- A young press photographer for the Daily Mirror falls in love with a crusading reporter. There’s murder before breakfast and a beer and a beating for lunch. Just don’t be late for dinner or a deadline. And remember, sometimes it’s not your best shot, but taking the shot you have that counts. This is Fiorello LaGuardia’s New York, where Thomas Dewey battles Lucky Luciano and the mob, millions are out of work and maybe out of luck, Stalinist is set against Trotskyite and the German American Bund harbors Nazi spies. It’s a time of hard bitten city editors, soft hearted molls, Seabiscuit and The Babe, when Winchell’s gossip paid the bills for Hearst’s newspaper empire, where a nation moved to the beat of Goodman and Gershwin, and Hepburn and Stanwyck filled our silver dreams, while Hughes and the DC-3 arose, Earhart and the Hindenburg fell, the 20th Century Limited departed and Superman arrives in the nick of time.
The first three chapters of my new novel are offered here for your consideration.
Now that I’ll have a little time on my hands, at least for the next couple of days, maybe I can try this again. There’s a lot going on, but it’s an easier thing to do if you don’t have to get to work.
Depending on what you read in the newspapers, or listen to on the radio, there are about twenty million people out of work in this country right now, give or take a few. The government says the number is only 8 million or so. But like Dad says, it’s not the numbers that are unemployed. It’s the people. The numbers are doing fine. And I’ll bet over a million of those human beings are right here in New York. And even if this is only roughly true, and I think it’s shy a few warm bodies, none of the arithmetic accounts for the women, the kids, the cripples, or the old folks. None of that accounts for people working crap jobs, part-time, just to eat the ‘day-old’ when they get home. None of those numbers account for ruined lives and lost dreams.
But that’s not me. Not yet!
There is a lot more to tell about that Sunday.
The regular edition of the Mirror is hitting the streets by 5 a.m. and George wants his pics in by 10 p.m. the night before, to get a rough on the space, but in this case there was likely to be a need for added info because of Tommy, so I decided to write up the basics I had in my head first thing when I got home—only after I got down a few cups of coffee and something to eat.
When I can, I like to sleep late on Sundays and then go over to Morgy’s for the full breakfast. This Sunday, it already being ten o’clock and plenty late enough, and given that I’d been up since it was dark, I went directly to Morgy’s from the hotel, a brisk little walk of twenty blocks or so, and sat right down to eat.
But this Sunday was not about to end with dinner and a snooze.
When I got back to the paper at 6:30 p.m., I wasn’t surprised that The Boss was still out. I know he likes the quality of the cigar smoke at the Algonquin Hotel so I went on over to West 44th Street to talk to him there.
This was risky. His dinnertime was usually off-limits. But he had said at least a hundred times that initiative was the thing he wanted from all of us. That, and to use our heads.
On the way, I detoured over to the Hotel Penn to see the chambermaid again before her shift was up. Maybe she had softened a bit. And I’d already pulled a larger bill from my stash at the apartment just in case.
I hope you enjoy this introduction. If your appetite is whetted, The Dark Heart of Night is available in large format paperback from Amazon for $16 plus shipping.
Signed copies are available from Avenue Victor Hugo Books for $20, including standard shipping—with a slight delay because I have to order them myself.
The first meeting of the main character is everything to a story. It was my habit to use this initial revelation in every piece I wrote as my grounding for what was to follow. In most cases the moment could always be bettered afterward with a deeper understanding of the subject as details were uncovered to put flesh on the bones of fact. But the initial frame sets the tone and mood. Like the establishing shot in a movie, it is crucial and the chance invaluable. And I was not unaware of this thought, when I first met Margaret. Perhaps I was too aware. From that instant, I wanted her to be at least as much as she appeared to be. As if my life depended on it.
She was wearing a loose green flannel shirt—a dark green and very loose. And jeans. The jeans were loose too. There was not much to see there but that she was tall. After a moment I took note of the L. L Bean hunting boots and the heavy belt that brought the bulk of her shirt to an abrupt termination at her waist. I could see right there that she was not fat. Nor thin. But all that was secondary.
What I saw first, from a hundred yards away, was her hair. It is the first thing anyone would notice. Everyone does. read more…
The faith in dreams, like the beliefs of small and ancient religions, is often lost with the simple passage of time. Mere time. Simply forgotten. A figment of midnight delusion at midday. Too vague to grasp. We all remember the faith we once had in our fathers, or mothers, for instance. Or the absence of such an absolute trust, perhaps. But what of those other beliefs, and their failure or strength, that were so instrumental to our being and to what we would become?
There were many such smaller religions in my past–a thousand convictions which I once held dear–all of them long since lost. There was the sure knowledge that summer would come and school would end. That Bill, the bus driver would always be there on the colder days, or wait a moment longer. That Mel, the Good Humor man would let me the extra nickel needed for the orange-cream popsicle. That the profound chill and still-hollow of a winter night would soon enough be transformed into the lush dark of mosquitoes and crickets and tree frogs. But all of those simpler faiths were set aside when my first full time job showed little interest in the seasons and getting to work in time depended on the IRT.
It is only by circumstance that a few of those convictions, remembered now, were caught in such a neat web of events that they might easily be recalled afterward–or, the better metaphor, that they left a bright scar on the darker skin surrounding. Years later, you finger it gently at first notice, as if it might break open at this touch. You pause to remember.
Let me tell you about this one. read more…
The hanging road sign for Denton Real Estate offered a constant chirping against an intermittent wind. It was a small and familiar voice to Burk as he approached Seeley’s Surfside Diner. The murmur of tires on passing cars was dampened by the new snow. With the hood of his parka pulled tight against the cold, most other sounds were obliterated by the rub of fabric against his ears and he had to keep an eye out for the car lights through breath-fogged glasses as he made his way from his apartment.
The blaze of neon from Seeley’s was not comforting against the black and white of snow and night ahead. It never was. Even on a hot evening in the summer it was joyless. Tonight, it cut through the falling snow more pink than red. Burk had thought before that it was an odd thing, how the color in the sign seemed to change depending on the weather. He had mentioned it once to Pat, but the observation was shrugged at. Ignored.
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Henry Sullivan has made a simpler life for himself, finding and selling books. There is little room in it for either love or murder.
I have been informed by trusted authority that the short quip which I have placed here for the last year or so, by way of biography, lacks gravitas. “Over-paid by others for hyphenated jobs such as lawn-work, snow-shoveling, house-painting, office-boy, dish-washer, warehouse-grunt, table-waiter and hotel night-clerk–I’ve since chosen to be a writer, editor, publisher, and for most of my life, a bookseller, and even managed to occasionally pay myself. Hound is my first published novel.” And so it does. It is hard to be serious about so unserious a subject as oneself. But herewith, and keeping the ‘nasty bits’ (Brit expressions are so brilliant) to myself, I offer then, this ongoing post begun as posts at Small Beer Press. If anyone is interested, from time to time I will add something at the end to bring the epic closer to the present moment.