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Tuesday, 8 May 2018

☀ White Heat: Duke Rogers, PI [1] - Paul D. Marks

Thank you for joining us for the Re-Release Celebrations for White Heat, a Crime Thriller by (First published 6 April 2012; this new edition , Down & Out Books, 336 pages).

This is the first book in the Duke Rogers, PI series.

White Heat is a "...taut crime yarn set in 1992 against the turmoil of the Los Angeles riots that followed the acquittal of the police officers charged with assaulting motorist Rodney King.... the author ably evokes the chaos that erupted after the Rodney King verdict." - Publishers Weekly

PREVIEW: Check out the book's synopsis and the Kindle Cloud Reader Preview below.

Author Paul D. Marks will be awarding a $20 Amazon/ gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.   Please do take part: comment on our post and follow the tour where you will be able to read other excerpts (☀).


|| Synopsis || Teaser: Kobo Preview || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

Synopsis

Winner of the 2013 Shamus Award for Best Indie P.I. Novel!

P.I. Duke Rogers finds himself in a combustible situation in this racially charged thriller. His case might have to wait…

The immediate problem: getting out of South Central Los Angeles in one piece during the 1992 “Rodney King” riots and that’s just the beginning of his problems.

Duke finds an old “friend” for a client. The client’s “friend,” an up and coming African-American actress, ends up dead. Duke knows his client did it. Feeling guilty that he inadvertently helped the killer find the victim, he wants to track down the client/killer. He starts his mission by going to the dead actress’ family in South Central L.A.—and while there the “Rodney King” riots ignite.

While Duke searches for the killer he must also deal with the racism of his partner, Jack, and from Warren, the murder victim’s brother, who is a mirror image of Jack in that department. He must also confront his own possible latent racism—even as he’s in an interracial relationship with the dead woman’s sister.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Some of the language and attitudes in the novel may be offensive. But please consider them in the context of the time, place and characters.

Teaser: Kobo Preview

APRIL 1992
April is the cruelest month.
The Waste Land
—T.S. Eliot

CHAPTER 1

My father always said I was a fuckup, that the only reason we get along is ’cause he keeps his mouth shut. Maybe he’s right:
      I fucked up high school.
      Fucked up college.
      Fucked up my marriage.
      Fucked up my life by leaving the service.
      And now I’ve fucked up a case.
      Fucked it up real bad.
      Teddie Matson was different. She had a golden life, until her path had the misfortune of crossing mine. I sat staring out the window of my office, k.d. lang playing in the background. It was a while till the sun would set, that golden hour when everything takes on a gilded glow.
      Golden hour is the time when the light hits just right in the early morning or late afternoon. The time when movie cinematographers most like to shoot. The light is tawny and warm. Gentle. It makes the stars shine brighter.
      Golden hour is the time when Teddie Matson was killed.

“Duke Rogers?”
      “What can I do for you?”
      The Weasel shifted back and forth. Left foot to right. Right to left. Nervous. Fidgety. Blue eyes so pale they almost lacked color darted back and forth across the room.
      “I, I want you to find a friend of mine,” he said, voice cracking. He slapped a snapshot on the desk, a sleek chrome and smoked-glass job that I’d picked up at auction. A greasy lock of hair dropped over his eye. He shooed it away.
      She was a beautiful girl. Woman? No. Hardly more than a girl. Smile was warm and inviting. Dark almond-shaped eyes. Long dark tresses curling around her neck. They looked like they were ready to strangle her.
      “Who is she?”
      “W’we went to school together. I heard she was in town and I—” He sucked in his already-sunken cheeks.
      Who was I to argue with him? Just because he looked ten years older than her. Maybe he’d had a rough life. Just because she was black and he was white? That didn’t mean they couldn’t have gone to school together.
      “How much is your fee?” he said. Lit a cigarette. I pointed to the universal “No Smoking” sign over my desk. I needed the gig, but I didn’t need it that bad. He grunted. Stubbed it out on the linoleum floor.
      “Two-fifty. Sounds simple enough.” The words came out by rote. My mind was somewhere else. At the moment, thinking about redecorating the office. Getting rid of the orange crate art, replacing it with Hopper prints, Rooms by the Sea and Chop Suey. They seemed to go with the building. A little more classic. But I knew I could use the cash for an overdue plumbing bill. Redecorating would have to wait.
      The Weasel pulled out a wad of sweaty bills, peeled off a handful. Sucker. The job would take me all of an hour, if that. He was also a dweeb. He deserved to be fleeced.
      “Here, write down her name, any other information you might have on her, age, height, scars, that kind of thing. Where she was born.” I handed him a piece of paper and watched him scribble in an unsteady hand. He shoved the paper back at me. He had scrawled her name: “Teddie/Theodora Matson”.
      “How long will it take?”
      “Couple-a days. What’s your phone number?”
      “I’ll come by on Thursday.”
      “Around ten.”
      He headed for the door.
      “Hey, what’s your name?”
      “Jim, Jim Talbot.”
      “See ya Thursday, Jim.”
      He left. I opened the window wider to let in some fresh air. I inhaled deeply, taking in the whiff of orange and lemon blossoms outside the window.

I wondered how the dweeb would spend the time between Monday and Thursday at 10 a.m. Didn’t look like he had many friends. Maybe not any. If he was from out of town he might go to Disneyland. Nah. Not a place you go to by yourself. He might go down to the Santa Monica pier and throw a line off. Sure, the beach. That’s where they all go. Isn’t that why people come to Southern California anyway? So the beach would be one place for sure. He might take in a museum, but dweeby as he was, he didn’t look the museum type. Might go on the Universal Studio Tour. Sure. He could see all the papier-mâché and phony fronts that make Hollywood what it is. Yeah, that was his kind of place all right. Maybe he’d check out Griffith Park or the Observatory or Farmers’ Market. He had to eat. Well, what did I care how he spent those days in between?


I called Lou Waters at the DMV. We’d been friends since we went to Fairfax High together a decade or two ago. Seemed more like a century. I’d aged. She hadn’t. She was one of those people who actually looked better the older she got—aging like a fine wine, she’d say.
      “What’s on today, Duke?” she asked.
      “Can you run a name for me?”
      “You know I’m not supposed to.”
      “Never stopped you before.”
      “And it won’t stop me this time.”
      “Why do we always have to play this game, Lou?”
      “It brightens my day.”
      “I thought the sound of my voice alone did that.”
      “You’re not the fair-haired boy anymore.”
      I never was. But if being a second rate P.I. is success, I guess I’ve succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. In the land of Beamers and Benzes, I’m just a Camry.
      I gave Lou the info the dweeb had given me. I could hear the clicking of her computer keys over the phone. She had an address for me in a few seconds.
      “Thanks, Lou. I owe you one.”
      “You owe me a ton.”
      “I’m good for it.”
      “Yeah, sure.” She hung up. I knew she was smiling. We’d dated briefly in our sophomore year of high school. She’d left me for an older, more sophisticated guy—a junior, with a car.
      I had to figure out what I’d do between now and the time the dweeb came back. I had a couple other scut cases I was working. Might as well check out some leads on them.
      Later that day, while I was trying to decipher a new software program for billing my clients, new business walked in the door.
      “Marion Rogers?”
      “Yes.” She was attractive in a plain sort of way. An all-American way. Open face, cute smile. Natural blond hair. She didn’t have the sultry appeal of Teddie Matson, that’s for sure.
      “You don’t look like a Marion.”
      “Maybe that’s why my friends call me Duke.”
      She introduced herself as Laurie Hoffman, sat down and crossed her legs. I could tell she wanted to get to the point. And she did.
      “Someone’s following me. I went out with him once and now he won’t leave me alone.”
      “Get a restraining order.”
      “I have. It doesn’t do any good. And by the time the police arrive he’s gone.”
      “Has he threatened you?”
      “Not in so many words. He just tells me how much he wants me, things like that.”
      “I’m not really sure what I could do for you. Surveil him maybe, but—”
      “I think he’s dangerous.”
      “He hasn’t done anything.”
      “Yet.”
      “Problem is I don’t really have the time right now. I’m a one-man office and I’ve got more than I can handle already.”
      “You don’t need the money?”
      “It’s not that. But I honestly don’t think I’d be able to devote the necessary time and that wouldn’t be good for either of us.” I wrote Harvey Zenobia’s name and number on a piece of paper. Handed it to her. “This is a colleague of mine. Give him a call. Maybe he can help.”
      Truth is, I did need the money. I had a second mortgage on the house my dad left me and I could barely make the payments. What I didn’t need was another short term shit job that was more trouble than it was worth. Domestic cases, stalking cases are hell. I landed in jail on one once when I tried to intervene between a husband and wife. I got between them when he was coming after her, slugged him, hard. He filed assault charges and I got three days in jail. The fact that he had a knife in his hand didn’t seem to matter to the judge.
      She stood to leave, looking defiant. Angry. But too proud to say anything.
      “I’m sorry,” I said as she disappeared through the door.

The dweeb showed up at ten on the nose. I knew he would. You can tell these things about a person.
      “Didja get it?” He was almost breathless. A bubble formed at his lips when he talked.
      I handed him a slip of paper. He looked down at it. His mouth didn’t move. But his eyes smiled. He stared at the paper an awfully long time. He was wearing a good suit. English cut. Expensive. Then I noticed his shoes: old. Scuffy. Didn’t quite fit.
      He turned and left. Didn’t say a word. He had paid so I didn’t care. He was a happy man. And I was happy to have him out of my life. I’d wish later that I’d never met the lousy dweeb.

CHAPTER 2


I’d gone out of town for about a week on a case. My buddy Jack had collected the mail and taken care of my dog, Baron. I came home, greeted by Baron in his usual overzealous manner. There was a message from Lou on the answering machine. She didn’t say what she wanted and I couldn’t reach her. Everything else was in order. I went to the office, was sitting in my chair, listening to k.d. lang, catching up on a week’s worth of newspapers and taking my lunch break of gin-laced lemonade. I’d cut down on the alcohol. Cut down, not out. I could handle it in small doses. The article I was reading said that a verdict in the Rodney King beating case was expected any day now. But it was another headline that slammed me in the gut.
      Another photo.
      Made me want to vomit.
      Through force of will, I was able to control it.
      I crumpled the paper.
      Tossed it in the can.
      Kicked the can with such force that the metal sides caved in.
      Fucked up a case.
     Fucked it up real bad.

      “Promising Actress Shot by Rabid Fan” the headline read. “Teddie Matson, the twenty-six-year-old second lead of such Hollywood sitcom hits as Day Timers and Holier Than Thou was on her way to becoming one of Hollywood’s lights. The, some say naive, young actress answered the door to her apartment building yesterday afternoon expecting a script delivery from the studio. Instead an unknown assailant delivered a .32 slug to her abdomen. Police surmise that it was a berserk fan who fired the gun, but don’t have a clue as to who he is.”
      I knew it was my client. It was a weasel named Jim Talbot, if that was really his name. But it was how I knew that made me want to split a gut. And it had taken only a few minutes’ work, still I had charged Talbot a full day’s fee. Talbot didn’t mind. He was happy to pay. He had walked out of my office with the biggest shit-eating grin on his face that I’d seen since I left the service.
      I didn’t know what to do, if there was anything I could do. Should do. I bottomed another glass of the saucy lemonade. Before I could get toasted the phone rang.
      “Hello, Duke. Lou.”
      “Hey, Lou. Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I was out of town for a few days.” Did she know? We talked a couple times a month, so maybe this was just a friendly call. At any rate, neither one of us brought up Teddie right now.
      “Listen,” she said, “how ’bout we have dinner tonight?”
      “Okay. Usual place.” The roar of a Harley chewed up the street below as she affirmed the usual place at seven. She must have known because we normally had dinner about once a year and we’d already met our quota this year. I was about to dive back into the lemonade, when the door opened and Jack Riggs walked in, looking like a Hell’s Angel in heat. Tossed his kit bag on my desk and sat down like he owned the place.
      I’d known Jack since we went through boot camp together. We’d split up or been split up after that, but we both ended up in the Teams. There was definitely a bond there—after he got over the fact that my name was Marion—though I couldn’t say what it was exactly. I had to join the Teams to counter a name like Marion. That’s where I got the nickname Duke. Who would name a boy Marion, especially in this day and age? My parents, that’s who. They both loved John Wayne and his real name was Marion Michael Morrison. And his nickname was Duke. If it was good enough for him it was good enough for me, on both counts. Only right now I felt more like a knave than a duke.
      The first words out of his mouth were, “What’s that shit you’re playing?”
      “k.d. lang. I like it.”
      “Hell, man, don’t’cha know she’s lez?”
      “I’d heard something about it,” I said, “but I don’t see how it matters.”
      Jack poured himself a lacy lemonade. He knew what was in it. “When you listen to a song, a love song, don’t you sit there an’ think they’re singin’ t’ you? Or if it’s a man, that it’s you singin’ to a girl? But how can you get into that fantasy when you know she’s AC-DC, so t’ speak?”
      I didn’t know what to say. I never knew what to say to Jack when he came on like this. How could I argue with that logic? Besides, no matter what I said, he wouldn’t buy it. So I said, “I don’t know, Jack. It’s just a song.”
      “Man, it’s no song. It’s a political statement. It’s—”
      I wanted to shut him up, or off, or something, so I flipped the switch from CD to radio. Eric Clapton was on singing the MTV Unplugged version of Layla. Tell you the truth, I liked it better than the harder, faster version. But I didn’t say that to Jack. It would have brought another lecture in pretzelogic.
      He saw the newspaper sitting on the desk. “This Rodney King thing’s gonna blow wide open. Whole town’s gonna go up in smoke.”
      “You’re crazy,” I said, but somewhere inside me I thought maybe he was right. I didn’t want to admit it. Not to him. Not to myself. I’m a multi-generation native of Los Angeles, which makes me a rare bird. And I love my home town, not so much as it is, but as it was when I was a kid. I grew up in a real Leave it to Beaver neighborhood. No one locked their doors. No one worried about getting shot on the freeways. Of course, my relationship with my dad was no Beaver and Ward thing, but I survived, after a fashion.
      He looked down at the paper, saw the headline about Teddie Matson. “She was hot. I wouldn’ta minded havin’ a hormone fix with her.”
      “She was black.”
      “I make exceptions on occasion. I would’ve made one for her.”
      “How white of you.” I don’t know if he caught the sarcasm. If he did he didn’t say anything. I was just as glad. ’Cause a mad Jack was crazier than a mad dog. I’d bet on him against five pro boxers at the same time when he was mad, three when he wasn’t. His washboard stomach rippled under the T-shirt that was always at least one size too small. Even if it wasn’t, his arms were too big for the sleeves. Had to have his shirts custom made to accommodate them. He’d stayed in shape. I hadn’t.
      On the other hand I’m not very large to begin with. But wiry and determined.
      “Hey, I’m not as bad as you think,” he said. “’Sides, I just say what everyone else is thinkin’.”
      “Not everyone.”
      “Hell, almost everyone. Especially the damn limousine liberals that wanna baby everyone, make ’em victims. Make ’em dependent on ’em and on ol’ Uncle Sam. That’s their power base. Hell, the liberals and the—”
      “Cut it out, Jack. Segue.” It was a command. An order. I didn’t want to talk about that shit anymore. Jack stopped. Looked at me. Hurt. He loved to expound. We had a deal. Segue was the end of it. Change of subject. Worked either way, for me or him. We tried not to exercise it too frequently.
      “Hell, I’m only saying out loud what you’re too afraid to even think. What everyone’s afraid to think. ’Cept the niggers. It’s okay for them to think it about us. Change history.”
      I told him to shut up again. But I didn’t kick him out. The problem is that Jack’s too open. Doesn’t even try to hide his prejudices. No veneer of civilization there. Makes me face my own prejudices and fears. Makes me see what I could be and helps me to avoid it. Sometimes I’m successful. Sometimes not. But it’s also one of the things I like about him. You know where he’s at. So you know where you’re at with him.
      Jack and I go back a long way and I do like him. But I don’t like all of him.

The lobby was crowded. Lou’s strawberry hair glinted in the lights, accenting a still-perfect complexion. Her Anne Taylor dress highlighted her figure, flaring at the waist. Stunning, as usual.
      She knew. Her eyes said it. The corners of her mouth said it. And her weak handshake instead of a hug said it. She knew.
      El Coyote was an old restaurant from the old neighborhood, a few blocks west of La Brea on Beverly Boulevard. It attracted an eclectic clientele. Tonight was no different. Teens in hip-hop drag mixed with elderly couples and homosexual couples and young hetero couples on dates. All inside a restaurant that had been here since before the war—the Big War. Lou particularly liked the decor, paintings made out of seashells. “Interesting,” she always said, as if that was enough. And she loved the food. So did I. But I knew a lot of people who didn’t. You either loved it or hated it, there was no in between. That’s the kind of place it was. I liked their margaritas. They weren’t those slushy crushed ice new fangled things you find in most restaurants. They were just tequila, triple sec, lime juice and salt around the rim. Damn good.
      “Interesting,” Lou said looking at a shell painting, after we were seated. I nodded. There was an awkward feeling between us, a gulf of turbulent air that we were trying to negotiate. There was nothing for me to say in response. This wasn’t a social call. She leaned forward, talking quietly. “You know why I wanted to have dinner, don’t you?”
      I nodded.
      “I didn’t want to leave any specifics on the answering machine or call a bunch of times.”
      “In case the cops were on us already.”
      She nodded. “I shouldn’t have run it for you. I didn’t know who Teddie Matson was. I don’t watch television, especially sitcoms. How was I to know you were asking me to look up a TV star?”
      Lou did watch television. Lots of it. She watched old movies. What she meant was she didn’t watch sitcoms or dramatic series. Made-for-TV junk.
      “I don’t watch sitcoms either,” I said. “I had no idea who she was. The headline hit me like a hurricane.” What did Lou want from me?
      “You know I run these things for you ’cause you’re an old friend. But I shouldn’t. I could catch hell.”
      “Does anyone know you did it?”
      “I don’t think so. There’s no record. But you’re an accessory. So am I.” She looked into my eyes. A searing, guilt-edged gaze that tore into me. She looked away. “Who’d you get the information for?”
      “I don’t know.” My face flushed red. It hadn’t done that in years. I was embarrassed. I had fucked up—bad, just like my father always said: “You’re as dumb as the Mexicans at the plant.” “Why dad? Because I wasn’t a carbon copy of you.” “He paid in cash, up front. I’m sure the name he gave me’s a phony.”
      “You’ve got to find him.”
      “I know. I will.”
      “I should go to the police. They should know everything. It would help them solve it.”
      “Don’t, at least not yet. Give me a few days.”
      She said she would. Neither of us ordered food. We left a good tip and split.

CHAPTER 3


The light was mellow, soft. It grazed across the row of Spanish-style stucco duplexes and apartments, reflected off leaded picture windows and prismed onto the street. Each had a driveway to one side or the other. Gardeners worked the neatly manicured greenery of every other building. It was a nice old neighborhood in the Fairfax district, one of the better parts of town. My old stomping grounds.
      The same time of day Teddie Matson had been murdered. I planned it that way, hoping the same people would be around that might have been around that day.
      I walked up the street, my eyes darting back and forth, up and down, aware of everything around me—radar eyes—looking at the addresses on the buildings. The number was emblazoned in my brain. I could see it before my eyes, but it was only a phantom. I passed a gardener at 627, coming to a halt at 625. I stared at the building.
      A typical stucco fourplex from the ’20s. Even though I hadn’t been inside yet I knew the layout—I’d seen enough of them. Two units upstairs, two down. A main front door that would lead to a small, probably tiled hall, with an apartment on either side and a stairway heading to the two upstairs apartments. I walked up the tiled walk, stuck my hands through the remnants of yellow crime scene tape, tried to open the front door. Locked. I rang the bell. No response. I felt as if I was being watched. Still no one answered the buzzer.
      A silver 1970s era Buick pulled into the driveway, slowing. A gray-haired man with wrinkled skin leaned out the window.
      “Who are you? What do you want?” There wasn’t even the slightest hint of friendliness in his voice.
      I started to approach his car. The electric window shot up. He held up a cellular car phone, finger poised over the nine of, I assumed, nine-one-one. I backed off, holding my hands out in front of me so he could see them. He wasn’t dialing nine-one-one—yet.
      “I’m here about Teddie Matson.” I had to shout so he could hear me through the rolled up window. I’m sure the gardener next door could also hear.
      “You the police?”
      “I’m a private detective, looking for her murderer.”
      “How do I know?” It was hard to tell, but it sounded like he had a trace of an accent. Today, the Fairfax area is home to a lot of people from Eastern Europe.
      Gingerly, I pulled my ID from my pocket. Held it up for him. He squinted trying to read it, motioning me closer, until I was almost pressed up against the glass. The window zoomed down to the halfway mark. Progress.
      He took the card from me and spent three full minutes glaring at it, before giving it back.
      “We already talked to the police,” he said. “What can you do that they can’t?”
      “I can help them.”
      “Who’re you working for?”
      “That’s confidential information.” I could hardly tell him I was working for myself, that I’d given the killer the address.
      He gunned the engine and the car lurched past me, down the driveway into one of the four garages at the end. I stayed at the front of the building. It looked like he was going to go in the back door, then he walked toward me.
      “What do you want? We’ve been questioned so many times already, the police, the news people. Even her family. It’s bad enough to go through something like this, but to have to relive it every day is torture. My wife hasn’t slept since the, the—”
      “I’m sorry. We’re all just trying to help. Just a few questions?”
      He nodded warily.
      “Was anyone else home when it happened?”
      “My wife. She’s always home. She’s an invalid. But she didn’t see nuthin’.”
      “Might she have heard something?” Was she the person who I felt watching me as I had rung the doorbell.
      He shrugged. I asked to see the entry hall of the building where it happened. He was reluctant to show me, but gave in. From the info Lou had given me and looking at the doors in the downstairs entry hall I knew Teddie’s apartment had to be upstairs.
      Tiled red floor. ...

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White Heat
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The Series: Duke Rogers, PI

Click on the book cover to Look Inside the book on Amazon and read an excerpt.


Broken Windows [2]


While the storm rages over California’s notorious anti-illegal alien Proposition 187, a young woman climbs to the top of the famous Hollywood Sign—and jumps to her death. An undocumented day laborer is murdered. And a disbarred and desperate lawyer in Venice Beach places an ad in a local paper that says: “Will Do Anything For Money.”

Private investigator Duke Rogers, infamous for solving the case of murdered starlet Teddie Matson, feels he must do “penance” for his inadvertent part in her death. To that end, he takes on the case of Carlos, the murdered day-laborer, as a favor to his sister Marisol, the housekeeper down the street from Duke’s house.

Duke must figure out what ties together Carlos’ murder, the ex-lawyer’s desperate ad and the woman jumping from the sign? And who is the mysterious “coyote”? Amid the controversial political storm surrounding California’s Proposition 187, Duke and his very unPC sidekick Jack are on the case. They slingshot from the Hollywood Sign to Venice Beach. From East Hollywood to the “suicide bridge” in Pasadena, and from Smuggler’s Gulch near the Mexican border back to L.A. again. Their mission catapults them through a labyrinth of murder, intrigue and corruption of church and state that hovers around the immigration debate in this searing sequel to the explosive Shamus Award-winning novel White Heat.

[Published 10 September 2018, TBA pages]

About the Author

Paul D. Marks is the author of the Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller White Heat. Publishers Weekly calls White Heat a “taut crime yarn.”

His story Ghosts of Bunker Hill was voted #1 in the 2016 Ellery Queen Readers Poll. Howling at the Moon (EQMM 11/14) was short-listed for both the 2015 Anthony and Macavity Awards.

Midwest Review calls his novella Vortex “…a nonstop staccato action noir.”

Marks’ story Windward, from the Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea anthology, has been selected for the 2018 Best American Mystery Stories (fall 2018), edited by Louise Penny & Otto Penzler.

Follow Paul D. Marks:

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3 comments:

  1. The excerpt is intriguing. Putting it on my list!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for sharing White Heat, Books Chatter! And for also mentioning Broken Windows. I appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete