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Monday, 10 October 2016

☀ The Ferryman Institute - Colin Gigl

Thank you for joining us on the Release Celebrations for for The Ferryman Institute, a Fantasy by (, Gallery Books, 432 pages).

Don't miss our interview with author Colin Gigl.

PREVIEW: Check out the book's synopsis and excerpt below. Read several excerpts with Amazon Look Inside.


Synopsis | Teaser | Author Q&A | About the Author |

Synopsis

In this stunning, fantastical debut novel from a bold new voice in the bestselling traditions of Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde, a ferryman for the dead finds his existence unraveling after making either the best decision or the biggest mistake of his immortal life.

Ferryman Charlie Dawson saves dead people—somebody has to convince them to move on to the afterlife, after all. Having never failed a single assignment, he's acquired a reputation for success that’s as legendary as it is unwanted. It turns out that serving as a Ferryman is causing Charlie to slowly lose his mind. Deemed too valuable by the Ferryman Institute to be let go and too stubborn to just give up in his own right, Charlie’s pretty much abandoned all hope of escaping his grim existence. Or he had, anyway, until he saved Alice Spiegel. To be fair, Charlie never planned on stopping Alice from taking her own life—that sort of thing is strictly forbidden by the Institute—but he never planned on the President secretly giving him the choice to, either. Charlie’s not quite sure what to make of it, but Alice is alive, and it’s the first time he’s felt right in more than two hundred years.

When word of the incident reaches Inspector Javrouche, the Ferryman Institute's resident internal affairs liaison, Charlie finds he's in a world of trouble. But Charlie’s not about to lose the only living, breathing person he’s ever saved without a fight. He’s ready to protect her from Javrouche and save Alice from herself, and he’s willing to put the entire continued existence of mankind at risk to do it.

Written in the same vein as bestselling modern classics such as The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, The Ferryman Institute is a thrilling supernatural adventure packed with wit and humor.

Teaser: Excerpt

CHARLIE
CLIFF DIVING

Charlie Dawson slammed into the canyon floor with a force that would have made Wile E. Coyote blush. His limbs splayed in directions they really had no business being in, like a discarded marionette with its strings cut. A particularly sharp spear of rock skewered him through his shirtless chest, piercing nearly two feet out his back.
      A few seconds passed in silence before Cartwright yelled after him. “I would award the dismount top marks,” he called down in his late-Victorian accent. “However, I must deduct points for the improper positioning of your toes. For my final score, I give a seven-point-five.” His voice carried easily in the desert’s desolate stillness.
      Charlie, his face buried several inches into the earth, replied with a muted but distinctly audible mmph.
      Several additional seconds ticked by before Cartwright called down again. “I sincerely hope you’re not talking into the strata again, Charles.”
      A modest crunching sound filtered through the air as Charlie removed his head from the layer of sandstone it had been embedded in. “Only a seven-point-five?” he yelled back up.
      “Ah, much better, thank you,” Cartwright said as the words reached him. “As to your question, I’m afraid so, my dear fellow. I would even go so far as to suggest my scoring was rather generous. The foundation for an excellent score is built on impeccable fundamental technique.”
      Charlie hadn’t the faintest idea what he looked like after his feet left the cliff’s edge, nor did he particularly care. As far as techniques were concerned, Charlie’s list began and ended with hit the ground. But while the score was meaningless, the resulting opportunities to try and fluster the otherwise completely unflappable Cartwright were not.
      “Fine,” Charlie called up, “I’ll take your word on my toes. Can we at least both agree that I stuck the landing?” He paused, then added, “Get it? Stuck the landing? Because I’m stuck on this rock right now?”
      Awful puns were the only weakness of Cartwright’s that Charlie had managed to discover thus far. They were a tenuous form of attack at best.
      True to form, Cartwright continued to smile gamely and merely shook his head. “Charles, I will admit there are moments when your misguided attempts at humor make me question our friendship. Heinous wordplay notwithstanding, your score stands.” Even from fifty-some-odd yards below, Charlie could see the British gentleman look out in the direction of the vanishing sun before returning his gaze to the depths of the canyon. His eyes twinkled in the last slanted rays of sunlight. “In any case, do hurry up, if you so please. It appears as if our only source of light is retiring for the evening, and I daresay I wouldn’t mind doing the same. Oh, and I made tea, should you be interested in partaking.” And with that, his head disappeared from view.
      Charlie sighed. He’d hoped to get in one more dive before the sun completely set, but there was no stopping Cartwright when he had tea on the brain. In the many years they’d been acquainted, Charlie had known Cartwright to be an almost painfully polite and pleasant person. Yet even Charlie couldn’t say for sure what unspeakable things the man might do in the name of Earl Grey. So, with a slight huff, Charlie began to get up.
      It was slow going at first, but before long his body settled into its usual rhythm of self-repair. Misplaced limbs gingerly rotated back into place, broken bones set themselves, cuts and lacerations simply closed up and disappeared. In a span of seconds, Charlie’s anatomy shifted from abstract Picasso to something actually recognizable as human physiology. When his body was more or less back in working order, he casually slid himself off the pointed rock and stood, dusting off his shorts and ruffling his hair as he did. Save for the flecks of dirt that fluttered out and a few new rips in his shorts, Charlie appeared no worse for wear. Not that he’d been expecting anything different.
      His focus turned to the exit rope he’d affixed several hundred feet away down the canyon floor. As Charlie padded toward it on his bare feet, his hand unconsciously reached for the key nestled in his shorts’ pocket. Charlie traced it with his right hand, feeling the ornate inscription carved into the shaft beneath his fingertips. He eventually pulled the key from his pocket and held it high in the fading light, staring at the word inscribed on it as if he were seeing it for the first time. PORTHMEUS, it read. Translated from Latin, it meant Ferryman. At least, that’s what Cartwright had told him. Regardless of its translation, that word had changed Charlie’s life. He was a Ferryman, an immortal guide tasked with leading the souls of the dead to the afterlife. A man who, in exchange for his service, had received the many gifts of immortality: perpetual youth, lack of pain or sickness, boundless energy . . .
      Gifts, Charlie thought, a sad smirk pursed on his lips.
      He reached the rope and began to climb. By the time he arrived at the top edge of the canyon, the sky had graduated from its rich pinks and vivid reds to be ensconced in a somber midnight blue.
      “Ah, Charles. Alive and in one piece, I see,” Cartwright said as Charlie hoisted himself over the canyon’s lip. Cartwright was sitting comfortably in a folding chair several yards back from the cliff’s edge, a well-worn copy of Moby-Dick cracked open in his hands. Cartwright’s build— not to mention choice of facial hair— was probably best described as nineteenth-century pugilist. His lanky frame and narrow shoulders belied the cords of muscle Charlie knew were hiding underneath his loose button-down. A finely trimmed crest of slicked-back hair the color of coal rode atop his head while his mustache— that luxuriant, neatly twirled, pinnacle-of-masculinity-itself mustache— flexed on his upper lip in a never-ending tribute to an era of manliness long since past. A lacquered yet otherwise ordinary pipe was perched between his lips, a veil of hazy smoke drifting out of its bowl. To the right of Cartwright’s chair sat a small, battery-powered teakettle, complete with a pair of unadorned white teacups. His full name, as introduced, was William Henry Taylor Cartwright IV, but he’d insisted from the very beginning that Charlie simply refer to him by his surname.
      “If I didn’t know any better,” Charlie said, “I’d almost say you sound surprised.” Cartwright waved his pipe in the air to dismiss the statement, causing the smoke to trace indistinct patterns in the darkening sky. “As a friend who has watched you inflict countless acts of gratuitous violence upon yourself, I must be honest in saying I’m not. Rationally, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be fine.” He finally looked up from his book. “But that doesn’t mean a small but irrational part of me isn’t always relieved to see you as you stand before me now.”
      Charlie took a look at himself. “Covered in dirt?” He brushed off the modest layer of grime he’d acquired scaling the canyon wall in nothing but a pair of shorts.
      Cartwright sighed. “I was implying something much more profound, but I should have known better than to think you would gratefully accept such heartfelt intent.”
      “You’re right. You should have known better, and on both accounts, I might add.” Charlie wandered over and sat down on a bare patch of dirt beside Cartwright. The stars winked into existence above them as the sky grew darker.
      Despite the remarkable celestial panorama— despite the cliff diving, the amusing banter with Cartwright, the sunset, despite all the things he enjoyed— Charlie’s mind wandered elsewhere. A much darker elsewhere.
      The elsewhere it always seemed to be these days.
      He thought of last week’s assignment, of the young man lying in front of him, alone and helpless. He thought of himself, standing there, waiting for the man— practically a kid, really— to die. He thought of all the things he could’ve done differently, of how, in the end, he’d done his job, just like he always did. Without fail, it was always the job first. Always the job, forever and ever.
      “May I ask you a slightly personal question?”
      The sound of Cartwright’s voice snapped Charlie’s attention to the present. He turned to see Cartwright looking over at him, his book now closed in his lap. Though Cartwright’s expressions were almost always perfectly neutral, Charlie couldn’t help but notice the slight tint of concern in his friend’s eyes. Worse, Charlie had a feeling he knew exactly what— or, more accurately, who— Cartwright was truly worried about.
      “I have a feeling even if I say no, you’re going to ask anyway,” Charlie replied. Cartwright gave him a mischievous smile. “I’m not sure I’d put it quite so brusquely . . .”
      “It’s fine, it’s fine,” Charlie said, waving him off. “Ask away with my blessing.” Even with Charlie’s permission to continue, Cartwright hesitated. A moment of silence followed, after which he placed his book on the ground. Cartwright gave the stars a searching look, as if they might contain the answer to the question he’d yet to say out loud. Finally, he turned again toward Charlie.
      “Rightly or wrongly, I can’t shake the notion that there is something weighing heavily on your mind,” he said. If his eyes had only hinted at concern moments ago, then the somber tone of his voice removed any remaining doubt.
      A dour smirk flitted across Charlie’s face. Cartwright had a remarkable knack for knowing exactly what Charlie’s mind-set was at any given time. Granted, Charlie also had the poker face of an excitable three-year-old, so maybe that wasn’t as impressive as it seemed. Regardless, while he appreciated Cartwright’s concern, Charlie wanted nothing to do with the topic. There were several things he’d have to be forced to do, and talk about Charlie Dawson was one of them.
      “For the record, that wasn’t a question,” Charlie said. It was a noble attempt at avoiding the discussion.
      Cartwright, however, was not so easily dissuaded. “Your propensity for quibbling over semantics aside, I would wager considerably that you still see my point,” he said.
      Unfortunately, Charlie did. “It’s nothing to worry about,” he replied, trying to sound indifferent. He suspected it came off as anything but.
      “I believe that is also precisely what the Romans said when the barbarians arrived outside their city walls,” Cartwright said. “Except in Latin, naturally, but I digress.” Cartwright smiled, but his eyes still lacked their playful glimmer, as if he’d seen what Charlie had actually been thinking earlier and knew he’d just been lied to. Or maybe that was just Charlie projecting. Lying always gave him a serious case of the guilt trips.
      Cartwright pulled a small white towel from his pants’ pocket and proceeded to clean his used cup, then absentmindedly packed up his various possessions— teakettle and cups, book, pipe— into a small suitcase before closing it shut. “I apologize if I’ve offended, old friend. However, in the two and a half centuries we’ve been acquainted, I cannot recall a time you’ve seemed quite so . . . distant.”
      The remark stung only because Charlie knew it was the truth. While he’d always believed he hid his emotions well, he was increasingly aware of lapses in the great charade. Even Charlie begrudgingly accepted that, based on recent behavior alone, it didn’t take a PhD in psychology to point out what Cartwright had just alluded to. Maybe it was high time he admitted it.
      Charlie picked himself off the ground and stood just as Cartwright did the same. The moon had taken the sun’s place in the sky now. Though not full, it was large and bright enough to cast a pale glow, illuminating the desert in a ghostly light.
      “I know.” Charlie then paused, searching for the right words and coming up empty. With a shrug, he ran his hand roughly through his short crop of hair. “I know.” There was a not-insubstantial part of Charlie’s mind that desperately wanted to open up, to confess, to tell somebody about all the drama it was currently racking itself with. Yet he held his tongue.
      Cartwright, perhaps sensing the moment had whispered away, gave Charlie his neutral smile. “Chin up, my good fellow. You are made of stern stuff, indeed, of that I have no doubt. I will not press you on the matter. A man should be entitled to the sanctity and privacy of his own thoughts. However, should you find a need to confide in someone, I am at your beck and call.”
      “I appreciate it,” Charlie said. He initially felt content leaving it there, but then he quickly added, “Really, I’m fine. Seriously. I’ve just had a lot on my mind lately.”
      Cartwright’s smile softened before he gave the hint of a bow. “A more disturbing notion I could not possibly dream of— that is to say, you using your mind.”
      The bow complete, Cartwright produced a golden key from his vest pocket, one nearly identical to Charlie’s own. With an elegant grace suggesting countless repetition, Cartwright thrust the key through the air, twisted it, and let go. A barely perceptible click sounded in the night, and the key, now floating in midair three and a half feet above the ground, remained motionless. A moment later, the silhouette of a doorway appeared around it, shimmering gently in the moon’s light like a heat mirage. With his free hand, Cartwright pushed forward. The outline silently swung open on invisible hinges, revealing a sterile white hallway beyond.
      “’ Til next we meet, Charles,” he said as he plucked the key from its floating position and replaced it in his pocket. “Do take care of yourself.”
      Charlie gave a wave. “I will. Be good, Cartwright.”
      Cartwright hefted his suitcase and chair, then walked through the door. As he passed beyond the threshold, the opening swung closed, and the night air of the barren landscape was once again whole.
      Charlie stood alone, out in some uninhabited stretch of the Mojave, and stared at the stars. They seemed different tonight, as if they’d somehow lost some of their luster. He knew they hadn’t— that was easy enough to see— which could only mean that he was seeing them differently. It was not an altogether pleasant prospect. After several minutes, he turned his gaze away and decided it was time he headed back as well. He’d ducked out unannounced again, which he was sure to catch some grief for, but the hell with it.
      He took out his key and reproduced Cartwright’s steps with the same deft grace, turning it until he was greeted with a click, then stepping into the narrow white passageway that appeared shortly thereafter. The passage was about twelve feet long and reminiscent of an average hallway in its length and shape, but strange in that its walls, ceiling, and floor were all completely devoid of color. Even after centuries of use, Charlie still found traversing the corridor, as he called it, a mildly bizarre experience. At the opposite end of the passageway stood a stout brown door, its surface weathered with scratches and nicks of varying shapes, lengths, and depths. It was a wholly unremarkable door, which, thanks to its surroundings, made it actually (and ironically) quite remarkable. Nailed into the door at about eye level was a small yellow plaque made from some indistinct metal or combination thereof. It, too, was simple and, like the door, had clearly seen better days. However, it carried with it a strange sense of stature, as if it had been around far longer than the wood it was attached to. Etched into the plaque’s surface were the words:

THE FERRYMAN INSTITUTE 

      Charlie twisted the key back and removed it from the door, then began walking down the hall. As he moved past the door, it swung silently shut, and the last view of the night sky disappeared behind him.

The Ferryman Institute
Available NOW!

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About the Author

Colin Gigl is a graduate of Trinity College with degrees in creative writing and computer science (no, he’s not quite sure how that happened, either).

He currently works at a start-up in New York and lives with his wife in New Jersey.

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