- 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…
What’s all this, then?
There is a wonderful quote from a fabulous movie of long ago, often repeated but seldom fully appreciated: “Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.”
Perhaps it’s strange to you that I apply a quote from a movie to the death of the book, which is the greater subject here. Then perhaps you should look more closely at that movie. It was not technology that killed the book—nor the internet, or digital reproduction, or any of those contrivances that you’ve heard complaints about. They were only means. Mere tools. ’Twas beauty. The perfect nature of the book itself, that physical vade mecum of bound pages, whether pulp or rag or vellum, sewn or stapled or glued, covered in leather or cloth or not covered at all, that was the reason and cause for its destruction. Such a beast could not be allowed to survive in a fungible world. No matter the subject—novel or history or tract—the book was an existential threat. With writers having sacrificed verity in favor of favor, and for acceptance, such a corporal art and the evidence it revealed of their deceit, could not be allowed to co-exist. With the very climate itself having been made political, the ‘author’ had become just another tool as well and the need for the book, that hairy sublime that we had known, was made doubtful. With the advent of the internet and the ascendancy of nescience along with the fungible labyrinth of the web, the virtual became ‘real’ and the book was at last defunct. The Great Bezos had spoken.
Certainly the tag, ‘book’ will be carried on. And ‘pages.’ And ‘word.’ Orwell predicted all that too, as meanings are altered to suit the need of authority. But now we have arrived at that last moment. The great misbegotten beast that was the book lay dead on the street in New York. And all the things that the book once was, nasty and false and true and kind, are dead as well, along with that industry of editors and publishers, critics and agents, and not least, the true authors themselves who once believed in their own veracity and perspicacity. All gone. Deceased. As dead as the once wild beast that made them possible. A computer can now write as well as the graduate of a university writer’s workshop. Garbage in, garbage out. Compassion made to order. Empathy on demand. There’s a formula for that, don’t you know. Just keep it Strunk and White.
Art has now evolved beyond postmodern, to postmortem.
And the movie industry is departed as well—not coincidently, using the same recipe. A King Kong cannot be imagined today, (I reference the 1933 masterpiece, not the modern abortions) only copied—and badly at that. Computer graphics can now simulate almost anything but real life—but then, that was once the subject of actual authors, not authoritarians.
I read years ago that the actor Steve McQueen, a favorite of my youth, refused a movie role because he would not cry on demand. I respected him the more.
It is in that spirit of not crying on demand that I write this book.
You are here, at a rest stop. The arrow marks the spot on the highway map.
‘All hope abandon, ye who enter.’
Dante said as much.
But I would like to say a little more.
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 taken away, 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 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…
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Novels & Novellas Available for Purchase
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.