I am pumped that Curiosity Quills, the small press in the DC area that published the very dark/suspense work Blow Up the Roses has now accepted two more novels. But.
These two mystery/suspense novels feature the same protagonist: Philip McGuire. He is burnt-out foreign correspondent who had his hand mangled in torture by the Hezbollah and quits journalism to return to his college town to buy and run a bar. Adventures come his way.
The two works (may be more; I don't know) was a kind of homage to the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald. I read that series not so much for the story, but because it meant I got to spend more time with Travis. His reflections on life, his mini editorials, his romances were wonderfully created by the master. I was hoping readers would want to spend time with Philip.
The first novel, Heal My Heart So I May Cry establishes his background and gives him a situation where he ends up encountering the torturer who mangled his hand when he was kidnapped in Beirut and gave up all the details he knew of the Marine compound that was later blown up with the loss of 237 soldiers.
In this novel, he has a bittersweet romance with a university journalism student that has an O. Henry ending (boy, does that date me).
Here's a taste from the beginning:
The car stopped. The hood was taken off my head. My good hand was untied from the interior car door handle. The bright sun of Beirut blinded me. My pupils squeezed tight. My eyes adjusted a little by the time they had the back door open and were pulling me out of the car so I could look again at the face of that son-of-a-bitch, the one they called Mohammed, who had taken so much joy looking into my eyes while the cutter had done his work on my hand, the hand now wrapped in the dirty napkin as I held it high against my heart. I looked at that motherfucker's face and felt the hope that hate gives. The hope that I'd see that face again and have a fair chance to get even. Fuck that. Have an unfair chance. Have any chance to get even. You and me someday, Mohammed. Give me that, God, I prayed. But God hadn't answered any of my prayers lately. Maybe I'd be due someday.
In the second novel, a half-Navajo and half-white character who believes he is a witch plays a major role. He calls himself "Koyoteh" (coyote). Both novels are set in Lawrence, KS, which is home to Haskell, a college for American Indians. Two Navajo girls have come up missing. Researching the Navajo culture led me to their creation story, which is as complicated and fascinating as Greek mythology. I think, and hope, I have created a full retelling of that story that is better than any that exists in any fiction work. I titled this work "A Heart to Understand." To make this novel even more complicated, the romance in this novel involves an illegal Chinese immigrant trying to sneak out of the US to go back to China and with an ulterior motive for contacting Philip.
Here's a taste of that work:
"Another Indian girl's missing, Phil."
"That's two now, isn't it."
"In two months. No bodies found. Yet. Officially, it's another missing person's case. The police still take the attitude that Indian students from Haskell run off all the time. But Navajo aren't solo runaways. Being in a group is too important to them, especially girls."
"Both have been Navajo. Could just be the odds. Highest percentage of students at Haskell are Navajo. Both had friends, left behind too many personal possessions to be runaways. Got to be kidnappings. When I was in law school I did a summer internship in a law office in Gallup. Did a lot of reading into Navajo culture and Native American sovereignty rights. Word gets around. I began to represent Native Americans around here. Some of them came to me asking if I could help them make the police investigate more. But, hell, there's not much they can do unless a body turns up. Shitty thing, isn't it, hoping a body will turn up? They're all upset and angry. Not a good combination. The Navajo believe in this cause and effect deal. They don't like having these ugly effects without understanding or knowing the cause. I'm afraid it could be a serial killer with a thing for Indian girls. And one of my clients has a daughter whose Navajo girlfriend is really spooked. I've talked to her and I've got a favor to ask."
"I'd like to hide her out here."
"Sure. The kidnapper must be prowling the Haskell area. He wouldn't be prowling around here. And she's really shaken. Something going on she won't tell me about. And you could use the help now that you're laid up. How about it?"
"Well, sure. If that's what you want," I said as I watched him walk to the window on the other side of the room that looked out over the drive up to the house.
"That Chinese girl. You said she had really long hair?"
"Down to her butt. And we're talking a tall girl here."
"Stunning. Even features. Sexy mouth. Full lips. High brow. Why?"
"She's walking up to your front door."
Okay, here's that but.
Editor doesn't like the titles and urges me to change them to something more consistent with the genre of mystery/suspense. I have to admit my titles, Heal My Heart So I May Cry and A Heart to Understand sound more like romance novels. I have lived with these titles so long it has become very hard for me to brainstorm within myself for new ones. But I have also learned that a writer should heed an editor's suggestion.
Friends: any ideas?
Happy to share manuscripts with anyone really interested in all of this. Guess if you're reached the end of this long blog, you may well be!