“Ark City Confidential” – Excerpt

“It was supposed to be my day off but George McAllister had been sick. Chances are he was hung-over. Rogelio Lopez wasn’t the only person in town to go a little crazy on a Friday night after getting paid. Chief Taylor preferred to have a minimum number of men on patrol to prevent any lapse where trouble might spring up so we could be prepared. Seems he always called on me to fill in seeing how I didn’t mind. It was something to do to pass the empty hours. George often acted like a young version of me, except without the war experience. Too bored to work on a farm all his life and wanting to do something a little more exciting. He had built up his body so he didn’t look like a pipsqueak, but he had no concept of death, certainly not the way I witnessed it in the trenches. It was dark and muddy, devoid of dignity, and stank of decay. He probably never thought about getting killed trying to stop a robber. Worse than that would be getting into the middle of a fight between a couple where the husband was madder than a hornet. He didn’t think this wasn’t a charmed life, and he’d have to work every day just to take another breath.”

Worldwide release date: January 11, 2017.

Currently available for pre-order at The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

“Ark City Confidential” – The Back Story

For years, my wife’s uncle had told me stories about Arkansas City, KS (colloquially referred to as Ark City by locals and other Kansans). Three primary aspects were the inspiration for “Ark City Confidential”, my Prohibition-era crime novel being released by The Wild Rose Press on January 11, 2017.

First, there were the stories of underground tunnels. These are not unique to small towns whether they are in the Great Plains (due to protection from the weather or bandit hideouts) or the Deep South (as elements of the Underground Railroad). What is interesting is that many people knew about these tunnels but didn’t know all that much about what EXACTLY they were used for.

Unbeknownst to me, the town had been referred to as “Little Chicago.” There may have been several towns in Kansas Missouri, or Arkansas with similar epithets due to the anonymity that could be had by gangsters hiding out in such small towns. However, I can’t really imagine a “swell” from the big city being completely invisible in an atmosphere of church-going hard-working folks. At the very least, the Feds wouldn’t be able to find them.

Finally, there was an expression that was used more than once — The Grandfather on the Hill. It implied “the power behind the power”, an unknown and unseen individual (or small group) that ran everything, including the legitimate enterprises as well as the government and law enforcement. This notion is more ominous than tales of Capone killing former associates with a baseball bat. He was a character you could identify; something that could never be named created a pervasive sense of fear.

These three primary elements, told to me by my wife’s uncle over a period of years, formed the basis of a story that goes beyond the standard historical fiction formula. This tale has pieces of what really happened, at least as filtered through my imagination.

“Ark City Confidential” – The Blurb

Baron Witherspoon, a disfigured WWI vet, now a beat cop in a small Kansas burg, is on a collision course with Jake Hickey, a volatile Chicago gangster. While Baron wants merely to provide residents with a safe place to live and escape the memory of the horrors of war, Jake is looking to recapture the glory of Prohibition. Forced to hide out in Arkansas City, Baron’s town, Jake’s impatient nature drives him to put together his own gang. The local crime outfit is wary of Jake’s dealings and lack of cooperation. Baron has his own suspicions but can’t prove anything. A mutual acquaintance from the past, a dead war hero, holds a secret that raises the stakes even higher. Baron has too much to lose, but the town’s future is in the balance.

Worldwide release date for “Ark City Confidential” will be on January 11, 2017 through The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

“Ark City Confidential” – The Cover Reveal

My Prohibition-era crime novel Ark City Confidential, will have its world-wide release on January 11, 2017 through The Wild Rose Press. In the meantime, please enjoy the stunning cover.

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Ark City, KS, known as “Little Chicago”, has secrets buried as deep as its underground tunnels. But police officer Baron Witherspoon has secrets of his own.

You CAN judge a book by its cover

Walk into a bookstore and you will more than likely encounter a table or a display right in front. Either the New Releases or the Staff Picks. All those brand new books sitting upright, staring at you like hungry puppies waiting for you to take them home.

Sure, you’ll grab one that looks interesting, flip over to the back and read the synopsis, the blurbs, the author’s bio. You may even open up to Page One and start reading the notorious First Line. Then you’ll go back to where you started.

The cover.

It attracts us because we SEE it before we read it. There’s a world being presented in a snapshot. The world created by the author. It may be based on a real place or it might be a fantasy kingdom. That cover has got to let you know something about that world.

My new novel, Ark City Confidential, a Prohibition-era crime story, is being released by The Wild Rose Press on January 11, 2017. It tells of a disfigured World War I vet working as a beat cop in Arkansas City, KS and encountering a dangerous man who just might be a Chicago gangster hiding out in the town. It is filled with period details of a time long gone but not long forgotten.

So that you may experience the world I have created, I will be revealing the cover on Wednesday, November 16, 2016. Your comments and feedback will be graciously appreciated.

It’s Actually Happening

As many writers are aware, there are many steps and check marks along the way of writing the novel. There is the initial idea, much like a spiritual epiphany. Then the first draft, kind of like escaping from Egypt, followed by the rewrites, which feels like the forty years of wandering in the dessert. The search for an agent, editor, or publisher seems like climbing Mt. Sinai. The contract and the publishing process is almost the same feeling as Moses being given the Ten Commandments. And then…

Yes, a lot of Old Testament biblical analogies. The joys, and struggles and pain of the entire writing process is very much like a religious experience. Writers know this; the rest of you may not. So, when you receive an email whose subject line is WORLDWIDE RELEASE DATE NOTICE, it feels like you’ve reached the Promised Land.

I am very pleased to announce that my Prohibition-era crime fiction, “Ark City Confidential” will be released through The Wild Rose Press on January 11, 2017. An intricate story of gangsters in small town Arkansas City, KS in 1934, known to many as The Year of the Gangster, this richly detailed tale of a disfigured WWI veteran turned cop locking horns with a sly Chicago thug hiding out will remind readers of Bonnie and Clyde and several other Depression-era tales.

There will be a cover reveal and book signings to line up and other types of marketing efforts. Sure, the whole purpose is to sell the book. But for one moment, I stop and reflect on all the various stops along the way. It’s been an exciting journey and it seems like it’s only just begun.

It’s Got to Start Somewhere

Please allow me a diversion from my usual musings on writing and the writing life.

I had an idea, probably silly, because, after all, one man can’t change things. But one man can try.

I am disheartened by the racial tensions in this country which have brought out the absolute worst on both sides. Civil discourse seems to be a thing of the past. I posted over a month ago that I simply wanted to have a conversation with someone who was diametrically opposite of me. I figured that would be a good start. Regrettably, no takers.

Then I remembered a former co-worker who seems to be thoughtful and well spoken with passionate ideals. He is younger and black. I reached out to him to get together, maybe a Facebook Live chat to show others that two people CAN communicate with each other. This was set up twice and fell through both times.

It’s important for me to say that I am not writing this to call him out. His comments were disconcerting. He felt as though people were too screwed up in general and that nothing was going to come of this. Perhaps he is right. Maybe it’s an attitude shared by his generation (he’s in his twenties) and race has nothing to do with it. It could very well be that the older generation, MY generation, has done nothing to instill any confidence at all in creating Hope for the future.

That’s when you stop and realize what you have speculated. HIS generation. MY generation. Just lumping everybody into a group. No accounting for individuals. Not looking at a person…as a person. Separate from all others of the same age, race, religion, socio-economic standing, sexual orientation. The question to be posed has to be: Who are YOU?

So, this one young man who seems frustrated, may indeed reach back to me, may try to take a step forward and do something which probably won’t accomplish anything. He’s a good kid with a good heart. Perhaps he’ll find a renewed sense of Hope. All I know is that it’s got to start somewhere.

Anyone?

Something Beyond Words

I recognize that poetry, among the writing disciplines, is probably the most subjective. The commentary and feedback I’ve received from contest entries gives a wide range of reasons WHY the piece in question was not worthy of a prize. Largely, I read comments regarding strong imagery. I respect and accept the comments, knowing full well I could enter the same piece the following year and a new judge might feel differently.

But some 25 years ago, I was associated with fellow poets Joe Gallo and Cathy Coley in Boston where the poetry scene was lively and engaging. Our discussions revolved around our respective readings and how they related to our own work. Prosody, versification, word choice were all intensely discussed. Rhythm was as important as rhyme (or off-rhyme). The SOUND of the poem was highly significant.

Consider the Latin word “carmen” which primarily signifies “verse” (as in the Carmina Burana). The word itself is derived from the root meaning “to sing” and, as such, carmen could mean “song” as well. The word we use to designate a verse could also mean a song.

I have come to see contemporary poetry running alongside the visual arts, whether painting or sculpture or even graphic design. What we can see is vastly more important. Accordingly, we want our poetry to create a visual sensation. But why not close your eyes and listen, allow the poem to create a mood, perhaps a biorhythm which you can feel innately?

One of the things Joe Gallo referenced was poetry that went beyond words. However he meant it, I took it as meaning the creation of a sensation not exclusively linked to what we can see. While I admire young poets creating vistas of imagination and exuding colors and textures, I would like to encounter someone who pays as much attention to form (even old forms that are rarely used or considered) to dispatch a wave that can only be felt and not seen.

Perhaps that poet is out there. I will keep looking.

Let’s Talk

My blog was started as a way to connect with other writers and to talk about “the writing life” whatever that might mean to each of you. I have used it as well to promote my own works and I probably should be doing more to talk about my forthcoming book from The Wild Rose Press. But for this one moment I want to deviate because there is too much happening in the world based on negativity.

Race relations and politics have dominated the news. There seems to be nothing but finger-pointing, name-calling, and general hatred. There can be no unity without clear discourse. We can’t solve anything without talking about it as well as listening to the other side. Perhaps the biggest issue is that we don’t really know each other.

Take me for example. I’m a 54-year-old white male. I profess the Jewish religion without necessarily being an active practitioner. I’m from New England, having been born and raised in a suburb of Boston. I identify as a liberal, perhaps more so from a social standpoint, and somewhat conservative fiscally. I am a writer and value the arts in society.

If you can relate to this description, I am NOT talking to you.

I want to talk with those who are not, well, me! I grew up with people like me. I spent a great amount of time with people like me. Whereas we are all individuals and should not be lumped under any one demographic, I want to talk to someone else in order to better understand them and their situation. How they feel they fit, or don’t. What they fear the most in everyday life. What they want to accomplish. I don’t know if it will accomplish anything other than allowing me to have the perspective that I can not get in my daily life.

And maybe if other people reach out to a stranger, someone so unlike them, there will be more understanding and less fear and hatred. There’s nothing to lose. You can always go back to your self-contained world and never cross paths with someone different ever again. What is there to lose? If you’re willing to talk, I’m willing to listen.

So, let’s talk.

No, no, no. The work is just getting started.

Every writer knows this story:

You work on getting out a first draft. Six months. A year. Two. Or maybe the 30 days of NaNoWriMo. Whatever it takes.

Then, there is the hair-pulling teeth-gnashing headache-inducing editing/revision/rewriting process. You don’t want to delete an entire chapter but if it slows down the flow…You know. You’ve been there.

Now, it’s on to finding an agent or a publisher or an editor. You do the query letter, the pitch, the elevator pitch, the research, the writing conferences, the platform using every last bit of social networking you can think of.

And, voila!, you get your book sold to a small press, a contract is offered, and everything is peaches and cream.

HOLD ON! SLAM ON THE BRAKES!

You think you have gotten to the pinnacle, your longstanding dream has been realized and your mission in life is fulfilled. This is the time, you realize, when the work is just getting started. Everything up until then has been about your personal satisfaction, your accomplishments. But once you enter into a professional partnership with an agent or publisher, your dream is being shared and there is far more to do. You have a responsibility to ensure that THEIR dream is fulfilled as well. And that dream is successful publication and sales.

There is the editing process, the cover design process, the release, and the marketing, all while writing the next work to have something to follow up with as quickly as possible. If I were half my age, I do not think I would be prepared for this. However, I have been around long enough to recognize and appreciate the entire process, how it goes from personal to collaborative to business-oriented before returning to literary. Writing a book, by yourself, in your spare time, at a quiet location, is deeply personal and highly satisfactory. Keep in mind: you didn’t do it just for yourself.

I have had the good fortune of being signed by The Wild Rose Press who will be publishing my historical crime fiction “Ark City Confidential.” It has been an intense process, one I have not shied away from nor resented. In fact, all this has reinvigorated me and encouraged me more than the writing of the piece alone. It has given me the confidence to know that others are interested in your success as well and that it really IS a team effort.

So, yes, I am working and writing and editing and planning and continuing. That’s the main thing: to be able to continue to do the thing I love most.

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