The Dark Heart of Night

  1. 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.

The Dark Heart of Night

1. Sunday, March 14, 1937

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!

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2. Sunday, March 14, 1937

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.

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3. Sunday, March 14, 1937

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.

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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.

More Fiction

Small Men

September 12th, 1868

Dear Philip,

As you might imagine, I was quite surprised to see a notice in the Herald that you had returned to New York and opened your own practice. Congratulations! I do hope you are well otherwise. Indeed, the notice refers to a Mr. and Mrs., so double congratulations are in order. I am, myself, robust and quite sanguine over recent developments in my own practice, while having every expectation of further success here in Brooklyn. Regrettably, as of yet, I have not been so fortunate as to find my true helpmate.

I was disappointed at first that you had not been able to contact me straightaway, if only for advice, but now it has occurred to me that, sadly, you must have missed my previous letters and therein lies a better answer for your long silence and not some now forgotten slight. read more…

An Unusual Happenstance

You get to a point in life where you ought to make out a will. I’m passed that.

You get to a point in life where you wonder if any of it—all the things you did or did not do—will be remembered, and for how long. Not whether or not any of it should be remembered. That’s not for you to judge, after all. But it was important to you. That’s all.

Nevertheless, in the scheme of things, I think some of what I did is worth something, and worth remembering—especially by the grandchildren. My kids have heard it all, pretty much. Their mother has seen to that. And too, she was never good at most secrets anyway. It was always best, if there was something you wanted everyone to know about, to tell her first. But then again, you didn’t have to tell her all that much. She always knew, anyway.

So listen to this if you haven’t heard it before and listen anyway if you have. I might be able to add a thing or two.

This is the way it worked—still works, I think.

I was a freak of nature. Not like your grandmother true, but different, in my own way. Claire’s talents are just better known.

Now, if you speak too readily or too often about a circumstance like this you’ll be thought of as nuts, as in crazy, or mad, and thereafter ignored. It’s our way as a society, I think. What we don’t understand we dismiss as impossible or accidental or incidental. And what we do understand, or think we do, we quickly tire of. We give little value to the familiar.

So, there’s the trick, isn’t it? Ambiguity. Our attention is maintained then by the fact that we recognize some part of the matter but not another and it piques our curiosity. And curiosity is the best thing to pique. And in my time, I have always piqued a lot of curiosity.

Yet, outside of the immediate family, not many know. And funny thing, you can give credit to your grandmother for that as well. When Claire does not want something known, you might as well talk to a wall about it.

And it is for that reason that you might be surprised about a certain facility I have. Not an ability, mind you. I’d say, more of a predilection.

I fly. read more…

A Young Man From Mars: the future retold

 

“Those who cannot remember the future are condemned to repeat it. The past can never be repaired or reclaimed. The future may be reimagined at any moment, possessed at any time, and thus easily known.”   Joe Trees

 

This is the journal of Griffon Macdonald, his expedition to Earth, and what he found there; being also an accounting of some other matters learnt during that doctoral investigation into mankind’s persistent use of slavery as a means.

 

Offered here with additional records from the Council Court of Inquiry as well as the emendations and notes of his brother Robert.

 

It is said that after two-hundred years Joe Trees still lives somewhere amidst the forests of Mars. It is a legend, a myth perhaps, but a tale retold often enough to have its own life. It is believed that men do not live so long, so perhaps he is no longer a man.

 

 

 

 

 

# August 19, 2267: the origin and cause of my zetetic

 

From various sources, but mostly the words of my father, I have fashioned here a short account of an ancient relative, Flora Macdonald—Fionnghal nic Dhòmhnaill in the old Gaelic. She was the daughter of Ranald MacDonald a tenant farmer of Milton, which is on the island of South Uist in the Hebrides, an archipelago close by to the northern reaches of Scotland, on Earth, and of his wife Marion, herself the daughter of Angus MacDonald. It is thus that our clan was from the one root, though the MacDonalds were prolifically spread throughout those lands. Flora was born about 1722. It was her father’s unfortunate death when she was yet two years old that brought on the wooing of a cousin from the Isle of Skye for the affections of her widowed mother.

Now Marion had small property of her own but was a great beauty and even more than that a woman of adamantine will. She was not interested in this cousin. However that be, the cousin, Hugh Macdonald of Armadale on the isle of Skye, would not put off his love and finally kidnapped Flora’s mother by force, as well as Flora who was then the youngest of the children and still unweaned, and carried them off to his home across the near sea to the Isle of Skye. This was often the way of those times. And thus, Flora was raised among this other sect of her clan, amidst greater fortunes, even to be educated in language and math and the truths of the Bible and that stern God and the ways of the Kirk, as was the manner of the Scots of the time. But Flora never lost the sense of where she was from, nor of the sentiments of her true father—these things being kept for her by her mother’s heart. And when Flora was old enough she returned on visits to her older brother who had maintained the family stead and managed to buy some of his own land as well on the Isle of Benbecula.

It was during one such visit and on a particular morning when Flora had been gathering seaweed at the rocky shore for her brother’s furrows and the air was thickened by the vapor of a steel grey ocean, that a pitiful young man and his companion appeared out of the veil of mist seeking refuge from the numbing cold. The fog could not conceal this man’s fear, nor his bearing. The Stuart claim to the throne had failed at bloody Culloden some months before and now the Hanoverian troops were hounding the rightful prince of Britain, Charles Edward Stuart, to those ends of the Earth. Flora had little use for such a ‘Prince without a palace.’ Though a daring horseman, a fine bowman, and the master of five tongues, he must yet have been a sad sight in battered britches and broken shoes.

Flora’s own stepfather, who had taken the winning side, was a captain in the search. But something else was now at work. She knew her own sentiments, and that the faith of her true father were in the Stuart cause. It was being said, ‘any that helped the fugitive Jacobite would suffer punishment,’ and few others could find the courage to risk what little they had, only to trade masters, or just to be hung for the difference.

But the young prince was a symbol to many. And symbols are more important when the facts are hard against. 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.

About

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.

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