Monday, January 28, 2013

"Hard Twisted"

Chuck Greaves's debut novel Hush Money, a legal mystery, was honored by SouthWest Writers as the Best Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller/ Adventure Novel of 2010, and was awarded SWW’s highest honor, their grand-prize Storyteller Award for 2010.

Greaves applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Hard Twisted, and reported the following:
Hard Twisted is a work of Depression-era literary fiction based on true events. Specifically, it is the coming-of-age story of 13-year-old Lottie Garrett, who is kidnapped from Dust Bowl Oklahoma by her father’s murderer, 36-year old Clint Palmer, and taken on a one-year crime and killing spree across the American Southwest.

While the story begins and ends in a Greenville, Texas courtroom, the heart of the novel lies in southeastern Utah – in red-rock canyon country – where the unlikely duo herd sheep for trading post impresario Harry Goulding, find themselves in a range war with frontier sheriff Bill Oliver, and leave four bodies in their wake amid the haunting buttes and spires of Monument Valley.

Page 69 is part of a transitional phase in the story, in which the reader begins to realize that Palmer, the garrulous Texas drifter and cockfighter, has a dark past and an even darker plan for the future. Palmer has lured father and daughter, homeless and hungry, to a rented house in Texas from which Lottie’s father will soon disappear. For now, however, their interplay bears a thin veneer of domestic normalcy:
There were sounds from the kitchen, and when she’d descended the stairs on stocking feet, she found her father at the breakfast counter lifting groceries from a box. The lights were on and the stove was lit, and the familiar odors of woodsmoke and coffee masked the lingering paint smell.

There you are. Thought we was gonna have to send a posse.

She rubbed her eyeball with a fist.

Are you hungry?

Yes, sir.

Palmer’s voice echoed in the front room. Hey! Hows about a hand out here?

Lottie found him straddling the threshold with a stool under each arm, the screen door propped with a foot.

Take one, he told her, and when she reached for the stool, he kissed her quickly on the lips.

Don’t! She glanced toward the kitchen. He’s like to kill us both.

Palmer stood the stools by the kitchen counter and went to rummage the cookware, returning with their iron skillet.

Ever had huevos rancheros?

Way what?

Never mind. He rubbed his hands together. Sit yourself down and watch a Texan at work.

He greased the cold skillet with his fingers, then cracked a half dozen farm eggs into the pan.

My whole time I was away, he said over the rising sizzle, this right here is what I missed the most.

Was you in the army?

Honey, I was the scourge of Fort Leavenworth. He winked at her father standing behind her. They wanted me so bad, they wouldn’t let me go.
This is one of the last scenes in which father and daughter appear together, and is also one of the last to take place indoors, before the duo’s bloody, Odyssean road-trip begins.
Learn more about the book and author at C. Joseph Greaves's website.

--Marshal Zeringue