hi JPFers! My new book, Marrow of the Moon is now available on Kindle. Below is a link and two excerpts. Kindle only allows a short excerpt and it's hard to choose one that doesn't give away too much. I hope you like it. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086RT4D9...1586030056&s=digital-text&sr=1-1
This is it!! Marrow of the Moon, the short-awaited sequel to An Angel’s Share. If you want a big, corporate, committee-written CGI franchise, Wonder Woman 1984 is for you. But, if you want a tale of small town betrayal, intrigue and murder no one’s ever heard of, THIS is your poison!
Sandpaper gritty and steamier than the Titanic’s engine room.
Marrow of the Moon also contains characters and references from Robert George’s earlier crime novels, including Teenage Graceland and Fort Mystery.
If you’re confined to a coffin-like apartment because of the Wuhan Virus or you just want to impress friends and influence the election, Marrow of the Moon will fit your needs.
The above was written with a wink by Robert George on 4/4/2020.
Portions of Marrow of the Moon are excerpted below.
Mort blinkered left and took the Johnson Road exit. A mile to the right was an exhausted copper mine, directly left on a rise was a large building that looked like a Ringling Brothers big top. Painted in Good n Plenty colors, with a Brazier/Dairy Queen to the right and a gift shop to the left. There were eight gas pumps out front and a huge lot with plenty of space for truckers to park, grab a burger and rack out for a few hours.
On this fine, foggy eve, the lot was empty but for a large vehicle parked in a far corner, masked by the mist. There was a nice Chrysler, a small Kawasaki and old brown Chevy Vega in front of the DQ. Mort parked by the Chrysler, cursed the coffee dripping all over and got out. There was a thin spot in the fog, unleashing a fearsome sight on the window.
Dennis the Menace was DQ’s mascot, and there were various posters scotch-taped to the glass depicting Dennis resisting diabetes and tooth-decay while Hoovering milk shakes, splits and parfaits. In the window’s center was a hand-painted mural of the Menace being chased by a Vampirella knock-off with outstretched arms and enormous tits. Dennis was scramming past a crooked cross, a mausoleum, and a tombstone with his trademark slingshot in his pocket. What should’ve been a grimace of terror on his face looked more like a smile and the slingshot looked like a boner.
The proud “artist” had marked his work, in the bottom right hand corner of the window were the initials “C.P.”, for Curtis Peabody.
Mort chuckled and went inside. The place was moments from closing time. There was no one at the gift shop register. The clerk must be…wherever clerks disappear to.
He looked the place over. He’d been there a thousand times and yet still marveled at how such roadside scams continued to pull down obscene profits. And to top it off, the joint had zero sex appeal (Vampirella notwithstanding). Usually a business relying on novelty items had some sex angle. The Spencer’s at Park Mall sold some weird devices. (I’d pick one up, but I’ll bet Joanie’d scream then make me see a shrink if I tried to work her with it)
But the Thing had nothing. Just moccasins, turquoise jewelry, Apache rugs (made in Vietnam), cheesy treasure maps of nearby ghost towns and abandoned mines, arrowheads and headdresses you could get cheaper at the Chamber. There was a small shelf dedicated to spurs (made to jangle just like Festus’ on Gunsmoke) and spyglasses (exact replicas of what Morgan Earp and his posse used to sneak up on rustlers and claim jumpers!) Beside the shelf was an authentic plastic rain barrel stuffed with vintage posters of My Darling Clementine and Gunfight at the OK Corral. Sample posters were on the wall above it, Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas striking menacing, teeth-gritting poses with their shootin’ irons.
The place was divided right down the middle, like Norman Bates’ mind. The gift shop had a hardwood floor and an old west motif (with five percent Mexican mixed in, purple bathroom signs and the like), and over the register hung a large yellow sign,
Are You too much of a tenderfoot to brave its mysteries?
Five Dollars, three dollars for children under eight.
The bottom of the sign had an arrow dripping with “blood” pointing toward a hallway leading to the back. It was fixed up to look like an old mine shaft. There were electric “kerosene” lanterns hanging overhead and coal cars painted on the walls, along with paintings of miners with picks and shovels. Toward the rear, a drop cloth was tented over assorted tools and a workbench. An old storeroom was being converted into a space for a new “exhibit”.
It actually had a spooky atmosphere and the artist was far more talented than Mr. Curtis Peabody. Next to a stand selling post cards of the O.K. Corral and fake dentures made by Doc Holliday, the floor went from hardwood to red tile and the décor of a modern fast food joint.
Formica booths, plastic everything and a perpetual onion, pickle and ketchup reek. Even the DQ element couldn’t overpower it. The sugar had long ago fought its Waterloo. Muzak wafted from overhead speakers like an anesthetic gas.
Mort walked in and saw a teenage girl putting chairs on the tables, a mop bucket beside her, along with two wet floor signs. Her nametag read “Vanessa”. She had a Mediterranean complexion, eyes like black pearls and no matter how often she brushed her dark, thick hair, it was gorgeous chaos two minutes later.
The DQ uniform was mostly bright red, with thin white stripes down the sleeves and sides of the pant legs. That outfit would make most anyone look like a Shell Station attendant in nineteen-fifty-two, but Vanessa managed to look like Sophia Loren. The button on her tit with Dennis announcing the new BBQ burger didn’t diminish her appeal one iota.
There was a tall, scrawny kid struggling with a piece of equipment in the back. His paper hat was crumpled, the grease wasn’t agreeing with his face, birthing a zit on his nose that was stoplight red. A burly looking kid was scrubbing the kitchen floor with a deck brush.
“Uh, hey, sweetheart…have you seen Grady?”
Vanessa’s voice was aural honey.
“I think he’s in the gift shop. He might be cleaning the mummy room.”
Another voice was aural sand bark.
“I’m right here, Mort. Yer late.”
“Sorry. I got pulled over.”
“No [naughty word removed]? Ticket?”
“Naah. I got stopped by Jake Marin. Bribed him with casino passes.”
“That guy’s a few inches short of a fun honeymoon. I don’t know how he keeps his job.”
Grady waved Mort toward a table by the window, then he looked at Vanessa.
“’member last week when ya asked me about cashierin’ in the gift shop and I said, ‘[naughty word removed] no’? Well, fetch us two coffees and I’ll think about it. Make mine mud, like usual, Mort likes an udder drained in his.”
Vanessa’s grin would’ve spanned the Grand Canyon. She slipped around the counter. Mort took a seat and tried to get comfortable. That hard-plastic chair wasn’t a Lazy-Boy. Grady sat, grabbed a napkin from the holder, wiped his shiny brow and stuck the napkin in his shirt pocket.
“So, what do you think, Grady? Do we have a deal?”
Grady was gazing at Vampirella.
He looked at Mort.
“You casino assholes aren’t gonna welch on me if the deal tips my way? I don’t want one o’ Taylor’s stooges taping C-4 to the inside o’ the toilet tank in the men’s room…”
He looked up at Vanessa. The coffees were perfect.
“…thanks, Hon. Howsabout Saturday night?”
There goes Breaking Away with Kevin at Park Mall. I love Jackie Earl Haley. Damn.
“You got it, Mr. Sanchez. I’ll be here. And thanks.”
You could land a jet by the light of her smile.
“Sure thing. And wear somethin’ that looks like somethin’…”
She left and Grady looked back at Mort.
“…now, what wuz I sayin’? Oh, yeah. I don’t want my place o’ bizniz blowin’ up if you grow to dislike your end. Or my Chrysler. Jason Kendrick was a Mongolian Idiot but he didn’t deserve t’ be vaporized.”
Mort shook his head.
“I don’t know anything about that.”
“Coulda happened t’ anyone, huh?”
Mort took a sip.
“Like I said…”
“Hey, I’m not pointin’ the finger, I’m just lookin’ out for my own skin. I helped you set Jay up, remember? I was watchin’ from the kitchen when they dragged him outta here. I just didn’t think downtown’d Wile E. Coyote his fuckin’ car.”
“You’ve got nothing to worry about, Grady. Everybody’s gonna get a taste. There’s enough zebra for the whole pack. Now, what’ve you heard about the carnival? Are we gonna take a hit this week? Or the next, if they’re popular?”
Grady shrugged and took another gander at Vampirella.
“Well, it’s got more goin’ for it than Shafe’s rinky-dink old carn. This new guy’s got a fancy Ferris Wheel, outfitted with lights that can be seen from Voyager. Plus, a mini-roller coaster and train ride fer the kiddies. Real smoke comes from the stack. So’s I’ve heard. And, he’s got a gimmick. You’ll love this…a missing link.”
“A missing link?”
“Yeah, an extinct halfway point between man n ape. Like that guy who sweeps up at the truck stop.”
“You mean, like, in a cage? A dog-faced boy type o’ deal?”
“I mean your mother-in-law. No, ya dope. I mean he’s got a specimen, supposubly preserved in ice or some [naughty word removed], like them mammoths they found in Russia.”
“Come on. That can’t be real!”
Mort snuck a peek at Vampirella.
I hope Joanie is home when I get there. Sometimes she feels like makin’ it after she yells at me…
“Of course, it’s not real. Word is, he hired some special effects guy outta Hollywood to rig up a dead chimp. The same guy who did the monster in that space alien movie that came out last year. Looks authentic. I heard the carnival spent five weeks in Demming.”
“Five weeks? We could plant a story in the Range News. Expose it…”
Grady shook his head.
“That’s baaaad fer bizniz, my good man. Grifters can’t start outtin’ one another. The whole system’d collapse. All we can do is take the punch and learn from this guy…”
He looked over his shoulder. Vanessa was mopping the lobby across the restaurant.
“…have you ever heard of Archaeopteryx…?”
“Is that that Greek tennis chick whose skirt…?”
“…no, Marlin Perkins, it’s an extinct bird. A supposed missing link between flyin’ reptiles n birds. ‘cept it ain’t missin’. Some of ‘em have been dug up. Say, do you feel like a cheeseburger?”
Grady craned his head around.
“Hey, Sugar…run in back and tell Kevin t’ make two cheeseburgers.”
“I think the grill’s been shut down and cleaned Mr. Sanchez.”
“Good. Mebbe that’ll improve the flavor. Just tell ‘im, willya...?”
Vanessa’s smile was as fake as the missing link.
“…now, what wuz I sayin’?”
“Right. Remember that news report last week about a rare hawk dyin’ at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum? It’s on the endangered species list or some [naughty word removed]?”
“Well, I know a guy who knows the top bird brain down there. I paid him a grand. He wrang that damned thing’s neck and he’s gonna fix it so it looks like half reptile, half feathered friend. It’ll be ready by the weekend. I got posters goin’ up tomorrow and Curtis is gonna paint a mural on the gift shop. O’ course, the real archaeopteryx was kinda puny. Mine is gonna be fuckin’ Rodan.”
“Sounds like a good plan, with one possible flaw.”
The word “motherfucker” floated out from the kitchen.
“Your fearsome mural of archaeopteryx is liable to look like Big Bird. What happened to the guy who painted your mine shaft hallway?”
“He’s been dead for years. Cirrhosis. So, how’re things with Joan? Does she know you’re gonna run against Sutton?”
“She knows and she’s OK with it. Everybody knows. A few folks’re sore. Particularly those who wanted to run or who needed certain permits.”
“They must think you’re a shoo-in. Which is a good thing. You’ll have to spend to beat Sutton. He likes being Mayor...”
Grady sipped his coffee.
“…just like Jay.”
“Yup. Just like Jay…”
They nursed their cups and watched the fog sweep across the lot, occasionally feeling a slingshot in their drawers for Vampirella.
Vanessa brought the cheeseburgers with a smile stolen from a stewardess on the Concorde.
Grady checked his ancient Timex.
“Uh, Sugar…can y’ wrap mine t’ go?”
“AbsoLUTEly, Mr. Sanchez!”
When she turned away, her smile melted like the wicked witch.
“Don’t tell me our confab is over?”
“’fraid so, Mort. You know that new coffee shop in Gleeson? Well, I been seein’ one o’ the waitresses. Her name’s Alice. She’s got a batcave pussy but she makes up fer it with enthusiasm. Plus, she’s a crack-up. I might try t’ poach her fer the gift shop. Anyway, if I put pedal t’ metal, I can surprise her as she’s walkin’ out fer the night. To Have and Have Not is on after Snyder.”
“You make Warren Beatty sound like William Conrad. Do you mind if I just sit here in peace, eat my congestive heart failure on a bun and enjoy the Van Gogh on your window?”
Vanessa brought a burger to go, wrapped warm and tight. She smiled, spun on a heel and headed back to mopping.
“Not at all, Mort. Say ‘hi’ to Joan for me. Mebbe I’ll see you both this weekend at the casino. Alice loves the slots. Says she’s gonna retire on that Joker’s Wild one y’ got. Dumb broad. So long.”
Grady pulled a wad of napkins from the holder and left.
“Sir! This is your lucky night! Are you a stranger to these parts…?”
The pretty teenage girl stepped back from the register, waving her hand like a used car dealer at the large, weird-looking bird suspended from invisible wires above a display rack.
“…then, let me welcome you to…The Thing…!”
She turned her ass shamelessly to the man. He was about five-eleven, grey hair, thin moustache and goatee, wearing a dark blue, three-piece pin-stripe suit. His face was mostly skepticism, with a healthy dose of amusement. She soldiered on…
“…for only five dollars, you can experience…ARCHAEOPTERYX…fierce predator of the prehistoric skies! We have a fully restored fossil, right here, for your amazement. Or, for the same price, you can shudder at the sight of…The Thing…!! Ancient Incan mummy, about whom legends abound! Or, if you have an especially sturdy constitution, you can brave both exhibits for a mere seven dollars and fifty cents! That price also blesses you with an authentic map of the Ventura Ghost Town gold mine! May I ask you, sir, are you on any heart medication??”
The man broke into a huge grin.
“You, my dear, are an absolute delight. How long have you been hawking these splendid hoaxes?”
Vanessa returned his grin and dropped the act.
“Tonight’s my first time…”
She put her elbows on the counter by the register and dropped her chin into her hands.
“…how’m I doin’ so far?”
“P.T. Barnum himself would’ve been astounded at your lavender-scented line of pure bullshit. You are a credit to the owner of this…”
The man looked around at the plastic Apache tomahawks and arrowheads, food-dyed, feathered headdresses, jars of “warpaint”, the Wanted posters featuring the likes of the Clantons and cap-pistols modeled after Doc Holliday’s 1851 Navy Colt and Derringer.
“…this monument to chicanery.”
Her eyes twinkled like newborn stars.
“Why thank you! Will you be the first to experience Archaeopteryx?”
“I think not…”
He leaned in ever so slightly. She thought he was staring at her tits.
Nope, her name tag. Her tits were just a bonus.
“…I am, however, interested in your mummy. How long have you worked here? What can you tell me about it?”
“Are you looking to buy it?”
“No…let’s just say I have an…elliptical interest in it.”
Vanessa reached under the counter, brought up thirty-two ounces of Coke and sucked the curly straw.
“I’ve worked here over a year. Me n my boyfriend. This is my first night in the gift shop…”
“…I’m relieved to be free of the burger stink and I hate that red costume. What do you wanna know about the mummy?”
The gift shop was deserted. It was like a Tuesday afternoon, not opening night for a new exhibit. Grady was on his knees, stocking the pottery shelf a few aisles back. And while he was sorely disappointed the carnival was stealing his grift, he was truly impressed with Vanessa’s gusto. Let’s see how she handles this guy’s questions…
“Well, what kind of a mummy is it?”
Vanessa leaned over the counter, looking both ways.
She lowered her voice.
“…it’s not Mayan, it’s Egyptian.”
“My dear, if memory serves, you said it was Incan.”
“Same difference, am I right? Anyway, Egyptian is scarier if you ask me. I saw this mummy movie with that Tarkin guy from Star Wars…scared the living pee outta me!”
The man nodded.
“And how did the owner obtain it, if you don’t mind my nosiness?”
“He got it from his dad, I think. And he got it from some bogus character way back when. Paid peanuts for it. People say it was a heap of trouble.”
The man’s eyebrows went up.
“Yup. ‘course, I’ve worked here for ages and the food is way more cursed than that mummy. Whatever you do, don’t try the BBQ burger…”
The man smiled and Grady winced.
Vanessa gazed up and seemed to stare through archaeopteryx.
“…although a guy just went missing…”
She pointed out the glass door. An eighteen-wheeler pulled in.
“…right out there…”
She was conspiratorial, amused and disgusted.
“…it was me n my boyfriend who reported it. All we found was some turds and puke. And then a trainee found a severed hand by the dumpster! So, who knows? If you want the whole scoop, it’ll only cost you five bucks.”
The trucker hopped down from the cab and headed for the door.
“I’m going to pass. I’m afraid your loveliness has caused my heart to pound enough as it is…”
A dimpled smile in addition to the twinkling eyes.
“…I should purchase something, though, not just fuel.”
There was a rack on the counter, full of cassette tapes. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Moe Bandy, David Allen Coe and Kenny Rogers. The man chose Kenny, paid his bill, thanked Vanessa and left. The trucker entered, she drew a breath and…
“Sir! This is your lucky night! Are you a stranger to these parts…?”