Something So Strong

I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning and feel like I could have easily slept another three or four hours. But alas, that is not to be; too much to do and I have to get some of it done before I head into the office for my last day of work before my vacation starts Friday (I am taking the week off next week, and decided to throw this Friday into the mix just for fun). I’m getting a little burned out–which happens a bit more frequently the older I get–and so the time off will be lovely. I need to take the car into the dealership for an oil change, which means i can have lunch at Sonic (huzzah!), and I’ll probably go ahead and make groceries while I’m over there; I’ll most likely do all of that tomorrow. I also need to write my blog entries about the Ross MacDonald and Richard Stark novels I read recently, as well as some more writing and editing and cleaning and organizing; I can’t simply blow off this entire week of vacation and get nothing done.

I started reading Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys last night, and I have to say it: Whitehead is a national treasure. It’s such an amazing book already, and the writing is superlative. I can’t wait to get back to it and savor the writing some more.

Yesterday was a good mail day for me. I got my copy of the anthology Dark Yonder, which is built around Eryk Pruitt’s bar, Yonder, that he opened this year, and the anthology was edited by Liam Sweeney, and benefits the North Texas Food Bank. It’s always delightful to write and publish a new short story, and this looks to be a very fine volume. My story is called “Moist Money” (how much do I love that title?) and I reread it last night, because I could barely remember it…and wow. It’s a dark and nasty little tale, and thematically similar to two other stories I’ve written recently (one is out on submission, the other published last year) but all three stories are dramatically different in tone, character, and setting–even if the theme and structure are similar. Anyway, if you want to get a copy of Dark Yonder–there are some terrific writers I am sharing those pages with–you can order it right here.

I also got a contract for another short story, and a finished copy of a book I blurbed; The Committee by Sterling Watson, from Akashic Books. I don’t really blurb books much any more; I simply don’t have the time to read as much for pleasure as I did, and when asked I never promise to do anything other than to try. I made an exception in this case, primarily because I respect Akashic Books very much and the subject matter of this one–the gay purge at the University of Florida in the 1950’s–was something I felt was important enough for me to take the time to read the book and provide a blurb for it if I liked it. I did like it, very much, and provided requested blurb….and now they’ve graciously sent me a complimentary copy–and the cover has a blurb from MICHAEL KORYTA, and there on the back cover am I, along with LORI ROY and GALE MASSEY. How enormously flattering for me to be a blurber along with three writers whose work I simply love.

It’s interesting how thrilling I find these little things, isn’t it?

I’m also thinking about writing more short stories. It has everything to do, no doubt, with getting the contributor’s copy of Dark Yonder and the contract for the other story–plus having Susan Larson compliment me on my short story collection the other morning–but I do love writing short stories, despite how painful they always seem to be for me; the experience can be excruciating. I was thinking last night about another story I’ve been working on for a while, “Burning Crosses”, and last night I figured out how to make the story work better. It’s a delicate subject to tackle, for sure–the title alone should make that obvious–but it’s a story I’ve had in my head for a long time, and last year I finally sat down and wrote a first draft of it. I was pretty pleased with the first draft, and have done another since then, but again felt like the story just missed the mark. Last night it hit me between the eyes what is missing from this story, and how I can make it even better, perhaps even publishable. (Something else to get worked on while I am on vacation.) My goals for the vacation obviously are going to be next to impossible to accomplish, as always; I’m going to want some goof-off time as well as some reading time, and so the writing and editing is going to be pushed off to the side for a while.

Not to mention cleaning.

Okay, on that note, I am off to the spice mines.

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Control

So, we’ve got tickets to the LSU-Florida game for tomorrow night! Saturday night in Death Valley! Number 5 LSU taking on Number 7 Florida in a battle of the unbeatens! SEC and national implications! Woo-hoo! I mean, Tiger Stadium is always fun–but it is going to be rocking Saturday night.

Needless to say, it was quite a pleasant surprise when Paul got home last night and proceeded to tell me that we were being gifted with tickets to perhaps the biggest game played this season in Baton Rouge. I am, as I am sure you can tell, incredibly excited about this.

HUZZAH!

I came to a realization last night also, as I was pulling Bury Me in Shadows together–that maybe, just maybe, I am rushing to get the book turned in and maybe I should relax, take some of the pressure off myself, and do a more thorough job of revising/editing/pulling it together. Sigh. I’ll think about it tonight–Paul is going to the Mortuary haunted house with some friends, and so I’ll be home this evening all alone; so I might just take the laptop and the manuscript and sit in my easy chair while streaming a football game or a movie or something for background noise and read through the last fifteen chapters a little bit more, see if there’s more that needs to be added. I’m going to have most of the day tomorrow before we leave for the game as well to work on revisions and additions and so forth, too, so there is that.

I have to say, writing and editing and revising is something I truly enjoy; and maybe that’s why I’ve been sleeping so well lately–I did wake up a few times throughout the night last night, but I was able to get back to sleep without much trouble; I feel terrifically rested this morning too, which of course is absolutely lovely. I think a lot of my sleep issues stem from the inability to turn off my brain–and if I’m writing or revising or editing, that exhausts my brain’s creativity synapses so I am able to shut down completely when I go to bed. It certainly has worked that way this week, and for about the last two weeks, all told, really, and it’s quite lovely. If this means I have to write or do something creative every day so I can sleep well every night, so be it. The worst thing that can happen is I’ll get a lot of work done.

Yeah, there are definitely worse things than that, right?

I’ve also fallen behind on my reading–it’s not easy for me to both read and write a lot at the same time, and I do want to get Deliverance finished at some point this weekend, so I can move on to one of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s terrific novels, either Certain Dark Things or Gods of Jade and Shadow; I’ll decide when I get to it, I suppose. I try to read horror during the month of October–I am also way behind on my Stephen King reading–and have been enjoying going back through The Haunting of Hill House this month (which is also part of the reason I’ve not been able to finish Deliverance), and there’s no reason I can’t combine October horror with the Diversity Project, either. There are so many good books in my TBR pile–I really don’t need to buy anything new for quite some time, and really shouldn’t, not with all these books on hand that I have yet to get to. I am also way behind on reading some of my other favorite authors as well–Michael Koryta, for example, and Donna Andrews for another–so there’s really not much reason for me to buy any more books, quite frankly, for quite some time. Heavy heaving sigh.

But I love buying books!

I’m also still reading Ready to Hang as part of my New Orleans history reading. I am now reading about the murder of district attorney J. Ward Gurley, in the chapter titled “A Problem in Good and Evil” (which is an amazing title which I might have to purloin), and this morning I came across this sentence:

There was a murder in New Orleans nearly every day, but seldom was the district attorney the victim.

This was in 1903! And people talk about the murder rate in New Orleans now, like the city is sliding into lawlessness and danger–when the city averaged almost a murder a day one hundred and sixteen years ago…which proves the point I’m slowly starting to understand more and more, the more history of the city I read: New Orleans has always been a dark city with a crime problem, almost from the very beginning.

That isn’t to say that the city shouldn’t work on lowering our crime rate by any means; but the fact that the city has historically been a hotbed of crime puts the hand-wringing over our current crime situation into a rather different light, doesn’t it?

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.


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Only in My Dreams

Sliding into Wednesday and pay day–or as it’s known around the Lost Apartment, Pay the Bills Day. Heavy heaving sigh.

But I sent in two stories for submission yesterday, which is always a lovely accomplishment. One is for a blind read so I can’t talk about that one, but the other is “The Dreadful Scott Decision,” for an anthology I was asked to write a story for. I’m never quite sure if that means we’re taking your story or what, but I tend to never take anything for granted when it comes to this literally insane industry I find myself a part of these days. And even more exciting, I woke up to a very pleased editor and a congratulatory email re: “The Dreadful Scott Decision.” Always lovely, particularly when one has little to no self-confidence when it comes to writing short stories.

I won’t find out about the other one for months. As it is a blind read, I can’t really talk about the story, but it’s for the next Mystery Writers of America anthology, this time being edited by one of my writing heroes, Michael Koryta. Getting into an MWA anthology is one of my bucket list items, and while I’ve submitted numerous stories to them over the years, I have yet to get into one. The competition is fierce, of course; there are only so many slots and lots of entries, which is what makes getting into one a major accomplishment. It probably won’t help in the self-confidence area for more than a day or two, of course, but one also never knows.

I also started revising another short story last night, which I’m probably going to try to get submitted somewhere today. I think this week’s focus is going to be on revising short stories, to cleanse my palette before I dive back into the manuscript of one of the books I’ve got in progress. Since the LSU game is so early on Saturday, I can spend the rest of the day rereading Bury Me in Shadows and making notes while flipping back and forth between other college games–I only have to give LSU my full attention, after all. I think Auburn and Florida are playing Saturday as well; both are in the top ten, and both are on LSU’s upcoming schedule. Auburn looked really good spanking Mississippi State last weekend–their offense looked very much like LSU’s, frankly, scoring at will–which means Auburn-LSU is going to be another one of those heart-stopping shootouts.

Then again, Auburn-LSU has always been a heart attack game, pretty much coming down to the last minute of every game most of the time.

I started reading Deliverance yesterday, but it’s not really grabbing me yet–but then, they haven’t gone into the wilderness so far.

We finished watching The Politician last night, which took a really surprising–and highly entertaining–turn last night, with the additions of Judith Light and Bette Midler to the cast to set up season two, which I wasn’t so sure about going into last night’s episode. but they did a truly terrific job of jumping ahead a few years, and letting us see what was going on with the kids from the high school now that they’re in college…and, like I said, they did an amazing job setting up the second season.

I’m also finished reading Lords of Misrule as well, which takes the history of Carnival (and it’s racial politics) up to the year before I came to my first Carnival, and two years before I finally moved here and got my life started. Since that’s also the approximate time period for my story “Never Kiss a Stranger,” reading this has been enormously helpful. It catches me off guard a little that the 1990’s is now so far away; kids born in the 1990’s are in college now, after all–are old enough to marry and have their own kids.

I also realized, last night as I was reading after we finished watching The Politician, that it’s October, which is when I usually read horror fiction–and since starting the Diversity Project, I was waiting for October to read some diverse horror. So, I will try to get Deliverance finished this week, do my annual reread of The Haunting of Hill House, probably over this weekend, and then next week I am going to read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, or her more recent Gods of Jade and Shadow.

And since today is Pay Day, I should probably go pay the bills. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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Do It Again

Here it is, Saturday morning and I am awake and on my first cup of coffee. I have things to get done today–two interviews and a roundtable (the round table is terrifying; I looked at the questions and I’m not really certain I am smart or knowledgeable enough to participate, but I said I would and I never back out of things I agree to–or rarely). It’s weird, one would think I would love the chance to talk about myself and my writing as they are basically my favorite subjects, but it always makes me feel, at best, awkward and at worst, deeply uncomfortable.

All that childhood conditioning against arrogance and bragging, I suppose.

I didn’t quite finish cleaning out my inbox yesterday–in fact, I didn’t get even remotely close to cleaning it out, so it’s going back to the list for today. I need to get the mail and I need to make a short grocery run this afternoon, and I would like to go to the gym and try to get started on a regular workout routine again, but that becomes even more difficult given the heat advisory. But thinking about going to the gym, while not the same thing as actually going, is a step closer to getting there, I suppose. I also need to stop by Office Depot to buy some padded envelopes; the arrival of the box o’books also means signing and mailing out copies I owe to friends and reviewers and so forth. Signing and packaging the books is a chore, but I don’t find it as odious as one might think.

Yesterday, as you already know, Constant Reader, I finished reading S. A. Cosby’s delightful My Darkest Prayer, and I am very thrilled and happy to know that he recently signed a two-book contract, so I can look forward to new work from Shawn in the future. Yay! I love discovering new writers, and I love when they have new work. I do have this insane thing where I try not to finish reading everything an author has published so I always know there’s one more book by them to read–I was looking at my bookshelves yesterday as I reorganized the living room, realizing there are still three Kinsey Millhone books by Sue Grafton I haven’t read yet, and was saddened again to know that those will always be the last three Sue Grafton novels, and actually was thinking I should, at some point, start reading the books to clear them off the shelves. I am already at the point with some of my favorite authors, like Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott, where I have finished everything they’ve published (Lippman’s new one, Lady in the Lake, is on deck and I am probably going to start reading it today). I am also behind on some of my favorite authors–I was caught up on Donna Andrews, but I read for the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original last year, which put me behind on everyone who wasn’t in that category last year (some of which I want to go back and reread, taking my time to savor them the way I ordinarily would), and I am also years behind on numerous authors I enjoy…but new books are being released every damned day. Sigh. There’s simply never enough time.

In my review of Shawn’s book, I wrote about something I truly believe–and the more I diversify my reading in my own genre, the more I believe it to be true. I believe that women writers saved the crime genre in the 1980’s, and while they are still doing some serious heavy lifting, the diverse voices of authors like Shawn are reinvigorating and reinventing the crime genre, and breathing new life into it. (I’m really looking forward to October, when I will switch to reading horror, and reading novels by diverse voices in that genre–there are some new and exciting people of color writing in that genre…plus, reading horror will further diversify my reading by taking me outside of crime for a month.) Some of the diverse voices I’ve read thus far this year–Kellye Garrett, Rachel Howzell Hall, Walter Mosley, Steph Cha, Angie Kim, etc.–are doing extraordinary work that needs to be recognized, promoted, and pushed by all of us; they are breathing new life into our genre, as are women writers like Laura Lippman, Alison Gaylin, Megan Abbott, Jamie Mason, Elizabeth Little, and many, many more. And while I often generically refer to the “straight white men”–let’s face it, some of today’s men are writing exceptional work, too–Ace Atkins, Bill Loefhelm, Michael Koryta, to name a few amongst many. I think this is a very exciting time for crime fiction, and I look forward to reading more work by queer writers, as well. I’ve not gotten to some of the newer queer crime writers yet, which I am going to try to focus on more in the latter part of the year. I am really looking forward to Kelly Ford’s Cottonmouths, as it is a queer novel by a queer woman set in the rural South; something I can certainly relate to.

I kind of had a lackadaisical day of rest yesterday, really, where I accomplished little other than reading my book and doing the laundry, and couldn’t really motivate myself to do much more than that–I did make a delicious shrimp stir-fry for dinner last night, though–and we watched two episodes of The Movies last night, “The 80’s” and “The 90’s.” There’s only one more episode left, unless they release “The 50’s,” which is also a rather interesting period in the history of film. I started reading, for research, City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s, by Otto Friedrichs (recommended by Megan Abbott), and it has a lovely bibliography in the back which should be enormously helpful for further research into the time period. I also have a copy of E. J. Fleming’s The Fixers, which should also come in handy for research; again, as a starting place with the gold mine of a bibliography in the back.

So, here’s hoping that today will be that unusual thing; a highly productive, but at the same time, a restful day. Last night’s wonderful sleep is, of course, a wonderful basis for the rest of my day.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

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This Masquerade

 Yes, I am now beginning a glorious four-day weekend, during which I plan to read and clean and write and rest and watch movies and just have a glorious time relaxing and trying to catch up on things. I started cleaning, for example, out my jump drive yesterday–there’s an absolutely absurd amount of duplicates, old pictures from a million years ago, old files, etc on it–and I am probably going to try to spend some time trying to do that; get better organized with my computer files and so forth. I also intend to spend some time on a deep clean of the apartment–we’ll see how that goes, but my windows are filthy and I really do need to move things and clean beneath them; and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to clean and organize all the cabinets and drawers, either.

Ambition. We’ll see how that works out, won’t we?

But I slept fantastically last night, waking up this morning feeling wonderfully rested. My burnt lips are healing (you have no idea how fun it is to test people for syphilis while warning them of the dangers of the disease while your lips have enormous looking blister/wounds on them) and hopefully by the time I return to work on Tuesday morning, they will have healed completely and I will no longer have to worry about their syphilitic appearance any more. *whew*

So, here I am, just before nine in the morning with four glorious days off stretching out in front of me. I am going to write a little this morning–probably finishing the revision of “The Snow Globe,” and then hopefully revising the latest chapter of the WIP–while cleaning. I am going to try to do a deep dive clean, one that is sorely overdue here in the Lost Apartment–baseboards, floors, windows, window sills and frames, etc–which can, of course, be incredibly tedious, but it also needs to be done. It’s also launder the bed linen day, and so I have that to do as well. I also want to curl up with Rachel Howzell Hall’s They All Fall Down, which I’ve not had the chance to get back to this week, and after that, I’d like to read either John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning or Joseph Olshan’s Black Diamond Fall, which are both Lambda finalists (John is also a Strand and Anthony Award finalist). And then I am not sure what I’ll read after that; I got a stack of fabulous books this week to add to the TBR pile, including Owen Laukkanen’s Deception Cove and the new Michael Koryta…and there’s already so many wonderful treasures waiting for me in the the pile already.

An embarrassment of riches, as it were.

We also watched the new Wanda Sykes comedy special on Netflix last night, and she’s just as funny and pointed as ever, which is lovely as I am a big fan.

I’m probably going to watch the finale of Game of Thrones again at some point over this weekend, as well–I have found, this season particularly, that it helps to rewatch the episodes after having some time to digest them; I find that it helps me appreciate the show more; the first time I watch I am so busy watching to see what happens that I miss subtleties I am able to catch on a reviewing. I know a lot of fans hated this final season of the show–some going as far as to hate the last two seasons–but I enjoyed it; I enjoyed it as spectacle, and I enjoyed it even despite holes in the plot and subplots that went nowhere and so on and so forth; primarily because it did the unexpected, and it did from the very beginning. Game of Thrones never gave us what we were expecting because it didn’t follow traditional story-telling arcs–for example, once Jon Snow was identified as the true Targaryen heir to the Iron Throne, I was a little disappointed (despite the thrill); because I thought, ho-hum, here we go, it’s just another telling of the King Arthur legend–but as it turned out, it wasn’t that at all.

And I think that may be why so many fans were so disappointed–they were expecting the traditional story arcs, and Game of Thrones went the other way and rejected those.

Then again, what do I know? The Last Jedi is one of my favorite Star Wars movies, which also apparently renders me suspect as a forty-year Star Wars fan.

And on that note, it’s time to start cleaning and writing which means closing the web browsers.

Hello, spice mines!

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Boogie Fever

Friday morning. Looks like we made it through another week, Constant Reader–and earlier this week it was kind of touch-and-go there for a moment. But we did, and here we are, and life is all the better for it.

I managed to get my tax stuff to my accountant this week and my taxes are filed, huzzah! I actually made less money this past year than I did in 2017, and yet my refund is half of what it was last year–which means my taxes went up.

Clearly, elections matter.

I went to bed early last night, knowing I had to get up extremely early this morning, and I actually feel rested and alive this morning, which is not my norm, you know? But I only have to work a half-day today, which is lovely, and this afternoon I plan to finish reading my Steph Cha novel while I launder the bed linens. I’ve got some other projects to work on as well as the WIP, but I really want to finish Steph’s book. I have definitely decided to read Alison Gaylin’s ARC for Never Look Back when I finish Steph’s, and, to keep the Diversity Project going, I decided that between books by diverse readers to read something by a woman author, with the occasional straight white male thrown in for good measure–I’ve got the new Harlan Coben, for example, and Jeff Abbott’s latest, and then there’s the Michael Koryta backlist to work through.

To be honest, the more I think about the Diversity Project the more uncomfortable it makes me–but that’s a good thing, you know? We have to examine our own biases and prejudices in order to correct them, and you can’t examine something if you aren’t aware that you have them. I may be fifty-seven going on fifty-eight, but there’s still room for personal growth on a lot of issues that I was raised to believe incorrect things about–and as much self-examination and self-education as I have gone through over the last thirty or so years, I still surprise myself when an errant thought pops up from nowhere in my head. It’s a constant process, and I will probably be re-educating myself on my death bed.

The Diversity Project, while good intentioned, is one of those things that when I think more about it, the worse it seems despite the good intentions. I shouldn’t have to make a point of reading marginalized authors, and doing so, and calling attention to the fact that I’m doing it, can read as…I don’t know, maybe virtue signaling? And signaling the fact that I am doing something that I should have already been doing is actually kind of…embarrassing? Sad? Tragic?

But on the other hand, it’s not like I went into this expecting praise for doing it–and I shouldn’t get any, other than for helping spread the word about diverse writers.

WHICH WE ALL SHOULD BE DOING.

*breathes*

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Does Your Mother Know

It is so wonderful to sleep in your own bed after being away for almost a week. I don’t sleep well anywhere other than my bed, no matter how tired I am, and so last night when I tumbled into my own bed for the first time since the previous Sunday night, I was asleep almost the moment I hit the pillow and slept deeply and well. I feel very well rested this morning, if a little disoriented from traveling, which is always a good thing. And the new car is a rock star.

I have the day off from work today, so I can decompress and run errands and get everything around here back under control; jumping back into the day job today would have been a mistake and I would have been tired the rest of the week, which is never optimum. The house needs tidying and there’s laundry to do as well; and at some point I am retiring to my easy chair in order to finish reading Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. I’d thought I’d be able to finish it this past weekend in Birmingham, but alas–we were all having so much fun I wound up getting back to my room too late to spend some time reading. Thank you to Margaret Fenton and Tammy Lynn for organizing a wonderful books weekend to support two libraries, and thanks to the engaged audience of readers who showed up in both cities. I got to hang out and get to know some acquaintances better, some quality time with good friends, made some new ones, had a lot of laughs, went to visit the Vulcan statue in Birmingham, AND SOLD ALL OF MY BOOKS. Yay! I also feel very energized about writing again, and I (of course) came up with an idea for a new series while there.

I call that a win.

One of the many books I read last week was Last Words by Michael Koryta. I had an ARC from a few years ago (thanks Erin!) that I had not read, and so I decided to take it along with me on the trip to read. I’ve been a huge fan since I read So Cold the River a few years back, and his Those Who Wish Me Dead was one of my absolute favorites books of the year a couple of years ago. He is one of those writers whose books I parcel out to read because I don’t want to be out of new Koryta books, you know? I never want to think, “I’ve read all of his books and will have to wait for him to write a new one”.

But Last Words reminded me again of how great a writer he is, and I am going to have to resist reading everything he’s written over the next few weeks. I may allow myself another, though.

The last words he said to her: “Don’t embarrass me with this shit.”

In later days, months, and years, he will tell everyone who asks, and some who do not, that the last words from his lips to her ears were “I love you.” Sometimes, during sleepless nights, he can almost convince himself that it is true.

But as they walked out of their building and into the harsh Florida sun that September afternoon, Mark Novak didn’t even look his wife in the eye. They were moving fast even though neither of them was running late. It was the way you walked when you were eager to get away from someone.

Great beginning, right? Pulls you right into the story.

Mark Novak is the our main character, but there’s also another point of view character, Ridley Barnes. Ridley isn’t a reliable narrator (it is a third person point of view novel, but the point of view of both characters is so sharp and strong it may as well be first person). Mark and his wife worked for Innocence Incorporated, a non-profit legal firm that investigates death row cases to prove the innocence of the convicted (a not-so-well disguised fictional rendition of The Innocence Project). His wife was an attorney, Mark is an investigator. When they separated that hot summer day, she was off to interview a psychic who’d contacted them about one of their cases; he thought it was a waste of time and they argued about her going. SHe went off to the interview and he headed for the beach house they’d rented for a vacation…and time passes and she never shows up. Koryta does an excellent job of walking the reader through the stages of this sort of thing: the annoyance that she’s late; the anger because he hadn’t wanted her to go in the first place; and finally, worry and fear that something has happened. Something did happen: eventually, state troopers show up to let him know that her car was found in a ditch and she was dead; shot in the head.

Flash forward a couple of years, and Michael is still reeling from his wife’s death, and has done some things that have put his job in jeopardy. His boss has sent him up to Indiana to look into a murder case where there was no conviction or even a trial; Ridley Barnes was the chief suspect in the death, but there was never enough evidence against him for a trial or even an arrest. Barnes has written to them, and wants them to look into the case; to prove once and for all whether he did or did not commit the murder.

A young girl and her boyfriend had gone into the Trapdoor Cave and gotten separated. After days of searching, Barnes–who was an expert caver and an expert on the mine–separated off from the search party and eventually came out carrying her dead body. Michael is convinced the case is a waste of time–and it’s winter in Indiana. But once he gets to the small town and starts asking questions, strange things start happening, and what he remembers from his first day of questioning people is completely different from other people who witnessed the events report back. Has Michael lost his mind, or is everyone in the town part of a conspiracy to make him look crazy? And Barnes himself, who claims he doesn’t remember what happened down in the cave when he found the girl, often goes into the cave (or others in the area) to get away from people and calm himself. He believes that the cave is sentient and speaks to him; and there’s also a ‘dark man’ down there.

Two of my biggest fears are the dark and tight spaces (I have severe claustrophobia), and there are scenes when Barnes is working his way through the cave where I literally got so creeped out I had to put the book down, from the descriptions of the dark and the tight spaces. Barnes also has to get back into the cave with another search party when Michael is kidnapped and left alone in the cave in his underwear, in the cold and the tight and the dark with no idea where he is. That entire sequence is so chilling I thought I would have nightmares.

But as the book rushes along to its final solution, the pacing is exceptional, the writing vivid and exceptional, and the characterizations strong and great; reminding me again why Michael Koryta is one of my favorite writers. His most recent books is a sequel to Last Words, and I am really looking forward to getting into it–but I am resisting temptation as I have already selected the next book I am going to read.

Highly recommended.