eyes riveted onto my own, as though he thought they might help keep him from falling down. “What is it, Dick?” he asked, though I think he knew.

“It’s Billy,” I managed to say. “He….”

“Is he hurt?” he asked. “Is he in the hospital?”

I shook my head.

Phil looked at me and duplicated my head shake, in slow motion. His eyes filled with tears and his lower lip began to quiver. He started to say “No,” but couldn’t make it. I moved forward and put my arms around him as he put his head on my shoulder and started crying like the very little boy who lives somewhere deep inside us all.

The Hired Man is available in paperback edition, ebook (Kindle and other) editions, audiobook edition.  Check these links: - click Amazon    Untreed Reads    Audible Books 


Monday, July 20, 2015

Lola Dances excerpt by Victor J Banis

Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic and often bawdy, Lola Dances, in this new edition by Victor J Banis, ranges from the 1850 slums of the Bowery to the mining camps of California and Montana, to the Barbary Coast of San Francisco.
Little Terry Murphy, pretty and effeminate, dreams of becoming a dancer. Raped by a drunken profligate and threatened with prison, Terry flees the Bowery to disappear into the wilderness of the West. In the rugged settlement of Alder Gulch, he stands out like a sore thumb among the camp’s macho inhabitants – until the day he puts on a dress and dances for the unsuspecting miners. As beautiful Lola Valdez, fame and fortune are within reach, and so, ultimately, is love.

Lola Dances
Rocky Ridge Books (6/19/2015)
  • ISBN-10: 162622028X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1626220287


Joshua and Brian had barely arrived in Butte when an early winter set in. They were just able to get a crude cabin up and get some supplies in before a major blizzard struck. It snowed without stopping for a full week, stopped for a day, and began to snow again, the sheets of white blown about in a strenuous wind that roared down from the mountains. Gray wolves drifted into town like wisps of smoke, and sometimes got bold enough to scratch at cabin doors.

In no time, Joshua and Brian were snowed in. For several weeks they went outside no more than was essential, and sat instead for hours before their stove, so close that sometimes their boots got scorched.

"Of all the rotten luck," Brian grumbled, pacing the floor like a caged mountain lion. He, at least, could pace; the cabin's roof was too low for the taller Joshua even to stand up without ducking his head. "We might be stuck in here till spring, the way it's snowing out there."

"Not much we can do about it, the way I see it," Joshua said. "We've got plenty of whisky, haven't we, and food enough if we're careful, and as soon as the snow lets up, I'm going to cut some more wood. Doesn't look like we'll be doing much mining, but we'll get by all right."

"That's easy for you to say."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Joshua asked him, puzzled. "Looks to me like we're in the same boat at this point."

Brian had been thinking about Terry, and now he was going to be stuck in a cabin for weeks, maybe for months, with Joshua, who he doubted was a likely candidate to take Terry's place.

It had never occurred to him that he might miss his brother in that way, but it hadn't taken him long to begin to miss his steady diet of sex. And the longer he went without, the better his memories of how good it had felt.

He couldn't very well say that to Joshua, however. "Nothing," he said instead. "I'm just riled, is all. All this damn snow. Might have been better to stay where we was."

 "Too late to be thinking of that," Joshua said.

Brian grunted and went to throw some more wood in the stove. Joshua watched him and thought about what Terry had said, about him and Brian. Nothing like that had come up between them. At first, when Brian had suggested Joshua come with him, Joshua had wondered if Brian had any inkling of what had happened with him and Terry, like maybe Terry had told his brother. For the first day or so, he'd been alert for any untoward movement on Brian's part, half expecting to turn and find Brian's gun trained on him.

Nothing of the sort had happened, though, and Brian had said and done nothing in all this time to indicate that he had any idea of that business, and Joshua had decided after all that he had no suspicions and began to breathe easier.

They almost never talked about Terry at all, and then only obliquely. Brian asked one evening, out of the blue, "That dancer that came to the Gulch just before we headed out," and paused. "To The Dollar. Remember?"

"Lola Valdez?" Joshua asked, surprised to have that brought up.

"Was that her name? Well, what did you think of her?"

Joshua took a moment to consider anew what Brian might or might not know.

"What do you mean, what did I think of her?" he asked cautiously. "She was a pretty thing, wasn't she? Had most of those miners standing on three legs, seemed like to me. What is it you're wondering about?"

Brian gave him a long look. "Nothing," he said with a shrug. "I was just wondering, is all. What you thought of her."

"She was just a dancer, was all," Joshua said. "Pretty enough, I guess. If you like dancers."

Brian seemed content to leave it at that.
Supplies quickly began to run low. There was a little general store, with a table for poker, run by a bear of a man named Angelo, but he was no better prepared for the unexpectedly early winter than the hundred or so miners in the camp, and soon enough salt and flour grew scarce, and most everything else not long after.

Luckily, almost the first thing Brian and Joshua had done when they got there was to stock up. Many of the miners had little in their pockets by the time they arrived at the crude camp, expecting with the prospector's optimism to find enough gold dust right off to provide for themselves, and quickly chagrined to find out how misguided the expectations had been, but Brian and Joshua were luckier than most. Brian had the money he had taken from Terry, although he did not mention its source to his partner, and Joshua had brought with him the rest of the stake his father had given him when he sent him west.

As a result, they at least faced the winter with plenty of coffee and plenty of whisky, and enough beans to tide them over. They had killed a deer shortly after arriving, and the venison hung in the rear of their cabin, along with a big side of questionable beef they had purchased from Angelo, much of which had been made into jerky, the rest of it gradually growing its own overcoat of mold. By now, they were so used to it they never even noticed the smell.

Even so, by Christmas they'd had to reduce their three meals a day to two, as a precaution, and then to one, and they pretended they didn't hear their bellies complain, and kept a close eye out in case anyone started envying their provisions.

"You think this is bad," Brian said, "Christ, this is a damn picnic, I tell you. Back in the states, in the Five Points, people lived two and three families together, sometimes a hog, too, or chickens, in rooms so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, and a man could never say for sure whether he'd fucked another man's wife or his own, or one of his kids, even, and didn't much care which, either, and women would lay drunk all day long in the shit piles they called their back yards. This ain't nothing, I tell you."

"What is it you came for, anyway, Brian?" Joshua asked him one day. "Was it just the money, is all?"

They were sitting by the stove, the toes of their boots beginning to scorch, and Brian was so long answering, Joshua thought maybe he hadn't heard the question, or didn't mean to answer it at all.

"I don't exactly know," he said finally. "I used to think it was the money, but maybe it was just getting out of there, as much as anything, getting away from, well, The Bowery, or something, anyway. Only, it don't seem like I've got yet wherever it is I was going." He looked around, at the dirt floor and the empty tin cans scattered on it, and the jerky hanging in the corner. "Sure as hell, this ain't it. I don't know where is, though."

For more excerpts from Lola Dances, see entries form April 20, 2015: May 13, 2013; January 14,2013; and February 11, 2008.

To purchase Lola Dances in paperback edition, click here
To purchase Lola Dances in Kindle edition,  click here

Monday, July 6, 2015

Played! – #2 in The Shamwell Tales - excerpt by JL Merrow

All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart.  
In Played, by JL Merrow, though Tristan must join his family’s New York firm at summer’s end—no more farting around on stage, as his father so bluntly puts it—he can’t resist when Shamwell’s local amateur dramatics society begs him to take a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The bonus: giving private acting lessons to a local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Not only is Con delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan getting him in his bed.

A late-diagnosed dyslexic, Con’s never dared to act, convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines. But with Tristan’s help, he takes the chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken. And with Tristan due to leave the country soon, Con is determined not to start anything that’s bound to finish badly.
Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance for happiness.
Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave
Samhain Publishing (June 30, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 1619229722
  • ISBN-13: 978-1619229723


Chapter One

 A Plague on Both Your Houses

There was a frog in the kitchen.


Tristan crouched down to glare at it, quite certain that such incursions would not have been tolerated had Nanna Geary still been alive. And while she had now, at the ridiculously young age of eighty-two, passed on to her reward, he was damned if he’d let her house be invaded on his watch.

The frog stared back at him with an inscrutable amphibian gaze.

“This,” he told it firmly, “has got to stop. Do I hop into your pond and frolic among the lily pads? I do not. So why you feel you can make free of my living area, I really cannot imagine.”

The frog blinked once. Then, in a series of spring-loaded manoeuvres almost too quick for Tristan’s startled eyes to follow, it hopped behind the fridge.

Damn it. This called for desperate measures.

Tristan picked up Nanna Geary’s phone and dialled a number he’d had the foresight to memorise.

“Yeah?” The voice was deep in timbre, yet clearly young. Excellent.

“Hello. I perused your advertisement in our local emporium. All—

“You what?”

“I read your card in Tesco,” Tristan clarified with a sigh. Some people had no appreciation for the beauties of the English language. “All household job’s—I assume the apostrophe was ironic?—done, resonible rates.”

“Er, yeah.” The man on the other end of the phone sounded somewhat nonplussed, possibly due to the way Tristan had stressed the “ibble” at the end of resonible. “What’s the problem?”



“I have a plague of frogs.”

Pause. “Is this a joke?”

“If it is, it’s on me. I keep coming down in the morning to find a frog in my kitchen. Not something one wants to see before one’s first cup of coffee. And let me tell you, I’m something of a connoisseur of unwelcome morning sights.” At least, Tristan comforted himself, this one hadn’t been in bed with him.


He wouldn’t put anything past the vile green creature. It was probably hoping for a kiss, and far be it from Tristan to brag, but he had an impressively wide experience of where kisses tended to lead.

Over his dead body, in this particular instance.

A frog,” the handyman was saying. There was another pause. “So technically, yeah, that’s a plague of frog. One of ’em.”

“Semantics. The plural, in this case, may be taken to include the singular.”

“Right… Look, I think you want pest control, anyhow.”

Finally we reach agreement. So how soon can you be here?”

“No, I mean you want someone who works in pest control. Um. You’re in the village, right?”

Tristan rolled his eyes. “I’m certainly in a village. However, there appears to be an elegant sufficiency of villages in this vicinity. Perhaps one might essay a tad more specificity, hmm?”

There was a silence, then the voice on the other end was back. “Well, go on, then. Essay me specific.”

Tristan frowned. Unless he was very much mistaken, there had been a soup├žon of sarcasm in the handyman’s tone. “Shamwell,” he said shortly.

“Thought so. Right. I’ve got this mate. Where are you? I’ll send him round.”

“Excuse me? I’m sorry, I believe I must have had some kind of cataleptic fit and missed the part of the conversation where I told you to feel free to invite all your friends to my house. Perhaps you’d like to create a Facebook event, make it a free-for-all—”

“Look, do you want rid of this frog or not?”


“Then lemme give Sean a call. He’s a professional. What’s your address?”

Tristan sighed. “Twenty-two, Valley Crescent.”

There was a pause. “That’s Mrs. Geary’s house.”
“Was.” Tristan’s voice came out perhaps a little on the sharp side. He missed Nanna Geary. She’d always loved to hear about Tristan’s latest triumph on the stage, and she’d certainly never told him to go and get a proper job. “Now it’s mine.”

“Right.” The handyman’s tone was equally abrupt. “I’ll send Sean over.”


“Well, he’s probably on a job right now, but soon as he can make it, yeah.”

“Make it soon. This is an emergency.” Tristan hung up. It was often best not to give these people a chance to make excuses.

Then he went back to sorting through Nanna Geary’s belongings. It was, Tristan had to admit, not proceeding as quickly as it might. He kept getting distracted by memories from his childhood. He’d been set back half an hour already this morning by coming across her old boiled wool jacket, a stiff heavy thing in the vilest shade of green imaginable—really, next to it, this morning’s uninvited visitor would be a thing of beauty. The smell of wet dogs and camphor emanating from it had taken Tristan right back to rainy afternoons playing games of rummy in a dripping gazebo, because Nanna Geary thought boys needed fresh air even when the weather was dreadful… He sighed and folded it reverently before adding it to the charity shop pile.

Tristan was knee-deep in women’s underwear when the doorbell rang. Most of it was of the sturdy thermal variety, but he’d been shocked and delighted to find some black lace nestling at the back of the drawer of, well, drawers. “Nanna Geary, you saucy little minx,” he murmured as he got to his feet, detached a wayward suspender belt from his sleeve and made his way downstairs.

There was no hall, as such, in Nanna Geary’s house. The front door opened directly from what she had liked to call the living room, comprising as it did both lounge area and dining room. Tristan strode along its length and flung the door wide.

The man looming awkwardly on the doormat was delicious. Tall, muscular and delightfully rough around the edges, with dark stubble on his chin and unruly jet-black hair. He was casually dressed in jeans and a singlet, perfectly accessorised with a touch of the grime of honest toil. Things were definitely looking up. And up, and up. Actually, the man’s height was bordering on the offensive, but Tristan was a forgiving sort. He beamed at the stranger and barely restrained himself from a hel-looo gorgeous. “You must be Sean.”

The man’s face twisted, and he rubbed the back of his neck, displaying some nicely honed triceps and a tuft of armpit hair. Tristan’s inner princess swooned dramatically. “Yeah, about that. Sorry. Sean says he don’t do frogs, ’cos they’re not classed as pests. Says they’re good for slugs and all. I’m Con.”

Twitter - @jlmerrow