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Traveling to Los Angeles to rescue a washed-up television actor who has been kidnapped by gangsters, Conway Sax finds himself torn between the actor's mother and brother, who deeply resent one another. - (Baker & Taylor)
Traveling to Los Angeles to rescue a washed-up television actor who has been kidnapped by gangsters, Conway Sax finds himself torn between the actor's mother and brother, who deeply resent one another. 25,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)
Conway Sax is back in a thrilling and heartrending new novel from critically acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author Steve Ulfelder
Conway Sax is a man on a mission-this time in Los Angeles, where he uses his race-driving experience in a desperate bid to rescue Kenny Spoon, a washed-up TV star who's been kidnapped. It's a favor for Kenny's mother Eudora, Conway's dear friend and a fellow member of the Barnburners, his tight-knit maverick AA group.
After hauling Kenny back to Massachusetts, Conway finds himself caught between Eudora and her two sons: Kenny, and Harmon, a cop who resents his talented, troubled half-brother. Each member of the Spoon family distrusts and even despises the others, it seems... and each has a past full of dark secrets that may explain why.
While Conway tries to learn why Kenny was kidnapped and protect him from further harm, a shocking murder devastates this complex, all-too-human family. Conway vows to find the killer and avenge the death, but each clue only points to more suspects.
Things get even more complicated when Conway, separated from his girlfriend Charlene, begins a passionate affair that can't help but cloud his judgment. The more secrets he uncovers, the more danger he's in as this masterfully written page-turner builds to a wrenching confrontation.
"Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage is tough and full of heart, just like its hero, Conway Sax. It's fast-paced, hard-edged, and so authentic that you can almost feel the grit beneath your fingernails." -Meg Gardiner, New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow Tracer
- (McMillan Palgrave
First Chapter or Excerpt
A Conway Sax Mystery
By Steve Ulfelder
St. Martin's Press
Copyright © 2014 Steve Ulfelder
All rights reserved.
You can’t even count on a jack handle anymore.
This one came from the spare-tire well of my rented Chevy Tahoe. A two-ton SUV like that, you’d expect something stout. Something that could take or dish out a little punishment.
This handle was junk, pot metal with an outside diameter of a half inch at best. I wanted to, I could’ve bent it no sweat.
But it was what I had.
All I had.
And I knew that right now, Kenny Spoon was in the cinder-block building across the way. And I’d been in Los Angeles damn near a week, and it was my first taste of solid info.
So far, I wasn’t too impressed with California. It’d rained three days running, which the locals said was about right for February. Things cost a fortune, even compared to Massachusetts. And the freeways were everywhere. Half the time, they cut right through neighborhoods that would’ve been damn nice otherwise.
This was not one of those neighborhoods.
This neighborhood—or town, or suburb, or whatever—was Van Nuys. In a place everybody called the Valley with a sneer on their lips.
The one-story building had once been painted turquoise but was now mostly graffiti covered. It was half garage and half headquarters for a lowrider crew called Los Bajamaros. To the right from my vantage point, the HQ was jammed against I-405, which the locals called the 405 or sometimes the San Diego Freeway.
A fenced area that tied into the building was filled with sweet old cars, everything from donor chassis to show-quality lowriders with fifteen-thousand-dollar paint jobs. They were all GMs, mostly Chevys. A few were from the fifties, a few from the seventies. The rest were Impalas and Biscaynes from the sixties.
Carwise, you had to hand it to California.
Yeah. I was.
Knock it off.
Yup. I opened my Tahoe’s door to confirm the bing-bing-bing that meant the keys were in the ignition. It had been a tough call: Pocket the keys and fumble for them while crossing the street on my way back, maybe half-dragging Kenny Spoon, maybe with a couple of pissed-off Bajamaros in pursuit? Or leave them in the ignition and risk running out to a hole where my stolen SUV used to be?
I’d gone with the bing-bing-bing. It was quarter of five on a Sunday morning, and the neighborhood was asleep except for freeway hum.
I breathed deep three times, regripped my pot-metal tire iron, looked both ways, trotted across the road. Got a hand on the front door handle, tugged just enough to make sure the dead bolt wasn’t thrown, paused, took another pair of deep breaths, pulled hard, stepped into …
… one hell of a dark room, filled with the prettiest guitar sounds you ever heard.
Man, it was dark. I had to blink like crazy to get my eyes working, even though the morning outside was gray and new, with a three-day rain just letting up.
Feeling exposed and paranoid, I half-ducked and scanned the big room.
It was obviously a former bar. Posters for Corona Beer and bikini contests and car shows had been masking-taped across a pair of good-sized windows that ran along a side wall. That accounted for the dimness.
The bar, a squared-off U whose bottom faced me, dominated. Other than that, call it a typical dude clubhouse. Hand-me-down sofas and tables that people left behind when they moved. Overflowing black plastic ashtrays, the kind you used to see everywhere but didn’t anymore. Pool table, its felt stained with who knew what, two bent cues dumped atop.
Underneath it all, thirty years’ worth of stale-beer stench.
I nearly missed the man on my first scan, either because he was so still or because I was rusty. Or both.
He wasn’t more than eight feet away, to my right, the last place my eyes fell during the scan. He could’ve shot or stabbed me while I blinked and had my look around.
Although he didn’t look like the shooting or stabbing type. Looked more like he had all the shooters and stabbers he needed on speed dial.
He was a boy-sized man, and the giant armchair he sat in, mint green, made him seem even smaller. His fingernails were manicured. He wore a greased pompadour straight out of 1956 and a mustache and beard trimmed as carefully as a Chinaman’s in any kung fu movie. His eyes were calm, but not in a reassuring way.
We stared at each other.
“That guitar,” I finally said. “Pretty.”
“More than pretty,” he said with no accent I could make out. “Transcendent.”
“You’re Lobo Soto.”
“Any more Bajamaros here?”
“I came for Kenny Spoon.”
“Where is he?”
“Booth Three,” the little man said, nodding at a hall just to the right of the bar, the hall you’d expect to lead to bathrooms and a pay phone.
He did. Moccasins, narrow chinos, short-sleeve button-down with vertical stripes.
He did. He was carrying no gun.
“Move away from the chair.”
He did. I stepped to it and felt around while keeping my eyes on the little man.
There was no weapon stuffed behind the chair’s cushion.
“Give me your phone,” I said.
He did, then watched me boot-stomp it. His eyes never changed. They never showed any anger. They were patient eyes. They measured me.
Which worried me more than a lot of brave and useless talk would have.
I gestured at him to sit.
What else was I supposed to do? On TV, the cop slugs the bad guy just hard enough to knock him out for a few minutes. Try that in real life, you either break all your knuckles or kill a man.
One song ended and another began.
“Booth Three,” the little man said. And leaned back in his giant chair and closed his eyes.
I put my back to him, not liking it.
In the hall, far from what little light the poster-covered windows allowed, it was dark as hell. I eased past reeking men’s and ladies’ rooms, sliding my boots to avoid tripping on the random junk that covered the floor. Old desktop computers, stacks of car magazines. Like that.
What the hell is Booth Three?
As my eyes came up to speed, I saw the hallway was longer—that is, the building was deeper—than it looked from out front.
I passed a presswood door on my left. Stick-on letters read BOOTH ONE. Then there was something that surprised me: a massive pane of reinforced glass, four feet wide by four feet tall, with an intercom about shoulder height.
I squinted through the glass, saw a mattress atop an old box spring.
That’s when I figured out what this place was, or used to be.
I’ll never claim to be a prince. Back when I was drinking, I ended up in a lot of ugly places. Still, I can truly say I’d never been in a place like this before.
This was a jackoff parlor. Once upon a time, pre-Internet, men paid their money out front, then came down the hall and looked at a girl in a booth and told her what to do and did what they needed to do.
The realization made my skin contract. I all of a sudden wanted a shower.
Focus. Booth Three.
A few long strides took me past Booth Two. I stumbled over a stack of old pizza boxes—judging from the flies, they still held a few slices—and pulled up in front of Booth Three.
And looked through.
He looked back at me.
If not for the eyes, I wouldn’t have recognized Kenny Spoon.
They were blue going on purple. Just like his mother’s.
She said they were the only feature of hers that ever was worth a damn, called them her Liz Taylor eyes. Said Kenny’s were the same.
She’d been right. His were bloodshot and puffed mostly shut and mostly dead, but even from here, even by the light of a two-inch candle on his crappy nightstand, I could make out those blue-going-on-purple eyes.
I took in the rest of him.
“Hell,” I said.
And shouldered into the room.
Copyright © 2014 by Steve Ulfelder
Excerpted from Wolverine Bros. by Steve Ulfelder. Copyright © 2014 Steve Ulfelder. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Conway Sax is back and is as hardheaded as ever. A recovering drug addict and alcoholic, Sax is a member of the Barnburners, an Alcohol Anonymous splinter group. When one of the members, 82-year-old Eudora Spoon, asks Sax to bring her son Kenny home so she can see him one last time before cancer takes her, he agrees and heads out to find the washed-up TV star. Sax gets him home but has some Mexican drug lords hot on his trail. Eudora's other son, Harmon, is the local police chief, and sibling rivalry rears its head. Complicating matters further, Sax hooks up with Tricia, Harmon's estranged wife. Amazingly, as gritty and violent as Sax is, he is also endearing, a difficult feat to pull off, but Ulfelder makes it work. Lots of action and violence, along with a dash of humor, are the hallmarks of this series, and this latest entry does not disappoint. The twists and turns run wildly through this story, right up to the surprising ending. Recommend this one to fans of Elmore Leonard. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews
If Eudora Spoon, Conway Sax's AA sponsor, needs help, he will respond in a heartbeat. No questions asked—and therein lies the problem. Once Conway (expert mechanic, reformed alcoholic, and ardent rescuer) brings Kenny, who is Eudora's drug-addled son, back home from Los Angeles, troubles follow them. A major gang had kidnapped Kenny and the leader is furious about Conway's audacious actions. Suddenly, Eudora's small Massachusetts town is under siege by hit men of various persuasions. Most terribly, Eudora is murdered before Conway can learn the truth. He belatedly realizes Kenny isn't the one being targeted; instead it's his half-brother Harmon, the local police chief, who is generating all the heat. Factor in gambling, land ownership, and long-held vendettas, and mischief will follow. VERDICT Ulfelder's gritty series is up to number four (after Shotgun Lullaby). Action stoked, this complicated thriller—both for the character study and the murder plot—satisfies on many levels. The intense culture of AA and recovery is particularly well done. Pair with Robert Crais or Archer Mayor.
[Page 60]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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