To Look on Death No More ($13.95, 240 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-192-7) is a work of historical fiction by Leta Serafim, author of the Greek Island Mysteries, The Devil Takes Half and When the Devil’s Idle. While helping to defend an isolated Greek village from the Nazis, an Irishman meets a local girl and becomes invested in her family’s fate.
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Serafim’s Greek Islands Mystery series has received starred reviews in both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. Book 1, The Devil Takes Half, was a finalist in the mystery category of the Eric Hoffer Awards.
“A painful but engrossing story…. What saves the novel from a feeling of complete despair is O’Malley’s love for Danae and his growing love of her country. This aspect of the war was unknown to me before this book. It’s as important as the Blitz and the occupation of Paris, and Serafim makes me want to learn more.” Read more….
—Historical Novel Society
In autumn of 1943, a lone allied soldier parachutes into Greece. His stated goal: to build an airstrip for the British. Brendon O’Malley is an Irishman, and he soon discovers that fighting the Nazis is not the same as embracing the British, who have seriously misled him about his mission. Wounded during the drop, he’s set upon and robbed by a seventeen-year-old girl, Danae, and her little brother, Stefanos, who hold him captive for over six weeks, first in a cave and later in the cellar of their home in Kalavryta. A wary friendship develops between the three. Over time O’Malley’s relationship with the girl gradually deepens into love.
Slowly O’Malley earns Danae’s trust, and he stays on with her family in their house in the village. After his wounds heal, he heads up into the mountains to join the Greek soldiers, the antartes, who are suspicious of the British and slow to accept him into their ranks. O’Malley is no ordinary man, and his honesty, strength, and courage impress them and finally win the day. But disaster lies just ahead, and the Nazis, already a palpable presence in their lives, stage a savage attack on Kalavryta. Through it all, the love of this Irishman for his indomitable Greek muse cannot be extinguished.
Says the author, “I was drawn to this period in Greek history because as an American I was unaware of the suffering the Nazis inflicted on the native population and I wanted to educate myself, to explore the question of how a group of people can endure an unspeakable tragedy without losing their humanity or ability to love. Close to one out of ten Greeks died of starvation during the first year of war and yet like the men in my book they fought on, aided on occasion by soldiers like my Irishman, Brendan O’Malley, from the British Commonwealth. The Greek resistance had far reaching effects. In Crete, far example, it changed the course of the war, delaying the invasion of Russia by nearly two weeks. For the most part, the Greeks combatants were poorly armed and fought with whatever they had, pitchforks and rifles from the 19th century in some cases; and there were many bloody reprisal operations directed against them, most notably in the region where my story takes place. Their heroism was without parallel. As Winston Churchill put it, ‘Hence, in the future we will not say the Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.’ ”
Leta Serafim has visited over twenty-five islands in Greece and continues to divide her time between Boston and Greece. Click here to find her online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
He told himself beguiling her was part of his plan; he’d lull her into complacency. As if anyone could lull this girl into anything—complacency least of all. He knew he was strong enough now to overpower her and get his rifle back, yet he held off. He welcomed their time together and on occasion would sing to her, ‘The Rose of Tralee’ and other romantic ballads. The songs brought Ireland closer and made her seem a part of it.
One night the little boy began to sing, too. “Tralee, tralee.”
“Stefanos, right?” O’Malley made it a question.
The boy smiled, nodded. “Nai, eimai o Stefanos.” Yes, I am Stefanos.
“I’m Brendan, and you’re Stefanos. And she’s ….” He gestured to where the girl was sitting.
“Danae. Einai i Danae.” She is Danae.
* * *
O’Malley continued to plead with the girl to give him his boots back. “You got to understand. I’m a soldier. ’Tis tough work, soldiering. Takes a lot out of a man. Got to be properly dressed if you’re to do it right, especially when battling Germans. Can’t be taking on the Wehrmacht in bare feet, no ma’am. Be undignified, that. Be a thing of laughter.”
A proper son of Ireland, he was a shy man, poor when it came to talking women into doing things. Oh, he’d had a few in Athens, urged on by the Australians in his unit. But they’d been sows, those women, greasy and fat, with the smell of men on their skin, cigarette smoke in their hair. Scrubbers. He’d had to wait in line for them, pay his money and take his turn. Nothing like this one, this savage beauty before him.
He looked over at her, studying her face in the yellow glow of the lantern. He was warming to her. Aye, no doubt about it. Could feel his cheeks grow hot just looking at her. So beautiful she was. Solemn. Like a Madonna in an Italian painting.
He didn’t understand it. She wasn’t even a proper girl, one you could put your arm on, soft and smelling of flowers. No, she was a dirty twig of a thing, mulish. Like one of the elements on the periodic table. Zinc, iron. Basic-like. Everything reduced to its essence. In her case, eyes. Aye, it was the eyes with her.
“You’re a fool, O’Malley,” he muttered. “A different kind of fool than you were in Cairo, but a fool just the same.”
Still, he felt something when he heard her voice, her footsteps outside the cave. A quickening, a sense of being more alive.
He shook his head. And him a soldier.
Everything I Love Restored and Other Poems ($11.95, 152 pp, ISBN: 978-1-60381-373-0) is the newest anthology by award-winning St. Louis poet Matthew Freeman. Coffeetown published Freeman’s collection Darkness Never Far in 2010 and The Boulevard of Broken Discourse in 2011.
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“A writer of many voices and master of many forms, Matthew Freeman casts a lucid and inquiring gaze on this place and time we share. Though he often writes of his St. Louis home patch, his poems, because they can simultaneously embrace and transcend the local, have a wide appeal. He writes with urgency, humor, grace, and irony. His work is vital and convincing. You need to read this book.”
—Eamonn Wall, author of Junction City: New and Selected Poems 1990-2015
“A shaman must enter the shadow of madness to see that reality most of us will never know. Matthew Freeman is a St. Louis shaman. I am grateful for the experiences that led to this powerful and positive poet.”
—Glenn Irwin, University of Missouri, St. Louis
Critics have high praise for Freeman’s poetry:
“Gritty and real, full of personality (and personalities), urban St. Louis scenery and experience”— J. Gordon, Nightimes.com
“Simultaneously hip, funny, and sad”—Dorothea Grossman, Poet
“A microscope into the world of an extraordinarily talented schizophrenic”—Suzanne Shenkman
Matthew Freeman’s newest collection presents a romantic vision wherein the environment can range from ecstatic to sinister. Steeped in urban shamanism, the poems reflect a desperate search for the American Sublime, the author’s search for the clarity of salvation, his love of language, and his hope that the poor and destitute will not be forgotten.
Matthew Freeman is a past winner of the Albert J. Montesi Award for Creative Achievement. While pursuing his MFA from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis, he was also awarded the graduate prize in poetry.
The following is an excerpt from the title poem, “Everything I Love Restored”:
But then Jim Morrison came to take me on a trip.
His leather had changed to corduroy. Wherefore, Jim?
“After that heroin tub, when the soul sought
Avernus, I went through the Program
in Purgatory. Old Cherry—you ruined each other—
bit by a Cottonmouth hiking with her husband,
bid me come forgive you and make you give it up.”
We followed these black demons to the door of the
Mellow Methodist church and I whispered to Cherry.
We passed the spot where Seagraves got hit
on the head with a brick by the brother of a young girl he’d
kissed. Oh Jim, we went to the pawn shop
to get my guitar but I was a dollar short.
Finally forlorn, Jim taught me to put
my hand through my hair darkly, with affect,
and to yelp loudly during the hilarious innuendo.
He taught me translucence, how to get back
to the Celts, the Lakota. He showed me
the raindrop on the petal on the windowsill
in the breeze. We came to Jefferson Barracks.
Standing at my parents’ grave I noticed a little
something covered in the grass: the magic tessera dollar
of completion! I’d died just like the art therapist
had predicted and now I could get my gold guitar!
Jim morphed into a mad girl in a Mercedes asking for gas money.
In 2010, Coffeetown Press released a work of historical fiction by Anne E. Beidler based on the mystery of the Nantucket ship Essex titled, Eating Owen: The Imagined True Story of Four Coffins from Nantucket: Abigail, Nancy, Zimri, and Owen ($15.95; 182 pages, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-022-7). The Hollywood blockbuster In the Heart of the Sea tells another version of the same historical events. The eBook of Eating Owen is currently being offered exclusively on Amazon at a special price of $2.99.
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Eating Owen was the first novel of Anne E. Beidler, who lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband Peter. She has a doctorate in educational research and is a lifetime history buff. She is also the author of a biographical work: The Addiction of Mary Todd Lincoln.
Eating Owen is a tale of mystery. What really happened to Owen Coffin, the cabin boy on the Nantucket whaling ship Essex? In the autumn of 1819, the unthinkable happened. Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean a whale rammed into the Essex, sinking it within minutes (the event that helped inspire Melville’s Moby Dick). The crew had no refuge except to jump into the three small and very flimsy wooden boats they carried on board to help them chase the whales. During the next three months, bobbing around aimlessly on the open ocean, the men suffered terribly. They ran out of food to eat, and some of them died. And some of them ate each other. Including Owen. The few survivors returned to Nantucket with the story that Owen had been fairly elected to be executed—before he was eaten. But no one knows for sure what happened. Or do we? Eating Owen is the story of Owen Coffin and his family before the Essex tragedy. It is a story about a family, a story about surviving and not surviving. A story about a whale’s revenge.
Says the author, “My husband’s ancestors are from Nantucket, so he is sort of—after all this time—related to the Coffin family from there. We have been to Nantucket many times. The sinking of the Essex inspired Melville, and the story certainly captured my imagination, so I’m not surprised that it has now inspired a hit movie, In the Heart of the Sea. How much of the story is true? The wreck, of course, is true. And the men in the lifeboats trying to survive on the ocean. One lifeboat was lost, and the other two were rescued, but many of the occupants were lost and/or eaten. Nobody living really knows what happened on Owen’s lifeboat. The survivors, probably to avoid blame or trouble (did they have lawsuits back then?), told a party line about drawing straws. My version is made up, but seems more realistic to me.”
Here are Anne Beidler’s thoughts on the movie, In the Heart of the Sea:
In the Heart of the Sea certainly delivers the way a Hollywood blockbuster should: good camera work, lots of powerful sea, lots of ropes and whales and dirty men. An audience anticipating a rip-roaring adventure tale is bound to appreciate it. Rather than rating the movie according to my enjoyment or its overall merits, I prefer to concentrate on the historical perspective, which is always what fascinates me most—the focus the screenwriter chose to take and the portrayal of the characters: who is featured, who is not.
In the movie Thomas Nickerson is the narrator, telling the Essex story fifty years later to young Herman Melville, who used parts of it in Moby Dick later on. Thomas Nickerson was the cabin boy on the Essex, about fifteen, and the youngest person involved. In real life he wrote his story fifty years later and left out a lot. In the movie he is sort of the main character.
The movie stresses the conflict between Captain George Pollard of the Essex and his first mate, Owen Chase. By the end, they—as well as the narrator, old man Nickerson—have become wiser men. Very nice.
Whales generally did not sink boats—it was very unusual—but no one disputes that a whale sunk the Essex. However, nobody really knows what happened during the three months the survivors floated aimlessly in the middle of the Pacific in three flimsy little boats with few provisions.
The first mate, Chase, later wrote a long narrative of the incident, admitting to some cannibalism on his little boat, but in general making himself look pretty good. The captain, Pollard, also eventually wrote his own version, which concluded with a sad account of his life after the sinking of the Essex.
Taking all three of these accounts into consideration (including that of Nickerson), it is impossible to be at all sure who was eaten in the ‘life’ boats, how the victim was chosen, and who shot Owen.
There would have been many reasons to conceal the information about their cannibal behavior as they tried to avoid the nearby ‘cannibal’ islands. Chase and Pollard wanted to be hired again, for one thing, and needed the ship owners to trust them. Then, of course, since many Nantucket families were related (particularly, in this story, the Pollard and Coffin families), nobody wanted to admit eating their relatives.
In the movie, Owen Coffin has had a name change. (He is a very, very minor character called Henry Coffin.) For those who have not seen the movie, I do not wish to give away the twist. I would say that the movie tries to put a good light on the end of the tragedy of the Essex, but I do not. Though, of course, none of us knows.
My story is more about the whole Coffin family, especially certain ones, including Owen, and the effect of the whale’s revenge (yes, the whale is a character) on the family. It includes the whaling culture on the island, the prevalence of opiate addiction, and the relationship to the whales.
Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature ($11.95, 128 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-323-5), a collection of poems by Seattle wigmaker and memoirist Dennis Milam Bensie, each selecting words from a work of classic literature to create snapshots of gay life and culture.
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The Advocate voted Bensie’s first memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men, “One of the Best Overlooked Books of 2011.” The New York Journal of Books called Shorn: “Bracingly honest.” The Library Journal recommended it as “particularly topical in these days of bullying stories and gay teens committing suicide.” One Gay American was a finalist for both the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Book Awards.
“Dennis Milam Bensie offers his readers in Flit a veritable Baedeker to contemporary gay culture constructed from the clay of the literary canon. In poems simultaneously playful and wise, Bensie ‘mashes up’ the words of the classics to comment on the intricacies of gay identity/ies today. In the harrowing ‘PnP,’ for example, the poet speaks of the pain that fuels drug use into ‘the party and play way of life.’ The protagonist in ‘A Bill with the Devil’ is sent to ‘a special shock camp’ by his Christian family. Bensie angles his lens forward in poems such as ‘The Harvey Milk Doll’ and ‘God in a Dress’ that bring the volume to a close, fashioning a new iconography of heroism and the divine. With the likes of Arthur Miller, George Bernard Shaw, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Leo Tolstoy, Virgina Woolf, and numerous others ga(y)zing over his (and our) shoulders, Bensie dares us to consider anew the literature and our world that we thought we knew. ‘Minor’ and ‘major’ literatures, in Bensie’s exuberant hands, come together on unexpected ground. This engagement proves most felicitous indeed.”
—Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, author of Prayers of a Heretic: Poems
“Dennis Milam Bensie’s latest book is a wildly unique combination of his own lively, in-your-face verse surveying the contemporary queer scene seamlessly mingled with lines from classic authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Herman Melville, and William Shakespeare. Mr. Bensie is truly a master of the memorable amalgam!”
—Jeff Mann, author of Rebels and A Romantic Mann
“The literary closet is blasted ajar with dynamite, as we slowly learn that gay urbane quotidian poetry of today is lurking in literally all of literature. From Charlotte’s Web and Hemingway to Gone With the Wind, we’ll forgive if some of the evidence is planted by our author—a private eye who won’t quit till each straight boy in history is caught wearing a skirt!”
—Felix Bernstein, author of Burn Book (Nightboat) and Notes on Post-Conceptual Poetry (Insert Blanc Press)
“What Bensie and these poems do is to make us have another look at what have been literary classics and reconsider them as they pertain to our lives. Here Bensie is the master as he takes to places we never thought we would visit—he has the magic carpet and we get on and enjoy our journey through the very best that has been retailored for us. Having read all that he has published, I never really thought of Dennis Bensie as a poet but I see how wrong I was. He is a poet par excellence and we are so lucky to have him share it with us…. I want all of you to love this book as much as I do.” Read more….
—Reviews by Amos Lassen
“The word ‘flit’ comes from J.D. Salinger’s overrated, homophobic novel, Catcher in the Rye. Dennis Milam Bensie queers the work of Salinger and thirty-nine other well-known authors (some gay, some not), from Shakespeare to Alice Walker, by using words from their work to create brilliant mash poetry. The poems present aspects of contemporary gay life many readers, myself included, will identify with, such as growing up gay in hostile church and school environments and exploring some of the more exotic and exciting features of gay life today. A remarkable achievement well worth the read.”
—Clifton Snider, literary scholar, critic, novelist, and author of Moonman: New and Selected Poems
“Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature is a sometimes fierce, often poignant, but always important reminder of the unique ability of gay writers to share their experience of love, loss, fear and hope. This is the heart and soul of gay literature, the message we all need to receive about being queer in America, both in a time when change seemed impossible and now, when it is almost overwhelming to contemplate what change may bring to us all.”
—Eleanor Lerman, author of Strange Life and Radioman
“If we are the sum of all the words we’ve read and heard, then Flit shows us a new way to write poetry. Dennis Milam Bensie extracts words from stories we know and love, using them to create fresh, strong poems. These poems capture the fears, joys, and common moments in every human life. They are a choir of voices, singing in their second language: compassion. These poems show that words have long lives. They might even make the case that words live forever. The only way to know is to read and savor these beautifully crafted poems.”
—Joseph Ross, Author of Gospel of Dust and Meeting Bone Man
“I am honored to speak of the work of Dennis Milam Bensie. I had thought of Dennis as a particularly fine writer of short, comedic fiction. Since reading Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature, I now know he is also an exceptional poet. His work is both personal and universal, honest, tragic, and quite frankly, outstanding! I am envious. Thank you, Dennis, for the joy and the sorrow, the rage and defiance, the love, the beauty, and the damn fine poetry!”
—Kay Kinghammer, poet, author of Picture This, And Then, and Inside the Circus
“Dennis Milam Bensie has mined the secret seams of classic prose texts and come up with an unexpected ore. Who would have thought our genteel library shelves were hiding so many explicit poems about contemporary gay life? It’s enough to make a bookworm blush!”
—Gregory Woods, poet, author of An Ordinary Dog
J.D. Salinger uses the word “flit” twenty times to reference a homosexual male in his classic 1951 novel, Catcher in the Rye.
Not to suggest the celebrated writer was homophobic. But it was in his book that the word entered common parlance.
Poet and author Dennis Milam Bensie tackles the work of Salinger and thirty-nine other famous authors, including Melville, Dickens, Tolstoy, Twain, and Forrester, and mashes them up into his own concoctions. These poems offer intriguing snippets of gay life, from cruising bears (furry men sailing the ocean blue) to Log Cabin Republicans, to youths subjected to sexual conversion therapy. Every poem in Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature is built entirely with words from one classic book or play.
Says Bensie, “I have always loved collage. I heard about a method of writing poetry called a ‘mashup’ while participating in the Artist Trust EDGE Program for Literary Artists about a year ago and was intrigued. I went to Half Price Books and bought a bunch of books and started mashing. I started with The Bell Jar, one of my favorites, and literally cut words and phrases out of the book with scissors and set them aside. Once I’d gathered a bunch of clippings, I studied them and put them back together in different order until I had a whole new story. It was great fun to borrow the words of some of the greatest authors of all time and rearrange them into a contemporary gay poem that spoke to me.”
Dennis Milam Bensie has written two memoirs: Shorn: Toys to Men and One Gay American. His short stories have been featured in The Rain, Party and Disaster Society, Talking Soup, Chelsea Station, Short Fiction Break, The Ink and Code, Everyday Fiction, Bare Back Magazine, The Round Up, Specter Magazine, Fuck Fiction, Cease Cows, and This Zine Will Change Your Life. His essays have appeared in the Huffington Post, Boys on the Brink, and the Good Men Project. The author has been a presenter at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans and at Montana’s very first gay pride festival. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Shut your eyes and your ears.
As long as you behave well,
You will be free
A pathetic benediction I felt.
My flesh and blood, tight and snug
Didn’t convert or contend.
There was nothing from above.
The camp dispersed and I was still quite frolicsome;
Unbridged by religion.
That summer, I had found
My own new twists and turns.
I announced to my parents
That there was no bill with the devil,
That there would be no rooms for me in heaven,
And any bill from God had already been paid in full.
—An Excerpt from “A Bill With The Devil,” a mashup of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
we’ll beachcomb for their broken bones ($10.95, 106 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-309-9) is a new poetry collection by elena botts. Also a gifted graphic artist, elena created the cover art as well.
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“Read these pieces three times. Once with the ‘rational’ on pause. Again for the music. And the third time because good things come in threes … except when we expect them to. Don’t let these works meet your expectations, they are better than that and naturally resistant.” —From the foreword by Lucas Smiraldo, past poet laureate of the city of Tacoma and author of the poetry collection, The Thing That Gathers
Eighteen-year-old elena botts distinguished herself as a poet of merit while still in high school:
“Elena’s poems are impressively striking. I’m hoping I will someday meet his young lady who appears to breathe poetry from every pore. I was thoroughly moved by her mature handling of deeply complex themes, her masterful command of language, and the sheer emotional impact of her poetic expressions.”
—Sydney March, award-winning poet, essayist, and musician
“High school is not too early to be writing poetry that can be valued as literature. That is what elena botts’ book, a little luminescence, is. Marvel at this girl’s excitingly original imagistic language—moon washed up / in light-seeped sunrise /a gleaming shell on celestial shore; her delicacy with words like those describing love that moves through / the everyday / never mentioned / coming along beside us / silently; and her spiritual awareness—notes of a soul / in this breathing body resounding.”
—Maxwell Corydon Wheat Jr., First Poet Laureate—Nassau County, New York
Botts’s poems address themes such as human mortality, vulnerability, and perception of time. They are meant to trigger a thoughtful response from people of diverse sensibilities.
Says the poet, “I write poetry to pull the light in. I began to write at a young age and honestly cannot remember starting. It seems more like I just always had been writing. But I think the first time I realized what I was doing, or could do with words, was in the fifth grade, when my teacher said to me: ‘You’re a thinker.’ From then on I began to recognize the power of thought in the written word. My first muse was the natural world. And of course, I was always reading—not poetry so much until years later.”
elena botts currently attends college in New York, though she is from the DC metropolitan area. In the past few years, her poems have been published in dozens of literary magazines. She is the winner of four poetry contests, including Word Works Young Poets’. Her artwork has won numerous awards and has been exhibited at the Greater Reston Art Center and Arterie Fine Arts. Another book of poetry, a little luminescence, was published by allbook-books.com, and her chapbook was published by Red Ochre Press. Click here to find elena online.
Here is the poem that inspired the title:
fingers-crept-spiderlike into the crevasse
of my palm. i couldn’t
(breathe) now, not when the lights were coming on,
glowing as dumb and warm
as sleeping eyes
shut tight. we never did touch.
’cause you were as blue as a madman
and she was shooting sparks
and i sitting sullen as a covered moon,
breathing in, breathed out
a tide like deepest night. maybe, come morn,
we’ll stumble out, go beachcomb
for our broken bones
until the damaged children between our temples will
born again with fiery skin.
When the Devil’s Idle ($13.95, 192 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-998-5) is the second book in Leta Serafim’s Greek Islands Mystery series. While investigating the death of a German tourist on Patmos, Chief Officer Patronas uncovers terrible secrets.
Follow the Tribute Books blog tour, starting November 2nd.
Book 1, The Devil Takes Half, was a finalist in the mystery category of the Eric Hoffer Awards and received a starred review from Library Journal.
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(Starred Review) “This classic fair-play whodunit, the excellent sequel to 2014’s The Devil Takes Half (Serafim’s first Greek Island mystery), takes Yiannis Patronas, the endearing chief police officer on the island of Chios, to Patmos, where someone has bashed in the skull of Walter Bechtel, a 90-year-old German, in the garden of his foster son Gunther’s holiday residence—and carved a swastika on the victim’s forehead. When Patronas asks Gunther about his foster father’s past, Gunther becomes defensive and claims that his papa was ‘just an ordinary man’ and did not commit any atrocities during WWII. Serafim does an especially good job of integrating Greece’s current financial struggles into the story line, and Patronas’s colleagues, especially an eccentric priest with a taste for seafood, lighten what otherwise could have been a very grim tale without minimizing the underlying horror of the background to the crime.”
—Publishers Weekly, August 3, 2015
4 Stars: “The pairing of cynical Patronas and optimistic Michalis injects some humor in an otherwise moderately paced procedural. Serafim expertly creates the beauty of Greece. However, the real draws of this book are the fully developed, complex characters, and the facts on Greek culture and history. Book two in the Greek Islands Mystery series is sure to satisfy.”
“Patronas, recently freed from a stifling marriage, has taken on Papa Michalis as a roommate, discovering that his enormous appetite for seafood is taking a toll on his reduced finances due to the financial crisis cutbacks to police salaries. The two form an endearing investigative team in this very enjoyable second in the Greek Island mysteries.” Read more….
—Stop You’re Killing Me!
“This novel’s attraction lies in Serafim’s portrayal of life in modern Greece and the complex relationships between Yiannis and those around him. Serafim deftly weaves Greece’s debt crisis into the plot, and provides readers with fully-developed, complex characters. She lightens a grim plotline with the interactions between Yiannis and Papa Michalis.” Read more….
—Mark Lardas, The Galveston County Daily News
If you enjoy mystery and murder this is a rare find. The descriptions of Greece are wonderful and help to take you there as you journey into the horror and history of the Nazi regime. This would be a great book for a reading club with a great deal of background to decipher. Read more….
—Leslie Ann Wright, Wrighton-Time Blogspot
“Let me be honest. I don’t usually like novels I can’t identify with. So I expected to be bored by this story. I thought it would be a lot of background of Greek history, mythology and religion. Greece never interested me. I never would want to go there. So I was taken by surprise by the author, Leta Serafim’s seduction of my senses. She so deftly interwove the background into the story that I craved to learn more…. I won’t spoil the plot for you. Tracking down the history of the victim and Maria will hook you….. You will enjoy every well-crafted word in When the Devil’s Idle.” Read more….
—Faith Flaherty, The One True Faith Blogspot
“When The Devil’s Idle is set in Greece with interesting characters and a wonderful glimpse at Greece’s culture. The main character Patronas was quite likable and a bit comical despite the seriousness of the situation he and his fellow policemen were investigating. He was a great character to keep the book interesting and moving along.” Read more….
“I enjoyed following the journey of the investigation and how it led Yannis to the horrible truth. I always relish a good mystery and this one certainly delivered on all counts.” Read more….
—Tribute Books Mama
“When The Devil’s Idle is loaded with twists and turns and red herrings that will leave you guessing all the while you are flipping pages to find out what happens next. Ms. Serafim has provided us with a marvelous whodunit and I am already looking forward to the next book in the series.” Read more….
—Vic’s Media Room
In the Book of Revelation, written by St. John on the Greek island of Patmos, it was said a pale horse would appear whose rider was death, others would cry out for vengeance, and the stars of heaven would fall to the earth.
Death does indeed come to Patmos when a German tourist is found murdered in the garden of one of the island’s fabled estates. Yiannis Patronas, Chief Officer of the Chios police, is called in to investigate. He summons his top detective, Giorgos Tembelos, and his friend and amateur sleuth, Papa Michalis, to assist him.
What the policemen discover will disturb them long after the conclusion of the case. Only six people were at the house at the time of the murder—the gardener and housekeeper, the victim’s son and his wife and their two children, a boy of seven and a teenage girl of sixteen. All appear to be innocent. But access to the isolated estate is severely restricted. Surrounded by high walls, it has only one entrance: a metal gate that was bolted at the time of the crime. Patronas can only conclude that one of the six is a killer. He continues to probe, uncovering the family’s many secrets. Some are very old, others more recent. All are horrifying.
But which of these secrets led to murder?
Says the author, “I have visited Patmos many times and have always found it to be a place of contrasts, the enclave of extraordinarily wealthy Europeans at the top of a mountain in Chora and the Greek natives struggling to survive in the village below. I used to watch these two groups interact and wonder what would happen if violence intruded. Voted the most idyllic place to live in Europe by Forbes in 2009, the island itself is very small, less than thirteen square miles, and has only 3,000 year-round residents. It is called ‘the holy island,’ by many, in marked contrast with the characters and events I describe in When the Devil is Idle.”
Leta Serafim is also the author of the historical novel, To Look on Death No More, which will be published by Coffeetown Press in February, 2016. She has visited over twenty-five islands in Greece and continues to divide her time between Boston and Greece. Click here to find her online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
The police cruiser arrived later that day and Giorgos Tembelos and Papa Michalis disembarked, the priest inching down the ramp like a tortoise.
“I think the identity of the old man is the key,” Papa Michalis announced when they’d all gathered in a taverna to review the case. “I analyzed it and that is my conclusion. It simply cannot be anything else. It has elements of an Agatha Christie story, one of her locked-room mysteries like And Then There Was None. Nobody else had access; ergo, one of the people inside the estate, a family member or a servant, must be the guilty party.”
“Anyone could have gained access,” Patronas pointed out. “The Bechtels were careless. They didn’t keep the door locked and there were keys lying around everywhere.”
“No matter. It’s got to be one of them. We can interview other people forever, but it will eventually come back to them. Them and them alone.”
“I think Father is right,” Tembelos said. “The identity of the victim is the important thing here. There was nothing about him in any of the European databases I checked. I called our counterparts in Germany and asked them to run him through their system, but I doubt they’ll find anything. It’s like he never existed. We need to establish who he was. Could be he changed his name.”
“Why would he change his name?” Patronas wondered.
“I don’t know. “
The four of them were sitting outside by the water, it being too hot to venture inside. A haze hung over the sea, and the air was very still. Suddenly, a soft breeze rose up and stirred the tamarisk trees that lined the shore, setting their feathery branches in motion. Patronas liked the rustling sound the trees made, the relief the wind brought. It was almost as if he could hear the earth breathe.
I’ll go swimming tonight, he told himself, looking out at the harbor. Float on my back and look up at the stars. Frolic like a dolphin.
Maybe he’d ask Antigone Balis to join him. He pictured her dripping wet, that long hair of hers hanging down over one shoulder like Botticelli’s Venus. Adrift in his vision, he subsequently lost track of the conversation.
“Hey, boss, you with us?” Tembelos nudged him with his elbow.
Patronas made a show of straightening his back, stretching. “Sorry, it’s the heat. Always makes me sleepy.”
“You were grinning.”
“So what if I was? A man’s allowed to grin.”
“I don’t know, Yiannis,” the priest said. “I think when one is discussing a homicide, it might be better if one dispensed with grinning. At such a time, such behavior is unseemly. It makes one appear insensitive at the very least.”
“Thank you for that, Father. In the future, I will dispense with grinning.” He tapped his pencil on his notebook. “So, to sum up, we have nothing concrete in the case, no witnesses or physical evidence, nothing that will lead us to the killer.”
“Gardener’s clean,” Tembelos reported. “I ran his fingerprints and there was nothing. There was a match on the shoes, too, exactly like he told us.”
“What about the housekeeper, Maria Georgiou?”
“Same thing. The case is heating up. If we don’t catch the killer, it could get ugly. Ministry’s already clamoring for action.”
“We need to turn the housekeeper, Maria Georgiou, inside out, also the members of the family,” Patronas said. “Check their history. Something’s going on here, but as of yet, I haven’t established what it is.”
“You can’t rule out a random act of violence,” the priest said, “directed at them because of their nationality.”
“Worse would be if it were a case of mistaken identity,” Patronas said, “the killer targeting the owners—the Bauers—and killing one of their guests by mistake.”
He was thinking of Charlie Manson, who along with his disciples had wiped out six people without blinking an eye, not realizing his intended victim was a subletter. “Personally, I think someone targeted the family for reasons we don’t know. The cat, the old man. It stands to reason.”
“I’d start with the housekeeper,” Tembelos said. “What she said doesn’t add up. That bit about coming to Patmos on holiday and staying on as a maid.”
“Unlikely, Giorgos. She’s in her seventies.”
Papa Michalis continued to promote the locked room concept. Citing a case in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, he described how the killer had released a cobra through a fake vent and activated its poisonous energy by whistling. “ ‘Oh, my God, it was the band,’ the victim shouted, ‘the speckled band.’ ”
“Fiction, Father, fiction,” Patronas said impatiently. “Remember? We discussed it.”
“My point is if you are determined to kill someone, a lock is no deterrent. Sometimes murderers are ingenious. Using a cobra as a murder weapon is brilliant when you think about it. Absolutely brilliant. No fingerprints involved, no way to trace it back to you. The snake does all the work.”
“I repeat, Father, there is no snake involved here. A stone maybe, but no snake.”
“A stone? What makes you think that?”
And around they went again, weighing the possibilities. The victim had been hit on the head, but with what? A hammer or a rock? A shovel or pickax? Rock, scissors, paper.
Forget swimming, Patronas told himself. I might as well drown myself.
Trio of Lost Souls ($13.95, 242 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-188-0), by Jack Remick, is a work of literary/noir fiction about a journalist turned outlaw who helps a Central Valley farmer stage a risky political campaign against a corrupt incumbent.
Trio of Lost Souls is Book Four of The California Quartet, a series of standalone novels about young men coming of age and bucking the establishment in California during the ’60s and ’70s. The other books in the series are The Deification, Valley Boy, and The Book of Changes.
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Remick’s novel, Gabriela and the Widow, was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal and a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award.
“Trio of Lost Souls, a masterwork of the literary genre, makes a rousing final movement to Jack Remick’s California Quartet. This latest novel sings with precision description and uncompromising dialogue. As relentless as the California sun on high desert landscape, Remick’s writing grabs the reader by the throat and refuses to let go until long after the final notes fade. Vincent, part Clint Eastwood, part Sun Tzu, storms through the dusty fields of migrant workers and the half-empty streets of failing towns, chasing other people’s demons, one step ahead of his own. Seeking redemption for his sins and compelled to save others from theirs, Vincent navigates a rocky terrain filled with characters living in the grey area between damnation and the sublime. From damaged women to political hopefuls, Vincent pulls some from the embers and stands back and watches others burn.”
—Elena Hartwell, playwright and author of the Eddie Shoes mystery series
“Remick knows California, its people and landscapes…. Like all good road novels, there is a very strong sense of place, and as I turned pages, I came to know California, began to experience it through the eyes of Bill Vincent…. Bottom line, the still waters of Trio of Lost Souls run deep. If you’re a fan of Jim Harrison, Ron Rash, or even Cormac McCarthy this book is definitely worth a read. Recommended.” —Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mystery series
“Trio of Lost Souls unfolds like the melodic, broad vibrato strains of a Sidney Bechet noir cinema score…. But just as Bechet’s improvisational voice is uniquely his, so too are Remick’s pronounced rhythmic textures, his mastery of a theme, recasting it, then luring it back into itself, or onto a dream sequence where the identities unexpectedly shift … yet the storyline is ever present, refrain-like and beguiling.”
—Dennis Must, author of the novels, Hush Now, Don’t Explain and The World’s Smallest Bible and the short story collections, Oh, Don’t Ask Why and Banjo Grease
Bill Vincent is a killer, but in the name of justice. Not that the law would see it that way. With one murderous act of retribution for terrible violence inflicted on his wife, he leaves behind a respectable calling as a prize-winning investigative journalist and hits the road. On the run he ekes out a living in California’s Central Valley as a box-maker, a turkey debeaker, a truck driver’s assistant, and finally a field hand. In this last job he meets Jim Garret, a like-minded spirit whose thirst for justice equals his own. They join together to beat the corrupt bossmen at their own political game.
Says Remick: “Trio of Lost Souls is the most political of the California Quartet. Unlike the other books, which are coming of age stories, Trio of Lost Souls features grown men. Men who grew up poor but learned to love literature and came to champion those who didn’t escape poverty. They are not the same characters who people the other books, but they are brothers and sisters under the skin. They understand life. They know the rules. They become decision makers. They are capable. They are flawed. They have been hurt. Their dreams have cost them. They are on the verge of destruction, but they know they can still do more good than harm.”
Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, and novelist. He has published six novels with Coffeetown Enterprises’ imprints Coffeetown Press and Camel Press and a poetry collection, Satori. Click here to find Jack online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
The grapes had been drying for four days and the second picking had stripped the vines when Garret came into the water tower holding a fifth of Glenfiddich and a manila envelope. He set the manila envelope on top of the briefcase and the whiskey on the table. Vincent, sitting on the bed, eyed the envelope. Danger. He knew that. Garret uncorked the fifth and gazed at him. There was something Vincent hadn’t expected—a flicker of flint in ruthless eyes that could cut a man’s throat.
Garret said, “I looked you up, Vincent. You lied to me.”
“I told you I killed three men.”
“You didn’t tell me you wrote about politics.”
“Politics. That’s why I killed three men.”
“You got a degree from Cal. You got a guy elected to Berkeley City Council. You went to Reno, won prizes for political reporting. This man, Aleghiri, you wrote about him. Open the envelope.”
Vincent walked to the table, plucked the manila envelope off the briefcase and flipped back the seal. His hand shook when he read the first article.
Reno authorities today suspended their search for Star reporter Bill Vincent, missing since November amid speculation that he was the victim of the same vicious attack that left his wife, Claire Hanzelli, hospitalized.
Vincent’s motorcycle was found abandoned south of Stateline, but police have no leads into his disappearance. Police are investigating the possibility that Vincent was abducted in retaliation for his investigative reporting into an international “baby for sale” ring which involved local lawmakers and several crime figures who have also vanished.
Vincent was last seen following a visit to his wife, who remains in critical condition in Washoe Medical Center.
More articles from the Reno Star. His articles. His picture. Headlines about the Mexican school girls, about the syndicate. His articles about smart girls from good families turned into baby machines. About babies sold to rich Northerners who couldn’t buy the right color skin at home.
Vincent tucked the articles back in the envelope and set the envelope on top of the briefcase and walked to the door. Garret’s words weighed him down. It was time to push on. He heard a rustle, then something hit his shoulder. The cork from the Glenfiddich. He stopped.
Garret said, “Where are you going?”
“Out of here.”
“Just when I need a killer you walk out on me.”
Fraud is Doc’s business, but this was personal.
The Big Bitch ($15.95, 324 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-303-7) is a work of mystery/suspense by debut author John Patrick Lang. After Doc’s friend Jesus is murdered, he searches for the killer while being paid to investigate a missing person’s case that takes him through a dozen cities and towns up and down the Pacific Coast, from Portland to San Diego. As he follows the baffling trail, he soon discovers that the clues lead uncomfortably close to home.
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The Big Bitch is Book 1 in the Jackson “Doc” Holiday Mystery series.
“A clever, surprise-filled first novel and series opener.” Read more….
“No-one is ever going to be as poetic as Marlowe, or a wise-ass and tough as Spenser, but Holiday has certainly made an impressive debut. The dialogue crackles, the humour is black, and the bad guys are suitably dissolute. One-liners fly off the page like sparks from a welding torch…. I suspect I am not the only member of the Jackson Holiday Appreciation Society, and I look forward to his next appearance.” Read more….
—David Prestidge, Crime Fiction Lover.com
“John Patrick Lang’s highly entertaining first book, The Big Bitch, is a tale of murder, kidnapping, even a mutilation, set in the East Bay. It is told in gritty turgid prose with the brutal immediacy of the first person point of view, but with a generous leavening of humor, especially the Chandlerian similes (‘I’ll beat on you like a rented mule.’) As with most effective crime fiction, things are not at all what they seem. We hope to see much more Doc Holiday.” —Armand Croft, author of The Andrew MacCrimmon novels
“The Big Bitch is a very, very good read with the dialogue and description of an old school hard-boiled novel. Some characters could have walked in from the world of Joseph Wambaugh and some in from the world of Elmore Leonard but they all walk off the page. I haven’t encountered a character as sophisticated, smart, savvy and with the skill for skullduggery like Doc Holiday for twenty years. In other words, not since Ross Thomas died.” —Eric Mortensen, poet and author of Green Beret Blues
“A wild East Bay mystery that doesn’t just show us the underbelly of the region, but the vitality of the diverse population, all through the eyes of a darkly whimsical sleuth.” —Nick Mamatas, author of Love Is The Law
Private Eye Jackson “Doc” Holiday investigates fraud, a crime he knows intimately. He was once a respected and successful mortgage banker who laundered more than 100 million dollars in dirty money. Although never convicted, he has been blackballed from banking.
After his drinking buddy, a Catholic priest named Jesus Cortez, is shot dead in the driveway of Doc’s Berkeley home, he sets out to find his killer. The case takes him in search of an old confederate in Portland, where he begins to suspect that the murder of Jesus is connected to a money laundering scheme suspiciously similar to Doc’s own. As Doc delves in further, he crosses swords with a scheming matriarch, a bent cop, a femme fatale, and a master criminal. Whoever’s at the bottom of this business has already killed and is facing “The Big Bitch,” or life in prison. And they’re not afraid to kill again.
Says the author, “I was attracted to the noir genre because of its capacity to convey social and cultural perceptions, indict the false values of the American Dream, create existential allegory, and ultimately turn pulp into parable. Jesus Cortez is a young, handsome, charming Catholic priest who is purported to have performed miracles, but also a man with a mysterious past, a dark and dangerous secret, and evidently a woman or two stashed away somewhere. It seems to me that such a character could only be fully realized in a hard-boiled detective novel, particularly when the detective and narrator is a man called ‘Doc’ Holiday, a name that suggests a checkered past and the dark end of the street.”
By turns, John Patrick Lang has been a lit major, a submarine sailor, a country-western singer/songwriter and a mortgage banker specializing in community lending. A native of Portland, Oregon, he makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Big Bitch is his first novel. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
An early recording of Willie Nelson singing his classic “Nightlife” played on the jukebox as Mary said, “Well, look at you now, just another loser from the boulevard of broken dreams and just another swinging dick in John and Mary’s Saloon. What are you drinking, Swinging Dick?”
“I’ll have a Bud in a bottle and a double rye in one of your cleaner dirty fruit jars.”
After Mary brought his drinks she moved to the other end of the bar. I asked Hobbs if this visit was official.
“Why?” he asked without looking up from his drink. “You got something you want to tell me, off the record?”
“I spent five hours with you and Manners last night. Told you everything I know. At least three times.”
“Maybe you left something out.”
I let that pass.
He looked up from his drink and caught my eye in the mirror. “Are you sure, Doc?”
“Like I said last night: nobody calls me ‘Doc’ anymore.”
“Let’s review our interview from last night and my subsequent research. Your legal given name is Jackson Burke Holiday, AKA ‘Doc Holiday.’ White male Caucasian, age thirty-nine, six feet, one eighty-five, blue on brown. No distinguishing marks or characteristics. No misdemeanor or felony convictions of any kind.” He swallowed the rest of his rye and signaled for another round. “But three years ago a federal grand jury in Portland, Oregon, delivered multi-count indictments against you for your role as president of a mortgage bank that went tits up. Mortgage fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to violate the Bank Secrecy Act, et cetera. Now, either you were too smart, or had too good a piece of legal talent, because the indictments all got kicked back, thrown out of court. Case never even went to trial. You walked.”
“Maybe I wasn’t culpable.”
Hobbs looked away from the mirror and directly at me for a moment. He said, “Yeah, maybe you weren’t culpable. There’s always that, Doc. Anyway, you walked. You walked but you were through in the money game. So you were blackballed from banking and you went to team up with your dad and his private investigation firm in Portland. Approximately a year and a half ago you moved here to the Bay Area and set up your own business specializing in white-collar crime. Your clients are banks, mortgage banks, and insurance companies. You specialize in insurance fraud, bank fraud, and what you evidently have some hands-on expertise in, mortgage fraud. You make a living, you don’t get rich … not so as anyone can tell. On the personal side, two years ago your dad died of an accidental gunshot wound—or he ate his gun, depending on who you talk to. Your mother died when you were a child. That leaves you with no parents, no siblings, no spouse, no live-in girlfriend and no family except a great aunt somewhere in Kentucky who you haven’t seen for twenty years. How’d I do?”
Seattle, 1950. When men were men, thanks to WWII, and fine dining meant a steak at Canlis.
“Seattle-area writer T.W. Emory’s debut, Trouble in Rooster Paradise is an affectionate nod to noir fiction and its tough guys and dolls…. Good, vivid stuff. And who can resist a book with a cover featuring a fedora-wearing private eye, a shapely dame … and the Smith Tower?” Read more….
—Adam Woog, The Seattle Times
Trouble in Rooster Paradise ($14.95, 256 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-996-1) is a work of mystery/suspense by debut author T.W. Emory. While investigating the death of a high-end shop girl, a lone private eye comes up against some deadly and powerful local characters.
Trouble in Rooster Paradise is Book 1 in the Gunnar Nilson Mystery series.
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“Emory’s first novel vividly evokes the ambiance of classic American hard-boiled crime writing.”
“Gunnar Nilson, Emory’s clove-chewing gumshoe with an eye for the ladies is every cliché in the book when it comes to hard-boiled detective stories, but to great extent that’s what makes this novel such a pleasure…. The characters in the 1950s sections (which make up the bulk of the book) are well-drawn, quirky, and a lot of fun to get to know. The setting—Seattle in the 50s when it was a working-class backwater—is also evoked well…. Readers will want to follow this detective and his delightful supporting cast of friends.” Read more….
—Meredith Frazier, Reviewing the Evidence
“Emory skillfully evokes this era of class distinctions and gender inequity. The murderer’s motive is inspired by both of these inequalities. The tale is peppered with recognizable 1950s characters—the world-weary waitress, the damaged World War II veteran, the thwarted career woman…. I was happy to be plunged into Nilson’s tale in the 1950s.” Read more….
—Historical Novel Society
“When perfume is the smell of death, a private eye needs to be careful around the ladies. That’s a tall order for detective Gunnar Nilson in T.W. Emory’s thrilling debut set in post-war Seattle. Nilson meets many a lovely beauty as he tries to find out how one of them ended up murdered with his business card in her pocket. He’s a tough-minded, smart sleuth, unwinding a plot layered with deception and driven by sins going back decades. Call it Queen City noir; this is an enthralling look at Seattle when it was a working class town populated by tough guys and great smelling gals, many with black secrets.”
—Rich Zahradnik, author of Last Words
Recuperating from an injury and prompted by an eager young nurse, old-timer Gunnar Nilson looks back at one of his big cases as a private eye in 1950. At that time memories of World War II were still fresh, and Seattle was a cultural backwater. The Ballard neighborhood where he hung out his shingle teemed with working-class folk of Scandinavian descent. Gals with hourglass figures and gimlet eyes enticed men in gray flannel suits with cigarettes dangling from their lips.
The case he recounts involves the murder of one of these beauties. Gunnar’s business card is in her pocket, but she’s no client. She’s just a gal he met at the movies; he gave her a ride home and helped her lose the creep who was tailing her. It’s none of Gunnar’s business who killed her, not until he discovers she dated the godson of a wealthy client, a man who’s willing to pay big bucks for Gunnar to nose around.
Nose around he does, in the perfumed rooms of Fasciné Expressions, a “rooster paradise” that employed the murdered girl and is frequented by the godson. Schooled to be class acts by a former showgirl, these fine-feathered hens know how to inspire a man to spend big on gifts for his lady.
Gunnar believes the victim was killed by one of her customers, but the heady fragrance of perfumed female can make it awfully tough for a guy to think clearly, especially when the killer is also breathing down his neck.
Says T.W., “Ballard in the year 1950 seemed a fitting place and time for my story, given some of my family history. My maternal grandparents emigrated from Sweden in the late 1920s along with my mom and her older sister. Their family enlarged and grew up, and by the late 1940s my grandparents moved to Ballard, where for several years they took in fellow Swedes as boarders. I can still remember a boarder or two when I was a little kid and when their home was a hub of activity for aunts, uncles, and many cousins.”
Born into a blue collar family in Seattle, Washington, and raised in the suburbs of the greater Seattle area, T.W. Emory has been an avid reader since his early teens. In addition to writing, T.W. enjoys cartooning as a hobby and provided the illustrations for the cover of Trouble in Rooster Paradise. He currently lives north of Seattle with his wife and two sons. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
I parked my Chevy thirty feet from a prowl car and an ambulance. Beams of light quivered in a passageway between two buildings. A small huddle of men examined a lumpy pile on the ground. Some distance beyond them, more flashlights bobbed and swayed as a search party spread out.
One of the uniformed cops spotted us and tapped the arm of a man lighting a cigarette. Detective Sergeant Frank Milland flagged me over with the first two fingers of his left hand. I approached and was met by expressions ranging from hostile to indifferent. Walter followed but held back a ways.
“Nice of you to join our little cotillion,” Milland said, looking at and past me, “but who invited the freak show?”
“I invited him. And don’t call him a freak.”
Milland made an animal noise of acceptance. “Just as long as he keeps his distance. The stiff had your card. Take a look-see and tell us who we’re looking at.”
I stepped into the circle of men hovered over the body. During the war, I’d seen more than my share of the dead—enough to become inured and detached. But one of the things that continued to jangle my nerves was seeing the corpse of someone I’d visited with just the day before.
This was a nerve-jangler.
In combat, bodies are strewn about like damaged puppets with their strings cut. Sometimes a face looks at peace with its surroundings. The face on the body at my feet gave me a gut-tightening twinge. The strings had been cut, but the face didn’t look at all peaceful.
“What’s the verdict, Gunnar? Anyone you know?” Milland demanded.
“Yeah. But we’d met only once. Last night.” I glanced at my Longines. It said 12:01. “Well, it’s Thursday now, so make that Tuesday night when I met her.”
Blood had run down the wall of the building, marking the trail the body had made from its standing position to the pavement where it initially landed. A path of blood led farther into the alley where the body now lay. I took two cloves from my shirt pocket and slipped them in my mouth, sawing them in half with my teeth. I could see Walter flipping up the collar of his overcoat as he moved in closer, looking like a homogenized version of the Shadow and Phantom of the Opera.
Milland exhaled smoke and said, “So, you say you met this gal on Tuesday night. Tell us what else you know.”
I had a fair idea as to when to begin. My tongue played with pieces of clove as my mind struggled with the who, what and why particulars that didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the here and now.
Earth, Grass, Trees and Stone ($11.95, 152 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-321-1), is a collection of 65 poems by Mary Anne Morefield. The final poem in the collection, “Requiem,” will be set to music for the Susquehanna Chorale in 2015 by Bob Chilcott.
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“Mary Anne Morefield’s debut collection overflows with the primacy of living, with the most elemental actions of groundhogs and lambs, with the exuberant colors of cholla and prickly pear, with what she rightly calls ‘the ache of prayer.’ Here is a writer offering wisdom and beauty, humbly teaching us how to live, how to journey toward death with a loved one, how to find strength, even joy, despite grief’s shadow. These poems chant both praise and lamentation. They show us the way toward an earthly resurrection of sorts. They admonish the reader to ‘Let yourself be air.’ With a hard-earned gladness, they say ‘Amen.’ ”
—Todd Davis, author of In the Kingdom of the Ditch and The Least of These
“Mary Anne Morefield’s collection reflects the poet’s meticulous observation of the natural world, but the poems belie their sometimes beautiful surfaces. Their subjects are as various as the forms they take (haibun, sonnet, ode, and more) and encompass vastly different geographies. This is true of the physical worlds the poems evoke: Pennsylvania’s woods, hills, and farmlands and Arizona’s desert landscape. This is also true of the psychic space they conjure, one often marked by loss, both personal and public. Beginning with the opening, title poem and extended in the third, the book contains a number of elegies and could be read as a moving lament for a lost spouse. Yet inside the elegy resides the ode, and these poems insist that we remember the full range of human experience: ‘Rain or Sun? Must I Choose/between them?’ the poet asks at the conclusion of one of her poems. The answer the collection overwhelmingly suggests is: No. The point is not to ‘choose’ but rather to learn to live ‘in the space between/the nothing, the everything, the all.’ ”
—Shara McCallum, poet
“These poems celebrate and mourn, ache and ask. Morefield has received her life, moment by moment, in all its fullness, and she gives it back to us in a voice of gentle and reflective contemplation.”
—Margaret Gibson, author of Broken Cup
With eyes wide open to the world around her, Mary Anne Morefield explores hedgerow and pasture, the plants and animals and humans that inhabit an 18th-century Pennsylvania farm. She broadens her search to the wider world of ideas, to other cultures, to Aleppo and the West Bank. She looks directly at Hurricane Sandy and sits beside death. She examines the region of widowhood, laces up her hiking boots and explores new territory in the flora, fauna and mountains of Arizona. There new colors catch her eye, new sounds enchant her ears. The poems speak to living deeply and fully in the world.
Born and raised in the Mid-West, Mary Anne Morefield lives a tri-partite life in Central Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Chautauqua, New York. She served as Vice President of The Writers’ Center, and as President of the Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends. Mary Anne is a member of the Seminary Ridge Foundation in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which oversees the Seminary Ridge Museum. Her work has appeared in various journals, including Poet Lore, Poetry East, Atlanta Review, The MacGuffin and Chautauqua. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt from the poem, “Earth, Grass, Trees and Stone”:
For the first time since we left you
in this place of earth, grass, trees and stone,
I’ve come to hear its silence and its sounds,
to learn the beauty of granite, its veins
lakes and rivers on which seed boats float,
and on whose banks, a fly dries itself after bathing.