Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Friend of the Devil. A Friend of Mine?

It’s 1934 and Herbert T. Barrow is a jazz musician on the run from the laws, but he’s a man with a plan. He’s heading down to Del Rio, Texas to get a job shilling products and singing cowboy songs on XER, the “Border Blaster” radio station located just across the river in Mexico. XER is the most powerful station in the world, owned by J.R. Brinkley, Del Rio’s celebrated “goat gland” surgeon, who uses the airwaves to talk up his miracle sex cure. But when he’s not, the air time is up for grabs to a colorful assortment of preachers, pitchmen, clairvoyants and yodelers, each working his own con. Herbert hopes to join their ranks, hiding in plain view and living the high life as a singing radio cowboy. Only it doesn’t quite work out that way.

While driving through Mississippi, Herbert makes the mistake of giving a ride to a hairy-faced country preacher named Stevens, who tells Herbert he’s ten hours late for a midnight meeting at a crossroads. Being a musician, Herbert knows the story of the Devil at the Crossroad and assumes it’s all a joke. But Stevens is serious. He’s got an important debt to collect and though he’s penniless, promises something extremely valuable to Herbert if he gets him there on time. For reasons not even Herbert understands, he decides to do as Stevens asks. Driving down the road at breakneck speed, they push the morning back into the night before, arriving at the Crossroads just an hour after midnight, where some grisly business is exacted.

Had Herbert been any other man, he might have figured out that Stevens was actually the Devil himself. He might even have figured out that the young man he picks up soon afterwards, who seems to be carrying the world’s sorrows on his shoulders, was, well, the Other Guy; Stevens’ opposite number. Herbert might even have put two and two together and realized the two had been compulsively running wagers since the very dawn of humanity. But Herbert T. Barrow is an atheist, and his refusal to believe is far stauncher, more unbending, and more abstruse than anyone either deity has ever encountered.

The road to is set with traps. There is Clyde, his trigger-happy young cousin and his crazed, alley-cat girlfriend, Bonnie Parker. They both know they’re doomed, but hope bringing Herbert into their gang might at least get them back in the public eye and allow them to go out in a blaze of glory. Then there’s Hamer; Captain Frank Hamer of the Texas Rangers, the toughest, meanest, and possibly only honest lawman in the entire state of Texas. He’s determined to put Bonnie and Clyde in their graves any way he can, including bushwhacking them. Killing them is just business, but somehow, his quest to nail Herbert becomes deeply personal, even after Herbert saves his life.

Having been made pawns in a contest between the gods, Herbert now finds himself battling Hamer to the death on the streets of Del Rio. But just as things couldn’t be more grim, Herbert finds an unlikely ally; a pregnant, underage radio clairvoyant named Rose Dawn, whose sneezing fits can level a building.

Friend of the Devil by

Friday, September 21, 2012

It's still not too late to learn Czech and buy this book

The Czech edition of Germania has just come out, a month early! If you'd like to check out the original English version (first published by Simon & Schuster in 2008, now also available on Kindle), here is the link: Germania

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bonnie and Clyde, Children of God, Friends of the Devil

In her own completely crazy, hell-raising way, Bonnie Parker was a religious woman. She loved Jesus, sang hymns to herself and prayed daily. Sure, she knew robbing filling stations and banks was wrong and so was killing people, but the way she saw it, everyone on earth, herself and Clyde included, were born under a death sentence. In her mind, all those people that she and Clyde Barrow gunned down had basically asked for it. Besides, robbing banks and filling stations was fun.


Then one day, in the middle of a shootout with the cops, just when things look extremely grim, Bonnie meets God. He saves her and Clyde, allowing them to walk past the lawmen and drive safely away. She thanks him for giving them a second chance and promises to mend her ways and live from then on in the light. But to her surprise, God seems completely indifferent to her resolution. He lets them know that what he’s giving them isn’t a second chance at all. They are merely players in a long series of wagers between him and the Devil. One had ended and another hadn’t yet begun. Their fate, he informs them, will be pretty much the same either way, and the state of their souls is not particularly his concern.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Devil at the Crossroads? Boring!

As a bluesman wandering America in the 1930s, Herbert T. Barrow was one of the few white men to hear the story of meeting the Devil at the crossroads. But it wasn’t something he paid much mind to. The way he saw it, half the black cats he knew told that yarn about themselves and a lot weren’t all that hot guitar players. But the real reason was that Herbert Barrow was an atheist. He didn’t hold with God, the Devil, preachers, or spook-talking hoodoo men of any stripe.

But then one day, against his better judgment, Herbert gives a ride to a country preacher who it turns out happens to be on his way to those same crossroads. But he’s not there to sell his soul, he’s there to collect one. The problem is, he’s already ten hours late for his midnight meeting and needs Herbert to drive him fast as he can to get him there on time. Again, against his better judgment, Herbert obliges.

What he witnesses there at the crossroads and over the next few days would probably have convinced anyone else that God and the Devil were not only real, but also running extremely convoluted wagers with each other over how quickly virtuous men succumb to temptation. Anyone else might have been shocked to learn that, while the Devil was unmistakably evil, his opposite number was mostly uninvolved and distant. But of course, all this is missing on Herbert T. Barrow, whose refusal to believe is unwavering.

All Herbert wants is to get through Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas and not stop until he reaches Del Rio, on the Mexican border. While the rest of America is caught in the grips of the Great Depression, Del Rio is an oasis of prosperity and hope. That is because Del Rio is home of the Brinkley Hospital, a world famous sexual rejuvenation clinic. Dr. JR Brinkley, its celebrated founder, has developed a revolutionary method of transplanting the testicles of goats onto those of well-heeled human patients, giving them new lease on virility. Or so he says. 

To get his message out, Brinkley has built the world’s most powerful radio station across the river in Mexico. Most of the time, its million watts are delivering his folksy lectures about sexual health. The rest of the time it’s being rented out to hucksters, preachers, clairvoyants and yodelers, all with their own messages of hope and transformation and all of them there for just one reason; money.  

Despite his background as a reefer-smoking, tea-shade-wearing, jazz-playing viper, Herbert’s plan is to enter their ranks as a singing cowboy. But besides God and the Devil, a couple other things stand in his way. First is his adoring younger cousin Clyde and second, Clyde's alley-cat girlfriend Bonnie. They’re young, hop-headed, crazy in love, meaner than snakes, and can’t be convinced that Herbert wouldn’t be the perfect third wheel to their criminal outfit. Then there’s Hamer, Captain Frank Hamer of the Texas Rangers, a natural-born killer and possibly the only honest lawman in Texas. He’s pledged to hunt down the Barrows and isn’t stopping till he has every last one of them dead. Unfortunately that includes Herbert.

In a series of battles that stretches across the South, the Midwest and onto the streets of Del Rio, Herbert finds himself up against God, the Devil, Frank Hamer and assorted bloodthirsty minions. Time and again, he manages to survive, only to see things get worse and worse. But just as his situation is looking hopeless, he finds a powerful, unexpected ally; a pregnant, underage, bible-reading radio clairvoyant named Rose Dawn.

Friendof the Devil is available as an ebook on Kindle.