- 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.
As the story was told, they had met in a hot tub and he had asked her to marry him twenty minutes later; they had eight kids, and after another fifty years, he had died only a month after her own passing. It was the kind of thing you hear and don’t believe for a minute longer than it took to tell.
Gene pulled his jeep over to the side of the road—what there was of a road to be seen beneath the texture of fallen leaves—following a graveled path a dozen yards above the creek. It was nothing more than hardpack but it was clearly raised enough to be dry for most of the year. On a hot Southern California day in June, the shade of the live oaks was water cool. read more…
the novel in progress
(with handy footnotes included and written in conjunction with a play based on the same story.)
Copyright © Vincent McCaffrey 2017
In my state of mind
It was a sun bright morn on the ides of May when the FBI came and took my files away. Sounds better in rhyme than it was. I went too—though not in the same truck as the files. Nevertheless, to be bundled off, like a character in a cold war novel, is purposefully frightening. The purpose, of course, was to instill a proper fear and awe of this secular god of theirs, ‘The Government.’ But I’d been in fear of that particular entity since the day when I was sixteen and wrongly realized I hadn’t paid my income tax—had no clue at the time, in fact, about how to perform this act of subservience. I was already working for myself, reselling books found at yard sales and such (not so much different than I do today) but a friend of mine who had a job taking care of the gold fish at Woolworth’s enlightened me to the awesome fact that this was how they had finally nabbed Al Capone, and there my dread began.
In this more recent event, I was taken away by a ‘Special Agent’ named Mark Clifford and accompanied by an assistant who was never introduced, or even said a word that I recall. Clifford had little enough to say himself, and said all of it. “Are you Michael James McGeraughty?” He already knew the answer there. “You are being taken in for questioning.” Where had I heard that before? “No. You are not under arrest,” and “Yes, you are free to refuse to answer our questions.” Thus I had no right to a lawyer, you see. “But if you do not cooperate, you may be formally arrested in order to fully conduct our investigation and that may involve a great deal more of your time.” Helpfully he added, “the warrant covers both your business and your home.”
I told him the door of my apartment was locked.
He answered, “That’s been taken care of.”
I was reassured. read more…
The first meeting can be everything to a story as much as in real life. It was my habit to use that initial revelation as my grounding for the writing to follow. The moment could always be bettered afterward as details were uncovered to put flesh on the bones of fact. But the initial frame sets the tone and mood. 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…
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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.