Exclusive Excerpt: Boystown 11: Heart’s Desire (Boystown Mysteries) by Marshall Thornton

Excerpt:

I got up early the next morning and drove to Irene’s apartment, which was on Malden right above Gracie Cemetery. It was right on the edge of Uptown. Not a great neighborhood. I parked Harker’s car on the cemetery side of Montrose.
Gracie Cemetery wasn’t one of my favorite places; I’d killed a man there once. I told myself I wasn’t there for a trip down memory lane and, even if I were, that wasn’t a lane I should go down.
When I found Irene’s building, it was a grand old brick apartment house, three stories tall and covering all of the lot from Malden back to the alley. It had originally been six apartments, but I walked up to the front door and saw there were twelve names on the modern intercom. Using the key Irene had given me, I opened the door and stepped into the lobby. Beyond it was the stairwell. As soon as I stepped inside, I noticed there were four doors on the first floor, and presumably the same on the floors above. It looked like the building had been divided at some point.
Irene’s apartment was on the third floor. The railing was on the right, which lately hadn’t been much fun for me since it was my right arm in the sling. Slowly, I climbed the three flights of stairs. It was kind of stupid; I didn’t need to hold onto a railing. I wasn’t decrepit. It’s just one of those things you get used to, resting a hand on the railing as you climbed stairs. It was stabilizing—something most thirty-six-year-olds never had to think about.
On the third floor, I walked over to the door marked A. It was on the right at the front. Slipping the key into the deadbolt, I turned it and didn’t encounter any resistance. Normally, you could feel the bolt moving out of its slot, hear it if you listened. I reached down with my left hand and turned the doorknob. The door opened. It hadn’t been locked. I was sure of it.
I leaned in and said, “Hello?”
When no one replied with a friendly, “I’m burglarizing this apartment, just give me another few minutes,” I stepped inside. I was standing in a decent-sized room that had a sunporch to my left and a narrow room on my right, which was part kitchen, part dining room. I opened a door to what I thought might be a closet and found a cramped bathroom with a shower.
The place was messy, but I couldn’t tell if someone had been in there making a mess or if the mess was Irene’s. Given the shape of the apartment she was staying in at Two Towers, I’d say it was possible the mess was hers. The stale odor of cigarettes hung in the air, making me quiver as I longed to light up and  contribute to the stink.
I stood there a minute and realized something I hadn’t been expecting to realize. My gut said Irene hadn’t seen anything real, that she’d imagined the whole thing. But the door hadn’t been locked. If someone had been in her apartment, that changed things. It could be a coincidence, but I doubted it. And I doubted it more as I looked around.
There were pocket doors between the sunporch and the living room. Irene had put a bed onto the porch and covered the windows with purple velvet drapes. The living room had a big mohair sofa that was probably fifty years old, a wooden rocking chair, a large table with just one chair, a portable record player and a stack of albums. There was no TV that I could see, which left out the possibility that the murder she’d witnessed had been on the Sunday Night Movie. I suppose the TV could have been stolen, but there was no TV Guide, no empty space where a TV might have sat, no antenna, no VCR, no rented movies, no tapes at all actually.
And the longer I stood there the more sense the mess made. It wasn’t the kind of mess made by a person looking for valuables. There were stacks of newspapers on the big table, for instance, but none on the floor. There was a dresser at the foot of the bed with an unopened jewelry box on top of it. The drawers weren’t even open; no one had rifled through them.
Plus, the answering machine was there. If you’re going to steal the TV, why not steal the answering machine? They were easy enough to sell; easier even. They were smaller. Retail was almost a hundred bucks for most answering machines. Street value had to be at least twenty.
The answering machine sat beneath a black desk phone. Both were on top of a spindly wire telephone stand from the fifties that sat next to the rocker. On a lower shelf, beneath the phone and answering machine, sat the Chicago-area phone book.
A red digital five on the front of the answering machine told me how many messages there were. I turned the dial so the messages would play. The first was nothing but a long pause followed by a scratching noise. Weird. The second was from a Dr. Vann’s office telling Irene she had an appointment at one-fifteen the previous Thursday. Then there was another blank message with some scratching, this time the scratching went on longer and got louder. It was disturbing. Creepy even. The caller hung up. Another message began and it was the same thing: a long pause with some breathing, followed by another round of scratching. It was beginning to make my skin crawl.
The final message was from a man:
“Hello dear, it’s your father. It’s time for our Saturday call. I hope you’re out and about having fun, and not angry with me. Call me back.”
I stood there piecing things together. Clementine said the murder had taken place almost a week ago. So not Saturday and possibly not Sunday. I’d have to pin down the exact time later. If the murder happened on Monday night, then the first message came sometime on Tuesday or early Wednesday. The call from the doctor’s office would have been sometime on Wednesday, since a doctor’s office would call to confirm an appointment the day before.
The second and third scratching messages happened between that Wednesday call and Irene’s father calling on Saturday. Possibly one on Thursday and another on Friday. Someone was calling Irene nearly every day leaving disturbing messages. Not even messages, just sounds. I wondered if that someone had been in the apartment. If so, they’d have to have had a key.
I opened the front door again and looked down at the welcome mat sitting on the wall-to-wall carpet in the hallway. Reaching down I flipped it over.
Underneath was a key. Anyone could have gotten into the apartment. All they had to do was get through the front door downstairs and then look in the most obvious place in the world to leave a spare key.
If the person leaving the scratching noises was the same person as the one who’d left the door open, they’d likely gotten in on Friday or Saturday, since that’s when the scratchers seemed to stop. What had they been looking for? And had they found it? I wondered if any of the neighbors had seen who’d been in the apartment.
Going back in, I spent a few more minutes looking around. The only thing I saw was evidence of an interrupted life. A few dishes in the sink, some unopened mail—I assumed there was more of that downstairs in her mailbox—dirty clothes ready to go to the laundry.
Stepping out of the apartment, I shut the door and locked it, pocketing both keys. There was no reason to leave strangers a way into the apartment. It was around eight-thirty on a Sunday morning. I decided to knock on a few doors. I didn’t think people would like it much, but that wasn’t really my problem.
First, I walked down to the door of the apartment that had originally been the rear half of Irene’s apartment. From the way things were configured, I wondered if this door hadn’t once been a service door. The original apartments might have been luxurious enough to merit maid service. The maids might have gone up and down the backstairs, but they could have also slipped in this way without disturbing their masters.
No one came to the door.
Next, I tried the door directly across from Irene’s. As soon as I knocked a dog began barking. I waited, expecting someone to open the door. Instead, I heard a thwack and the dog whimpered a couple of times and then stopped barking. Someone was in there, and they’d just hit their dog with a rolled-up newspaper. At least I hoped it was a newspaper and not something worse. They didn’t come to the door.
There was no answer at the final door on the floor. This time I knew what game I was playing, so I watched the peephole intently. Thirty seconds after I knocked a shadow seemed to pass over it, telling me there was someone on the other side of the door deliberately not opening it.
I went down the stairs but stopped on the landing. This would have been where Irene witnessed the murder before she turned and ran. Well, there was no blood and no signs of blood being cleaned up. At first glance there didn’t seem to be anything unusual about the wall. It was wall-papered, had probably been wall-papered several times. The pattern was striped in various colors and thicknesses.
After staring at the wall for a full minute or so, I noticed a spot where the stripes seemed to wobble. The spot was about eye level. I ran my left hand across it. Behind the wallpaper, the plaster was dented. The indentation felt circular, almost like a crater. I ran my good hand up and down the wall but didn’t find anything else. I squatted down as close as I could to the floor. I could have gotten on my hands and knees, but that was challenging since the sling meant I could only partially wear my trench coat. Between the loose coat and the sling, it was hard enough just to squat.
When I did, I immediately smelled urine. Urine that could easily belong to the dog I’d heard upstairs. I stood up and then pushed the toe of my boot around the carpet. I found a squishy spot. It was directly below the crater. The crater in the plaster might have been from a man’s head being slammed against the wall. And the urine, well, that can happen when you die. Your bladder lets go. Everyone knows that.
Blurb:
It’s February 1985. Nick struggles to recover from a gunshot wound, while taking on the case of a woman with a mental illness, who may or may not have witnessed a murder. As he attempts to determine exactly what the woman saw and how much danger she may be in, he juggles the approaching DeCarlo trial, an ill Mrs. Harker, and the sexually precocious Terry. Valentine’s Day with boyfriend Joseph produces some big changes in their relationship. Life is evolving, but there’s no guarantee it’s for the better.
Find out more about Lambda Literary Award Winner, Marshall Thornton:
Author Marshall Thornton

Excerpts! Lammy Finalists: Boystown 10: Gifts Given & Night Drop, both by Marshall Thornton

Two Exclusive Excerpts from this year’s double Lammy Finalist (Gay Mystery)  – Lambda Literary Award winner (and multi-nominated), author, Marshall Thornton!

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Exclusive Excerpt #1 – Lambda Finalist – Boystown 10: Gifts Given

Given what I’ve seen, given what I’ve lived, it strikes me that love is a kind of madness. An insanity that poses as a necessity, tricking us into believing we need it as much as breath, as much as life itself. A sensible man would run from it, bar the doors, hide in a cupboard like a child, rifle through the kitchen drawers looking for a weapon to stave it off. A sensible man would have nothing to do with love. I am not a sensible man.

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A week before Christmas, a Tuesday, I asked my friend Brian to go shopping with me. I needed his help picking out a gift for my live-in boyfriend, Joseph Biernacki, which was how we ended up standing in a very long line, empty-handed, waiting to get into Marshall Field’s Walnut Room for lunch. We’d done exactly forty-five minutes of shopping, most of it spent looking at watches even though I knew that was the wrong gift for Joseph. He’d given me a Swatch for our six-month anniversary, so a watch felt wrong, repetitive and unoriginal. Besides, I’d accidentally thrown the Swatch he’d given me away—and I didn’t want to remind him. I was also a little afraid he’d buy me a new one for Christmas.

“You know, lunch is going to take two hours,” I pointed out. “Maybe we should go out to State Street and buy a slice of pizza.” There were greasy little pizza places roughly every two blocks.

“Isn’t this a Chicago tradition, though? A Christmas lunch at Field’s?” Brian asked. He’d grown up downstate. But he was right, lunch at Field’s was a Christmas tradition. Hence the line we were in.

It was something I’d done a dozen times as a child. My mother, like thousands of mothers, had brought my brothers and me each year for shopping and lunch. Unfortunately, whatever fond memories I had of that had been obliterated by the fact that the last time I was in Field’s I’d been shot at.

“It’s not a tradition I need to repeat,” I said.

He read the impatience on my face and said, “Hold on a second,” before walking up to the hostess stand. After a brief conversation he turned and waved at me to join him.

When I got there, the hostess smiled and said, “Right this way.”

As we walked through the atrium, passing the giant, three-story Christmas tree, I whispered into Brian’s ear. “How did you manage this?”

“You’ll see.”

The hostess led us across the wood-paneled dining room—presumably walnut given the name of the place—to a table that sat in the corner in front of two enormous windows looking out at a random collection of Loop office buildings. Sugar Pilson sat alone at a table for four. She was casual but elegant in a cabled cream-colored sweater and a pair of washed-out, high-waisted jeans. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she looked more like the cheerleader she was rumored to have once been than the socialite she actually was. I’d met her years before on a case, but she was now more Brian’s friend than mine. Not that I didn’t like her immensely, it’s just that she and Brian did charity work together for Howard Brown, creating a bond between them I wasn’t part of.

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Obviously, Brian had known Sugar was there, so why had we waited in line at all? Were they planning to pretend we were meeting accidentally?

As soon as the hostess walked away, I said, “This is a setup, isn’t it? What’s going on?”

“Of course it’s a set-up, darling. I need to have a professional conversation with you.”

I took off my trench coat and threw it over the fourth chair beside Sugar’s white fox car coat. Brian slipped his down jacket over the back of his chair.

“Why not just come to my office?” I asked as I sat down.

“I’ve driven by your office. Really Nick, how do you expect to attract clients? Your name isn’t on the door and it looks like the kind of place you’d go for a back alley abortion.”

She wasn’t wrong. My office was hardly appealing.

“Abortion is legal, Sugar, and you’re too young to know anything about back alley abortions.”

“I’m not, but it’s sweet of you to say so.”

“So, what exactly do you need?”

She didn’t answer, though, since a waitress showed up. “Can I get you something from the bar?”

“Yes, please. I’ll have one of those wonderful coffee drinks you make,” Sugar said, then she looked at Brian and me and said, “Perfect for a day like today.”

Outside, it was in the low twenties and threatening to snow. Though in all honesty, I doubted Sugar had experienced much of the weather walking from her front door to the limo and from the limo into Field’s. She’d probably been outside for a whole minute and a half.

“I’ll have the same,” I said.

“Can I have a diet Coke?” Brian asked.

When the waitress walked away, I asked Sugar again, “Why do you need my professional services?”

She took a moment, chewed some of the pink lipstick off her lower lip, and finally said, “I’ve fallen in love.”

“And like most women the first thing you thought about was hiring a private detective?”

“Nick, don’t tease her,” Brian said. “It’s not nice.”

“Sorry. I assume you think this gentleman is after your money.”

“Oh, I know he’s after my money,” Sugar said. “They always are. I need to know more about him so I can decide how much I want to spend on him.”

“That’s an interesting attitude,” I said.

“Well, it’s not like I can flip him over and check the price tag.”

Brian giggled at the image.

“All right. What’s his name?” I asked.

“There’s one more thing.”

“Okay.”

“I have the feeling I’m being watched,” Sugar said. “It’s a feeling I don’t like.”

“Why do you feel that way?”

“Things keep showing up in Gloria’s column. Things that shouldn’t be there.”

Gloria Silver wrote “The Silver Spoon” for the Daily Herald. We had a long, unpleasant association. She was the wife of the late Earl Silver, who originally wrote the column. He was also the lover of my friend (and onetime fuck buddy) Ross. I suppose that made us sexual relatives in a way. An extremely unpleasant thought.

I read her column every day, and Sugar was right, she’d been in the column a lot. Several of the mentions had to do with her drinking habits, the others weren’t much more flattering.

“And do you think your new beau is the source of Gloria’s information?”

“No, she’s written about things he couldn’t know.”

“So you think Gloria’s having you followed?”

“Oh God, that sounds so paranoid when you say it out loud.”

The waitress brought our drinks. I took a spoon and stirred mine up. It was topped with whipped cream. Whipped cream and mustaches don’t go well together in public. I took a sip; it was warm and sweet and very strong.

“You can help her, right Nick?” Brian asked.

I wasn’t exactly ready to commit. “Tell me about the man.”

“He’s an artist. I met him at a gallery about two months ago. He paints orchids and flamingos on gigantic canvases. I bought a flamingo for my dining room. That’s how we got to know each other.”

“It’s a great painting,” Brian said.

“Isn’t it?” Sugar said. “I think it just makes the room.”

“How much was this great painting?”

“Hardly anything.”

“Hardly anything in my world is twenty bucks,” I pointed out. “How much is it in yours?”

“Five thousand.”

“Are you his only client?”

“Goodness no. He sells all the time.”

“He’s very popular,” Brian added.

“How long does it take him to paint a picture?”

“A couple of weeks. It’s hard to tell. He works on more than one at a time.”

“So he makes roughly ten grand a month and you think he might be after your money?”

“Darling, I clip coupons. And I never touch my principal.” She also she lived lavishly and gave generously, meaning that her income was large enough to impress people who made ten grand a month.

“You clip coupons? I hope that’s just an expression. I don’t like to think of you having a lot of bearer bonds lying around the house.” Bearer bonds were not registered to their owner and therefore a very convenient thing to steal. They’d also gone out of fashion and, if I wasn’t mistaken, weren’t being issued anymore.

“Of course it’s an expression,” she said. “And I don’t keep anything valuable around the house.” Except the paintings on her walls, the furs in her closet and, I’d guess, a couple handfuls of diamonds lying about.

“We should get back on topic. We were talking about your painter. Michael France.”

“Oh Nick, you know his name! You’re psychic, aren’t you? That must be so useful in your line of work.”

“I read ‘The Silver Spoon.’ Gloria has been promoting him for a while now. A year? Longer?”

“How can you read that dreadful witch?” We’d both had run-ins with Gloria. It was something we had in common. Gloria hated both of us.

“I read her because I like to know what the witch is up to.” Of course, it was obvious that Sugar read the column every day herself. Then something occurred to me. Michael France was a sort of protégé of Gloria’s, or possibly…

“Sugar? Did you steal Gloria’s boyfriend?”

“I wouldn’t phrase it exactly like that.”

Brian, though, was furiously nodding his head.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Didn’t you tell me that Gloria was in love with some twenty-five-year-old who was robbing her blind?”

“He’s not twenty-five, he’s almost thirty. And apparently Gloria is doing just fine since she bought a condo on Lake Shore and Burton. Two bedrooms, three hundred thousand dollars.”

“A hundred and fifty thousand a bedroom?”

“Well, it is an entire floor. And it has more bathrooms than bedrooms.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I know her real-estate agent.”

“I guess the Daily Herald pays better than I thought.”

“It doesn’t. She acts like she comes from money, but I don’t think she does.”

“Did they give her a discount for publicity?”

“A steep discount, I imagine.”

Another waitress came and asked if we wanted to order lunch. There was wait staff everywhere running around and they didn’t seem too concerned with who did what. I ordered the Walnut Room’s famous chicken potpie, Sugar ordered a salad, and Brian ordered meatloaf.

When we were alone again, I said, “I’ll do a standard background check, but I’d also like to meet France—if you don’t think that would be too awkward.”

“There’s a holiday open house at his studio on Thursday. I’ve already invited Brian. Come as his guest. Don’t mention that I’ve hired you.”

“Of course not. Do you plan to tell him, though? At some point?”

“It depends on what you find.”

The conversation drifted to the AIDS test that was supposed to be coming out soon. The test was still being tested, and activists were already raising concerns about confidentiality and whether insurance companies or employers might be able to get hold of your results.

“I was having a conversation with a board member about creating a testing center where people could be tested for free on a strictly confidential basis,” Brian said.

“Does it really matter, though?” I asked. “There’s no cure. So what good is knowing?”

“I’ve heard that before. I think it’s better to know. So that people can take precautions.”

“People are already taking precautions.” Precautions that don’t always work, I did not add.

“Darling, it’s not just about individuals. The test is also important for research and helping doctors learn how to treat their patients.” That was annoyingly true.

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Exclusive Excerpt #2: Night Drop by Marshall Thornton

At times I felt like a ghost. I think I hadn’t had enough time to become myself before I met Jeffer, and then I was part of Noah and Jeffer, Jeffer and Noah. We went to a party once and I overheard someone saying about me, “It’s like he has no personality when Jeffer leaves the room.” It was a cruel thing to say, mostly because it felt true.

That’s what I was thinking about as I drove home in a riot. Strange, I thought. Very strange. But then I remembered it was almost the anniversary of Jeffer’s getting sick; the great unraveling of secrets and lies; the beginning of my floating away from him, ghostlike and empty.

My apartment was less than a mile from Pinx Video. Around the time Jeffers died, I’d moved to a small, one-bedroom apartment on a hill in Silver Lake. Not one of the better hills, a hill well below Sunset. The good part of Silver Lake was north of Sunset surrounding the actual lake, of course. Fanning out from there were some decent blocks, but then, when you crossed Sunset, you came to a hilly area where altitude and income fell into step. The wealthier people lived at the top of the hills, while the poor and desperate lived at the bottom.

Not that my apartment was the kind of place where rich people lived. The dishwater gray building was a small six-unit L wrapped around a shabby, old-growth courtyard. There were thick, shaggy palms, birds of paradise and a dribbling fountain, leaving only enough room for a single metal table and chairs. A cement stairway—painted rusty red—came up from the street and garages to the courtyard, then a wooden stairway led to the second floor. A red-tiled walkway with white railings ran across the entire second floor.

My place was on the second floor at the front giving me a southwest view of the basin. As I was unlocking my door that morning, I glanced out and saw plumes of smoke rising above the city in at least a dozen spots. I suppose most of them had been there when I’d left two hours before, but I hadn’t thought much about them, assuming they were left over from the night before. Now they seemed ominous; a hint of the future rather than a glimpse of the past.

I wasn’t sure if the apartment measured six hundred square feet, if it did it was just that. The living room was small, too small for a full sofa so I had a second-hand love seat that I’d wrapped in a crazy black and purple print I’d gotten at the new IKEA in Burbank. Beside that there wasn’t much other than a black leather chair with a bent-wood frame—also from IKEA, it was called POONG or something unpronounceable along those lines—a veneered armoire from the thirties which held my 13-inch TV/VCR combo, my video collection (or at least part of it), a compact stereo and a stack of CDs I’d gotten from a record club. On the wall over the POONG chair hung a Hockney poster that Jeffer had bought me at the LACMA retrospective in eighty-eight.

There was a faux Danish modern dinette set that I’d put in front of the window next to the dining area off the kitchen. That area was too small for the table, so I’d turned it into an office area by putting my sixties-style metal desk under the corner windows.

The minuscule, U-shaped kitchen had appliances that were brand new when I was in high school and very little counter space, most of which was taken up by my most important appliance, the microwave.

The bedroom had a wall of closets, and a wall of built-in cabinets and drawers, leaving exactly enough room for a queen-sized bed. I had set my bed in front of a do-it-yourself bookcase made of concrete blocks and planks of wood, using it as a kind of headboard. This eliminated the need for nightstands, which there wasn’t room for anyway. I’d painted the entire apartment dove gray and put in bright white miniblinds. I ignored the sculptured brown carpet as best I could.

I put on a Dionne Warwick CD and kicked off my shoes. I went into the bathroom to wash my face. I don’t think it was dirty, but just the idea of a riot made everything seem sooty and thick. I tried not to look at myself. If I had I would not have seen the ghost I felt like but instead a reasonably attractive young man of around twenty-eight. I had brown eyes and unremarkable but symmetrical features. The most noticeable thing about me was my hair. It was massively thick and stubborn. It did whatever it chose and I had little say in the matter. I’d tried every product out there and nothing tamed the beast on my head. At that particular moment it needed cutting, but I could hardly put out a bulletin to stop the riot so I could find a barber.

I tried even harder not to look at the rest of me. If you were being unkind you’d call me delicate, frail, skinny—I couldn’t for the life of me keep weight on—elf-like even. And if you were being kind, well, there were few kind words for a man of my stature.

Dionne was nearly finished loving Paris when the phone rang. I pressed pause on the CD player and picked up the cordless. It was Louis from downstairs.

“Marc is on his way home from the studio. They’re shutting down. Did you close the video store?”

“I did.”

“Good idea. I’m making lunch. Come down.”

I’d barely said yes when he hung up. Louis was partial to short telephone chats and long after-dinner conversations. I didn’t need to change my clothes; I dressed casually at Pinx—though not as casually as my employees. Still, I changed into a pair of khaki shorts, flip-flops, a mock turtleneck and an over-sized jean jacket. I ran a comb through my hair but quickly gave up trying to subdue it. Then went down to the courtyard about ten minutes later.

Louis had a glass of chardonnay already poured for me. The sky was thick with clouds—the marine layer—but that didn’t matter. There was an umbrella stuck into the center of the metal table in the extremely remote chance it rained.

Sitting on the ground next to the table was a high-end boom box tuned to KCRW. They were discussing whether the Federal government might now file charges against the LAPD officers accused of beating King. The guest was fairly certain they would.

“We live in strange times,” Louis said coming out of his apartment. He and Marc lived directly below in an apartment that was identically small. While I had a view, they’d claimed this end of the courtyard for themselves.

Wearing navy shorts, penny loafers, a light blue dress shirt and an apron that said “Finger Lickin’ Good,” Louis was tall, nearly forty and spreading in the middle. His eyes protruded a bit and his smile was wide, giving him the look of a jovial frog. I wasn’t the first to notice it; there was a collection of miniature frogs on his kitchen windowsill. In one hand he held a plate full of uncooked ribs.

“We live in strange times, so you thought you’d barbecue?” I asked.

“It was that or pack up the car and flee.”

He set the ribs on the table and bent over a small hibachi. In a short while, he had the coals lit and sat down with me at the table.

“So. Can you believe the verdict?” he asked.

“It was shocking.”

“I don’t see how they could come to that decision. Between the videotape and Gates himself saying it was…what was the word he used, an aberration?”

I sipped the wine. It was cold, sweet and tart at the same time, and warming as it went down. The glass had sprouted beads of water. I rubbed at them while I listened to the sirens in the distance.

“I don’t remember much about the beating. I wasn’t paying attention,” I admitted.

“Well, it wasn’t an aberration. I’ve seen the LAPD beat people like that before.”

“You have?”

“Absolutely. I mean, there was no video camera handy. And the person was white. But you have to know LAPD makes a habit of this.”

“So, it’s systemic?”

“Again, the video. Look at all those other cops standing around watching, doing nothing. That’s systemic.”

“What about people saying King was on PCP?”

“And it gives you superhuman strength?”

I shrugged. That’s what they said, but I had no idea.

“If that man had superhuman strength they left it out of the video,” Louis said.

Just then, Marc came up the stairs. He was smaller and wider than Louis, and about ten years younger. He wore gray wool slacks, a white shirt and a red tie. In one hand, he carried the jacket that went with the slacks, in the other a scuffed briefcase. His face was round and his lips were what my mother’s generation would have called bee-stung.

Not bothering to go inside, he flopped down in one chair and tossed his things in another, before he pulled out a pack of extra-long menthol cigarettes.

“Oh. My. God. I just drove through hell.” He lit his cigarette and inhaled. “I took Washington to Vermont, my normal route. Huge mistake. I had no idea that South Central was like a block away from there. A block! They started talking about it on the radio. Did you know that it goes all the way up to the 10? I certainly didn’t. And there I was, a block from the 10. And then, almost as soon as I realize that, I glance over and there are these guys trying to break into a liquor store on the other side of the street. I mean, the place had all these security bars and they’re just ripping them down like they’re curtains—Louis, why haven’t you gotten me a glass of wine?”

“Well dear, it seemed rude to walk away while you were talking.”

“Go get me wine. I’ll talk louder.” He inhaled deeply from his cigarette. “So, every few blocks there’s someone trying to break into a business and then…OH MY GOD!” he yelled so Louis could hear him inside. “I get to Washington and Vermont and there are two, not one but TWO GAS STATIONS ON FIRE!”

Louis came out of the apartment with a fresh glass of wine for himself and one for Marc. “You didn’t stop for any red lights, did you?”

“Are you crazy? Not after the things we saw on TV last night.” He took the glass of wine. “Oh thank God.” After a long sip, he continued. “I don’t know what happened. This morning—I mean, I drove the same route at eight-thirty—nothing was happening, nothing was being broken into, and nothing was on fire.”

“I guess rioters like to sleep in,” Louis suggested. “They were up late last night, after all.”

“Did you really run red lights?” I asked.

“Only the one at Washington and Vermont.”

“So, there were no fire engines at that intersection? No police?”

“No, the gas stations were just burning.”

“Well,” said Louis. “We’re glad you made it home safe.”

“Yes, my being dragged from the car and beaten would have ruined your appetite.”

“Well, it would have,” Louis said. “Though not as much as worrying about how I’d get the Infiniti back.” He looked at me and said, “It’s on a lease.”

I enjoyed Marc and Louis and their banter. I felt safe with them for some reason. I wondered what Jeffer would have thought of them. I doubt he’d have liked them. I remember the first time I brought Jeffer up, Marc said, “Good God, what kind of a name is Jeffer?”

“He was Jeff as a child. And then Jeffrey. But he liked Jeffer best.”

“Pretentious,” Marc said.

“Now, now,” Louis interrupted. “Don’t speak ill of the dead. Not when there are living people you can speak ill of.” And then he did just that, taking a few swipes at the president, who I found too bland to be worth insulting, or Pat Robertson or the mayor. It was fine with me, of course, since I preferred to talk about anything but Jeffer.

“Did you close the video store?” Marc asked.

“Of course, he closed the video store,” Louis replied for me. “He’s here isn’t he? He wouldn’t just leave his employees to fend for themselves.”

“Do you think it will be all right?” Marc asked, pointedly ignoring his lover.

“Well, they’re not sure it’s going to get this far,” I said. “I’ve heard most of it is still happening in South Central and Koreatown.”

“Yes, I imagine Koreatown’s getting slammed,” Louis said. “It’s one thing to murder a child. It’s another to get off scot-free.”

“It was involuntary manslaughter,” Marc corrected.

“You say potato I say murder.”

White flakes of ash began falling through the air. One or two at first, then more. The wind picked them up somewhere nearby. A somewhere nearby that was on fire.

“And Koreatown didn’t kill the girl, that cashier did. It’s not the neighborhood’s fault. It’s really the judge’s fault, she’s the one who reduced the sentence. They should go burn her house down and be done with it.”

“And the jury out in Simi Valley. They should get their houses burned down. Come to think of it, they can burn the whole Simi Valley.”

“I blame public transportation,” I said quietly.

“What?” Louis asked, and they both looked at me.

“Public transportation is terrible in L.A. The rioters can’t get to Simi Valley.”

Louis erupted into laughter. He put the ribs onto the hibachi, and when he stood up noticed the white flakes of ash floating in the air.

“Huh. Who says it never snows in Los Angeles.”

CHANGES to DRAWINGS for FREE, SIGNED COPIES of MYSTERY novels; 4-Year Anniversary Celebration Continues!

WE’RE CHANGING IT UP TO HELP CELEBRATE the 4-year Anniversary of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction group, autographed copies of selected Gay & Lesbian mystery novels will be offered up to our devoted members who each will have a chance to win via drawing! Twenty authors and Matthew Moore’s, Buy More Books, contributed over 50 books to give away FREE!!

word murder written with an old typewriter

How Do I Enter to Win?

Easy – just watch for a notice posted in the group to enter and win a SIGNED Copy of one of the titles being offered in the drawings.

Enter – to enter the drawings, simply provide a COMMENT WITH THE TITLE of the mystery novel you want a chance to win FREE. (Likes, etc., will not be considered as entering the drawing since some folks simply like to acknowledge their appreciation for the novel/author featured, etc.)

It’s that simple!

How Long Before Winner Announced? 

That depends. There are over 50 novels to be given away, so I want to give every member in the group a chance to see the drawing, so usually about three-five days depending on activity.

A few rules:

  • Only members of the group can enter the drawing; all members are eligible, including authors – they are readers/fans, too!
  • Members can enter as many drawings as you like, but keep in mind, the goal is to award as many members as possible, so multiple-winning members ay be avoided unless participation in the drawings dictate otherwise.
  • Please do not forward this announcement of the drawings to non-members as they are not eligible at this time. Though I welcome new members to the group, this 4-year birthday celebration is to thank all the current, loyal members of this group.
  • Non-USA contiguous & Canada will receive e-book alternative due to postage costs. Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction is a non-revenue, fan-based group and does not have the funds for the additional postage.
  • Substitutes may not be available, but not guaranteed.

If participation is low, remaining books will be held for later in the year. Any remaining books I have in my possession will be donated to the library of Lost-N-Found Youth, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to take homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths up to age 25 off the street and transition them into more permanent housing.

BOOK PROVIDED BY BUY MOORE BOOKS – (Matthew G. Moore)

Jackson Square Jazz – Greg Herren 

(2) Mardi Gras Mambo – Greg Herren

Bourbon Street Blues – Greg Herren

Murder in the Rue Delphine – Greg Herren 

Flight Dreams – Michael Craft

Bitch Slap – Michael Craft 

Shock to the System – Richard Stevenson

Third Man Out – Richard Stevenson

Death Trick – Richard Stevenson

Why Stop at Vengeance- Richard Stevenson 

(2) Lat Your Sleeping Head – Michael Nava

Assault with a Deadly Lie – Lev Raphael

An Echo of Death – Mark Zubro

Filmed to Death – Meg Perry 

No Escape – Nancy Sanra 

ALL OTHER BOOK TITLES; 

 (2) Pretty Boy Dead (A Kendall Parker Mystery) – Jon Michaelsen

(1) Time’s Rainbow: Writing Ourselves Back into American History (Volume 1)– ed; Lori L Lake & Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Death by Pride – Mark McNease

The Couple Next Door – Rick R. Reed

Criminal Gold Mystery series – Any one of copy of the series – Ann Aptaker

The Laconic Lumberjack (A Nick Williams Mystery – Book 4) – Frank W Butterfield

Hidden Identity – (The Jimmy McSwain Files – Book 1) – Adam Carpenter

Calvin’s Head – David Swatling

(2) A Very Public Eye (Book Two in The Public Eye Mystery Series) – Lori L. Lake

You Can Never Walk Away – Edward Kendrick

Body on Pine – Joseph R. G. DeMarco

Cited to Death – Meg Perry

Stacked to Death – Meg Perry

Researched to Death – Meg Perry

Boystown: Three Nick Nowack Mysteries – Marshall Thornton

Lay Your Sleeping Head – Michael Nava

Fever in the Dark: A Jane Lawless Mystery – Ellen Hart

(2) False Confessions (Doug Orlando Mystery – Book 1) – Steve Neil Johnson

(2) Final Atonement (Doug Orlando Mystery – Book 2) – Steve Neil Johnson

Alien Quest – Mark Zubro

Alien Home – Mark Zubro

Alien Victory – Mark Zubro

A Conspiracy of Fear – Mark Zubro

Pawn of Satan – Mark Zubro

Black and Blue, and Pretty Dead, Too – Mark Zubro

Another Dead Republican – Mark Zubro

Gentle – Mark Zubro

Dying To Play – Mark Zubro

Dying for a Thrill – Mark Zubro

 

Happy Four Year Anniversary to the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group!

To help celebrate my four-year anniversary of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group, autographed copies of selected Gay & Lesbian mystery novels will be offered up to our devoted members who each will have a chance to win via drawings! Twenty authors and Matthew Moore’s of Buy More Books, have contributed over 50 books to give away!!

word murder written with an old typewriter

How Do I Enter to Win?

Easy – just watch for a notice posted in the group of a selected Autographed Copy featuring the title of the novel with corresponding book cover, and author.

Enter – to enter the drawing, simply provide a one-word comment for the novel you want a chance to win. (“Likes”, etc., will not be considered as entering the drawing since some folks use the feature to acknowledge appreciation for the novel/author featured, etc.)

It’s that simple!

How Long Before Winner Announced? 

That depends. There are over 50 novels to be given away, so I want to give every member in the group a chance to see the drawing notice, so usually three-five days depending on activity and scheduling.

A few rules:

  • Only members of the group can enter the drawing; all members are eligible, including authors – they are readers/fans, too! Since this is a private group, no new members will be added until the Anniversary Celebration drawings are concluded.
  • Members can enter as many drawings as you like, but keep in mind, the goal here is to award as many members as possible so multiple-winning members may be avoided unless participation in each drawing dictates differently.
  • Please do not forward the announcement of the drawings to non-members; they are not eligible. Though I welcome new members to the group, this 4-year birthday celebration is to thank all the current loyal membership.
  • Non-USA contiguous/Canada winners will receive e-book alternative due to postage costs. Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction is a non-revenue, fan-based group and does not have the funds for postage.
  • Substitutes may not be available.

Titles Provided by Buy Moore Books (Matthew Moore):

Jackson Square Jazz – Greg Herren

(2) Mardi Gras Mambo – Greg Herren

Bourbon Street Blues – Greg Herren

Murder in the Rue Delphine – Greg Herren

Flight Dreams – Michael Craft

Bitch Slap – Michael Craft

Shock to the System – Richard Stevenson

Third Man Out – Richard Stevenson

Death Trick – Richard Stevenson

Why Stop at Vengeance- Richard Stevenson

(2) Lat Your Sleeping Head – Michael Nava

The Death of a Constant Lover – Lev Raphael

Assault with a Deadly Lie – Lev Raphael

An Echo of Death – Mark Zubro

Filmed to Death – Meg Perry

No Escape – Nancy Sanra

Titles Donated by the Authors:

(2) Prince of the Sea – Jon Michaelsen

(2) Pretty Boy Dead – Jon Michaelsen

(1) Time’s Rainbow: Writing Ourselves Back into American History (Volume 1)– ed; Lori L Lake & Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Last Room on the Cliff’s Edge – Mark McNease

Death by Pride – Mark McNease

Rainey Bell Mystery series – any one copy of the six Rainey Bell Mysteries – R. E. Bradshaw

The Couple Next Door – Rick R. Reed

Genuine Gold – Ann Aptaker

The Laconic Lumberjack (A Nick Williams Mystery – Book 4) – Frank W Butterfield

Hidden Identity – (The Jimmy McSwain Files – Book 1) – Adam Carpenter

Calvin’s Head – David Swatling

(2) A Very Public Eye (Book Two in The Public Eye Mystery Series) – Lori L. Lake

You Can Never Walk Away – Edward Kendrick

Body on Pine – Joseph R. G. DeMarco

Cited to Death – Meg Perry

Stacked to Death – Meg Perry

Researched to Death – Meg Perry

Boystown: Three Nick Nowack Mysteries – Marshall Thornton

Lay Your Sleeping Head – Michael Nava

Fever in the Dark: A Jane Lawless Mystery – Ellen Hart

(2) False Confessions (Doug Orlando Mystery – Book 1) – Steve Neil Johnson

(2) Final Atonement (Doug Orlando Mystery – Book 2) – Steve Neil Johnson

Exclusive Excerpt: Boystown 9: Lucky Days (The Boystown Series) by Marshall Thornton

Blurb:

In the ninth book of the bestselling mystery series, a young man wakes up covered in blood and no memory of the previous night. When hypnotism doesn’t help, he turns to private investigator Nick Nowak. Meanwhile, the trial of Outfit kingpin Jimmy English begins. Quickly the case begins to unravel when an important witness goes missing and Nick must put his other cases, and his home life, on hold while he goes to Las Vegas to find him.

 

Excerpt:

Jimmy’s trial was held in one of the larger courtrooms on the sixth floor of Cook County Courthouse. The room was lined in a light, polished stone, which might have matched the outside of the building if they managed to sandblast off the few decades of grime that clung to the building. There were four very large windows to the right as you walked in. The ceiling was made up of painted wooden beams with flat fluorescent lights in each of the boxes the beams formed. The jury sat opposite the windows in sixteen leather armchairs that swiveled but were bolted to the floor—they could see everything, but were denied the right to pick up their seat and throw it. An aisle separated the twelve jurors from the four alternates.

The judge’s bench was raised and looked down at the rest of the room. Next to it was a witness box on one side, and a recorder’s station on the other. Almost in the center of the room was a long table where the prosecution would sit while they presented their case; the defense would sit at another long table along the side of the room, looking straight at the jury. Mid-trial, when it was the defense’s turn to present their case, we would change positions. There were flags hanging from tall poles behind the judge, and brass embellishments running around the room near the ceiling—my bet was they had something to do with justice and that no one ever really looked at them.

The spectators would be sitting in sixteen oak pews, eight rows deep, and one pew on each side of the courtroom with an aisle in the center. The first pew on each side was designated for the defense and the state’s attorney. I wouldn’t be sitting there, though. I would be sitting in one of four chairs that lined the wall behind the defense table.

When I arrived that morning Jimmy was already there, seated at the defense table but pushed back a few feet, resting his hands on his cane. He’d aged quite a bit in the few years I’d known him. I can’t imagine the stress of a criminal investigation is good for the skin; his was pale and thin as plastic wrap. Standing near him were Nathan Babcock—fiftyish, tall, patrician, neatly groomed—and Owen Lovejoy, Esquire—shortish, stocky wearing an expensive suit and over-large tortoiseshell glasses. We’d been friends for a couple of years and I was fairly certain he was a better lawyer than Babcock. It was unlikely he’d ever be put in front of a jury, though, since he had a tendency to flutter his hands about, overemphasize his S’s, and call other men ‘darling.’ Jurors who took against a defense attorney were likely to convict regardless of guilt or innocence.

I took my seat against the wall, placing the two boxes of documents I had at the ready on the seat next to me. On the other side of the boxes was a woman in her early sixties, Nathan Babcock’s secretary. She, too, was there in case of emergency. She didn’t bother to say hello to me, so I didn’t bother to say hello to her.

Mrs. Barnes, as I later learned she was called, probably judged me as insignificant based on what I wore. I had on my old corduroy jacket. I’d had it dry-cleaned, but it still looked like it had been run over by a semi. Beneath the jacket I had on a white Oxford shirt, a plaid woolen tie, 501s and brown, Florsheim penny loafers. I should have upgraded my wardrobe. I certainly had enough money to, it’s just that every time I went into Marshall Field’s or Carson, Pirie, Scott all the clothes seemed designed for either East Coast bankers with a penchant for weekend golf or some costumer’s idea of which pastel an undercover cop might wear in Miami.

At the State’s table, Linda Sanchez stood with two other ASAs. She was raven-haired and dark-eyed. She wore a blue pin-striped suit over a cream-colored blouse that boasted a big floppy bow around her neck. On her feet, she wore a pair of Nikes, which she eventually traded for a pair of conservative, two-inch heels she carried in her briefcase. The two other ASAs were men. One was forty and doughy, and even from twenty feet away I could see he resented Sanchez, who was clearly in charge. The other ASA was Tony Stork.

Tony was around thirty, tall, lanky, with an upper crust North Shore look to him. He had sand-colored hair and dark eyes rimmed with thick lashes. I was surprised to see him on their team. A few years before, he’d prosecuted a guy named Campbell Wayne, who tried to throw me in front of a CTA train. He’d also given me a memorable blow job in an empty interview room. Since I’d also dallied with Owen Lovejoy, Esquire, that meant I’d had sex with lawyers on each side of the aisle. I decided it might not be good to spread that information around.

 

As it neared ten, the pews filled. A good number of the spectators seemed to be press, but there were also a few other people I recognized. Lydia Agnotti was there sitting in a pew near the back. She was Jimmy’s granddaughter. We’d met when she’d tricked her brother into killing their stepfather. Her brother was now in prison, while she roamed the streets.

Sliding into the front pew were Beverly Harlington and Rose Hansen. Beverly was Lydia’s mother, whose first husband was Jimmy’s deceased son—Lydia didn’t happen to have anything to do with his death. Rose was Jimmy’s daughter. She and Beverly were more appropriately dressed for afternoon tea than court. On the other side of the room, looking somber and determined, was Deanna Hanson with her much older boyfriend, Turi Bova. I have to say, with all of Jimmy’s family there it looked more like a custody case than a mob trial.

Aside from the press and the family, there were a couple of other middle-aged men who looked like they might be members of the Outfit: their dark polyester slacks, golf shirts, windbreakers and Italian shoes were dead giveaways. At the top of Jimmy’s food chain was a man called Doves. My guess was that these guys would be bringing Doves the news of the day.

I didn’t understand why Rose and Deanna were there. They were both going to be witnesses and I doubted they’d be testifying on the first day, so I wondered what made them think they’d be able to remain in the courtroom. When I was on the job I’d had to testify about a dozen times. Each time I’d had to wait in the hallway until I was called. I didn’t know why Rose and Deanna thought they’d be entitled to watch the trial, other than the fact that they felt entitled in general.

A bailiff walked into the court from the back; a red-haired woman wearing a khaki and green uniform. In her late forties, she had very large breasts jutting out, making me wonder if she even knew there was a walkie-talkie and gun on her belt.

“Please rise.”

We did.

“Cook County Criminal Court is now in session. The Honorable Judge Martin Corbin presiding.”

Next came a meek looking court reporter in a brown dress with a white lace collar. Behind her, Judge Corbin in his black robes. He was in his late fifties, with thinning white hair and a puffy face. Once he got situated behind the bench he said, “Please be seated.”

We sat.

The judge looked around and then said, “This is State of Illinois v. Giovanni Agnotti. Is that correct?”

ASA Sanchez and Nathan Babcock each stood and said, “Yes, your honor.”

“I like to make sure. Cousin of mine went into the hospital to have a testicle removed. They took the wrong one. Now he has none. I wouldn’t like to come to work in the morning and hear the wrong case.”

It was a crazy thing to say. Most of the people in the room didn’t know whether to laugh or not. Certainly, Jimmy’s team was confused. The ASAs, though, they knew to laugh and were putting on a show of it. Judge Corbin looked pleased with the response he got. I wondered if he began every trial with this same joke.

“Before we begin jury selection, are there motions?”

ASA Sanchez stood up and motioned that witnesses be excluded from the courtroom. “With the exception of Mr. Agnotti’s family members, of course.”

Since Rose and Deanna were witnesses for the state’s attorney, I fully expected Nathan Babcock to object and ask that they be excluded. Instead, he stayed seated and said, “No objections, your honor.”

I was surprised by that, but from the look on her face not as much as ASA Sanchez. For a moment, I thought she might jump up and say, “Oh no, your honor, never mind.”

The judge announced that jury selection was going to begin. The bailiff went to get the first round of sixteen jurors to be questioned. Owen looked over his shoulder then pushed his chair back to me.

“Have you spent much time in a courtroom?” he asked.

“A bit.”

“We’re not expecting this to go more than two weeks. Maybe less.”

“What about Devlin? Will you be able to talk about him?” In my opinion, the best defense for Jimmy would be to focus on Devlin and his creative ways of gathering confessions. Beating the crap out of witnesses tends to make their testimony inadmissible.

“There was a motion to suppress two weeks ago. I guess we’d call it a draw. We can’t bring him up, but it’s impossible to keep him completely out since he interviewed most of their witnesses.”

“So you won’t be calling me?” Devlin was responsible for pretty much all of my recent injuries. I would have loved to testify about him.

“No,” Owen said. “We can’t put you on the stand or present testimony about Devlin’s prosecution.”

“Will they be calling him to testify?”

“No. The first question is always name and address. If he didn’t say Cook County Jail he’d be perjuring himself and if he tells the court where he currently lives we get to ask why.”

“So this is going to boil down to how much you can get in about Devlin without asking questions about Devlin.”

He gave me a devilish smile. “Darling, you should have been a lawyer.”

When the prospective jurors got settled, the judge told the attorneys they could begin. Sanchez and Babcock took turns asking bland questions like, “Do you think you can be impartial?” Occasionally, Sanchez would ask a juror how they felt about police officers. If she didn’t like the answer she’d dismiss the juror. Babcock asked a similar question about the restaurant business and let go of a couple of jurors who’d once been waitresses. It was all pretty obvious stuff.

While I sat there, I wondered exactly what was going on. The most damning evidence against Jimmy would come from his granddaughter, Deanna. She’d been informing on him for more than a year, providing Operation Tea and Crumpets—the task force investigating Jimmy—with a journal that detailed Jimmy’s activities for nearly thirty years. Keeping something like a journal was a stupid idea, but Jimmy admitted to me that he’d done just that. Then, when I finally got to look at a much-copied Xerox in discovery, I’d realized there was no way Jimmy had written the journal. The handwriting was wrong. So, he’d lied to me. What I hadn’t figured out was, why?

The case began to crumble when it became obvious that Devlin was a bad cop. The Feds dropped it like a hot potato, but ASA Sanchez persisted. I had an inkling she thought the publicity could only be good for her career. What I didn’t understand was the defense. Why hadn’t they insisted the handwriting in the journal be compared to Deanna’s? At this point, given the weakness of the prosecution’s case, just suggesting that Deanna had written the journal herself might have been enough to get them to drop the charges.

Of course, Jimmy could simply be protecting Deanna. Providing false evidence was a crime, as was lying to federal agents. Conceivably, she could spend half a decade in prison. Was Jimmy counting on his expensive lawyers to get him off without exposing his granddaughter’s lies? I’d known Jimmy for a while. That seemed like something he’d do. I knew family was important to him. His grandson was in prison; I doubted he wanted any more of his grandchildren to end up there.

Jury selection took a bit more than two hours. Once the jury was empanelled, Judge Corbin gave them a little speech.

“This is my courtroom. I make the rules here and what I say goes. You’ll note that the state attorneys or the defense attorneys will often object to my decisions. In fact, they will likely try to influence you by the objections they make. Don’t let them.”

He stopped to give both sides in the case a dirty look.

“This is an important trial that has garnered interest from the local press. You are not to read any of the articles written about the trial or watch any news programs that include stories about the trial. If at any time I think any one of you has ignored these instructions I will sequester you all.”

Now he gave the jurors a dirty look.

“There’s something I want to make very clear to all twelve of you jurors and also the four alternates. At this moment in time, Giovanni Agnotti is innocent.” I watched ASA Sanchez flinch when he said it. “He’s innocent because in the American system we are all innocent until proven guilty. The fact that Ms. Sanchez believes she can prove that Mr. Agnotti is guilty does not make it so. He is innocent until the state proves to you he is not. And on that note, we should break for lunch. We will reconvene at two-thirty.”

It wasn’t quite one. We had nearly two hours before court began again. Not enough time to go back to the office, but enough time to get really bored. Rose and Beverly were already hovering around Jimmy—from the comments they made it seemed as though Jimmy’s driver was going to drive them somewhere “decent” for lunch. Babcock seemed to be tagging along, though I wasn’t sure I had an invitation. When the party began to walk out of the courtroom, I noticed Lydia Agnotti hovering nearby. She was pointedly ignored by her mother and her aunt; Jimmy may have nodded at her, but I couldn’t be sure.

When they’d walked completely out of the courtroom, Lydia turned and glared at me. My exposing her as the one truly responsible for her stepfather’s death had caused the estrangement with her family, so we weren’t exactly friends.

I’m not sure, but she may have hissed at me.

Guest Blog: The Boystown Mysteries author Marshall Thornton chats about writing the series

Boystowncollection

I first discovered Marshall Thornton’s Boystown series in the summer of 2013 – long after he’d originally published the first four novels; Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries, Boystown 2: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries, Boystown 3: Two Nick Nowak Novellas and Boystown 4: A Time for Secrets. By the time of the release of Boystown 4, I had become familiar with Marshall’s mysteries, and decided to start at the beginning since the first full-length novel of the series had caught my attention. About this same time, Marshall had begun to release the first few books in the series via Audiobook, narrated by the incredible Brad Langer, and offered to me a promo-copy of Boystown 2 to review. Through Marshall’s words, Brad Langer made quirky, tough, rough around the edges, at times jaded, former Chicago cop turned private detective, Nick Nowak come to life, and I eagerly await each novel’s release in the series.

LammySeal-actualsize_2013-e1377558848107

Boystown 7

I got to interview Marshall for my Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group in 2013 and reposted the interview in January 2016 with updates (interview), have written numerous reviews of both his novels & audiobooks, and got to finally such a warm, sweet man in person when we both attended a Mystery Writer’s of America seminar in Atlanta a couple years ago. Numerous novels in the Boystown series have been finalists for the prestigious Lambda Literary Award. Boystown 7: Bloodlines actually won the Lammy for Best Gay Mystery this year at the 28th Annual Lambda Literary Awards.

There is so much more I’d love to share about Marshall and Nick Nowak, but instead of rambling on, I thought I’d share a recent blog post that says everything I would want and more. You can read it below.

How Far Will I Go?

Guest Blog by Marshall Thornton

Reposted with permission; originally posted February 24, 2016

One of the questions I get a lot about the Boystown series is, “How many books will there be?” Of course, since the question is about the future the most honest answer is, “I don’t know.” But at the same time, how many books to write and where to leave Nick Nowak is something I think about and obviously something that interests my readers so I thought I’d put down a few thoughts…

Typically, as I finish one book I get ideas about the next one. Boystown 8: The Lies That Bind came out a few days ago and I already have about fifteen percent of Boystown 9: Lucky Days written in the form of notes and first draft scenes. This is important as I have to keep track of the mystery arc in books 7-9 about Jimmy English, and of course the ongoing lives of the recurring characters. I imagine if I finish one of the books and have no ideas, or very few ideas, about the next book I’ll know that the end has arrived.

boystown8

The first eight books cover the period from January 1981 through August 1984. I definitely want to do two more books set in 1984 and have one in mind for 1985. That would bring me up to eleven—Joseph Hansen, one of my idols, did twelve in his series. I hope that I’ll write more than eleven. I wouldn’t mind getting all the way to nineteen or twenty like Michael Connelly, another of my idols. It would be nice to take the books all the way to the first glimmers of hope in the AIDS epidemic, but that wasn’t until the mid-nineties, which right now is a long way off.

As a gay man who lived through the eighties there are so many stories from that period I feel I can tell. So many stories I think are still important. One of the most satisfying aspects of writing this series has been collecting the little bits of real life that I remember from that period and weaving them into the mysteries. Quite a few of the characters and situations I’ve touched on in the stories come from people I knew during the period, in many cases people who can no longer speak for themselves. Collecting those stories matters to me a great deal on a very personal level.

There are many ways to classify the Boystown series. I think it would be fair to include it as AIDS literature. Most of AIDS literature took place in the eighties and nineties, and most of it was a cry for help, a warning bell rung as loudly as possible. Writing about AIDS from this vantage point is a very different experience. I’m able to focus on the way very real people reacted to the crisis. Knowing that things improve, allows me to focus on the ways in which individuals reacted, sometimes heroically, sometimes not. Of course, AIDS is still an issue. It hasn’t gone away. Reminding people of how it began and how we got to where we are is something I find to be vital.

I think if the Boystown series were a romance series with mystery elements—as opposed to being the opposite of that—I would have would have stopped at two or three books as I find manufacturing “conflict” in a happy couple uninteresting. Some writers do it well; I don’t think I’m one of them. Several of the Boystown books have ended in a happy-for-now kind of way, but if Nick ever finds a truly happy ending it will likely mean the end of the series.

Boystown 1 Cover 2nd Edition2Boystown 4 Cover 2nd Edition2Boystown 5 Cover 2nd Edition2

An important indicator of whether a writer should keep writing a series is sales. Not for financial reasons—certainly many writers do well writing multiple series of three or four books—but because each sale represents one or more readers. The last year has been very positive for the Boystown series. Boystown 7: Bloodlines opened better than any of the previous books, and even though it’s only been a few days it looks as though this year’s book is on tract to exceed that. Equally important is that last year the first book in the series actually sold more copies than it had since it was published five years before. The audience is finding the books and I’m so happy about that. With all of that said, I’d like to send out a big thank you to all who’ve bought and supported the series over the years. It means a lot.

Cover Preview – Coming early 2017 – Boystown 9: Lucky Days

Boystown 9

Website:

https://marshallthorntonauthor.com/