Join Vincent Zandri, author of the thriller, Godchild (StoneHouse Ink), as he virtually tours the blogosphere in May 2011 on his fourth virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!
About Vincent Zandri
Vincent Zandri is an essayist and freelance photojournalist, and the author of the recent bestsellers, The Remains, MoonlightFallsand The Innocent . His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild(Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT).
He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.
He wanted justice, truth, revenge…whichever came first.
Prison-warden-turned-P.I. Jack “Keeper” Marconi understands the criminal mind. And he knows what it takes to break a man. His own life came apart the day a black Buick broadsided his car–and his wife died horrifically in the seat beside him.
Years later, on the eve of his second marriage, Marconi catches a split-second glimpse of the driver who killed his wife. Suddenly hurtled back into the past, he is determined to take one last shot at hunting him down. That is, until he is offered a job he can’t refuse: to bust a beautiful woman out of a hellish Mexican prison. Now Keeper’s chase through Mexico follows a trail of bodies and lies back home: to the truth about a woman on the run, to a man sitting behind the wheel of a black Buick, and to a story that someone will kill to bury….
Read the Excerpt!
REMAINS HINT AT HORROR IN MEXICO!
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP)-U.S. and Mexican authorities have resumed their search for bodies in the desert where at least six corpses have been unearthed. FBI informants claim as many as three hundred victims of a powerful drug cartel could be buried in the desert country between the city and the Texas border. Forensics experts, in cooperation with Mexican soldiers and ski-masked police, have been systematically searching the vast area as well as two known desert ranches in Monterrey, once the undisputed territory of the Contreras drug cartel, at one time Mexico’s most powerful and most violent drug-smuggling family.
I was sitting inside Bill’s Bar and Grill, listening to the hard wind that whistled through the cracks in the picture window embedded in the brick wall behind my back. The one held together with duct tape and striped neon piping that spelled out Bud Light and Rolling Rock. I had been kidding myself all afternoon, thinking it was possible to make myself invisible by hoarding a stool in the far, dark corner of the South End bar, all dressed up like a clown in my wedding-day blazer, charcoal pants, and virgin loafers with tassels.
It was March 21, according to the folded newspaper that sat ignored on the bar beside my right elbow.
REMAINS HINT AT HORROR IN MEXICO!
It was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life.
But I never made the ceremony. That made it one of the saddest.
Instead, I’d been hiding out in the corner of this old bar, counting down the minutes until the happy-hour crowd left me alone and Bill the bartender dimmed the lights to make ready for some serious drinking, serious disappearing. If only vanishing were possible.
Horror in Mexico!
The world’s business.
The blues in Albany!
After five slow hours inside Bill’s I could tell you exactly who came and went like clockwork. An old man who called himself Kenny P. C. (“P for Pretty,” he slurred, a toothy vampire smile on his ruddy face. “C for Cute.”) and dressed himself in blue polyester slacks, white rayon shirt, and matching blue jacket. A man far older than his years who sat five stools away from me towards the middle of the bar and drank bottom-shelf scotch. Until the head bob began and the space between the bar and his forehead became narrower and narrower. Until the bets were placed for which one final bob would send his skull bouncing off the hardwood. At which time he was escorted to the door, stage right, a taxi already warmed up and waiting for him just outside the picture window.
Then there was the woman in cheap Sears jeans and white cotton T-shirt who’d come in sometime around one-thirty. She had a pockmarked face and frizzy gray hair. She smoked Pall Mall 100s, one off the other, and carried on one hell of a conversation with herself in a South All-benny accent. On three separate occasions she found her way over to me, set her hand on my thigh, told me how sad and lonely I looked, then offered her body. All three times I told her no. Finally, I flipped her a twenty from my honeymoon bankroll, just to shut her up.
Maybe I liked being lonely, I told her.
And then there was the young Mohawk Indian kid who sat four stools down from me, whose hands shook so bad he had to use them both to lift his whiskey glass off the bar, bring the rim to his thick lips.
I’d gotten to know them all during my disappearing act at Bill’s. I had no way of knowing if my fiancée, Val Antonelli, or my best man (and lawyer), Tony Angelino, had attempted to contact me. No idea if they wanted to contact me. As I removed the pinned carnation from my breast pocket and set it down on the bar, I knew that by now I had to have been recognized. That I wasn’t invisible. And if I had been recognized, then I was also sure that Val and Tony knew exactly where to find me.
I blamed the Albany cops.
Maybe I had no idea what their names were or what precinct they worked out of (though Albany wasn’t that big). But as a former maximum-security warden, I’d had gained enough experience over the years to be able to sniff out a cop at twenty paces. It was never the uniform that gave them away. No cop would dare enter this or any other bar for a drink dressed in his on-duty blacks.
The cops who came into Bill’s were almost always young, almost always dressed in generous-cut Levi’s jeans, immaculate running shoes, maybe a pastel-colored polo shirt or Notre Dame sweatshirt pulled over broad, iron-pumped shoulders. They wore gold Irish Claddagh rings on their middle fingers, and their flattop hair always had that wet, just-out-of-the-gang-shower look.
And man, talk about the overwhelming aroma of Aqua Velva.
But if all this were not enough to convince me that the young dude ordering a pint of “Half and Half” was one of Albany’s Irish finest, then I could be certain when he wrapped his arm around Kenny P. C.’s shoulder and addressed the drunk by his first name. Naturally, Kenny would ask the cop if he could spare a couple of bucks. But then the cop would pull out the empty pockets of his jeans, allow them to hang there like little white wings. He’d hold his hands in the air and say, “Kenny, even Jesus Christ Himself could touch only so many lepers.”
You could always spot a cop at Bill’s Bar and Grill, because everybody knew cops drank for free.
As a former lawman I knew that the cops must have come and gone immediately after the eight-to-four shift or right after the four-to-midnight action shift. Just in time for last call. I’d seen quite a few of them during my afternoon inside the bar. Maybe I’d gone a little out of my mind by then, but I knew they spotted me just as easily as I spotted them. I also knew that it was only a matter of time until one of them placed a call to Tony’s downtown law practice to let him know where the hell I was. Tony, in turn, would tell Val. On the other hand, why should she waste her time looking for me? Why even make the effort? I was the one who had left her standing at the altar all alone. I was the one who, for five long hours, had been pissing away our honeymoon money on beer, whiskey, and regrets.
The wind whistled. Even with my blazer on, I could feel the cold March air on my back. I sipped beer from a long-neck bottle, fired up a smoke, and for the hundredth time that afternoon, hit the playback button in my brain.
It had just started snowing as I’d passed the stone pilasters marking Albany Rural Cemetery’s south-side entrance. Snowing hard in mid-March. I had pushed on past the old iron gates, feeling stiff and cold in the brand-new wedding-day blazer and loafers. Shuffling toward the plot that had been home to my first wife, Fran, for almost three years now.
As usual, I was running late.
In less than fifteen minutes my best man would require my presence in the brick rectory behind Saint Mary’s Cathedral on Eagle Street. According to tradition, Tony and I were expected to “sweat it out” in that back room among the spare chalices, bags of communion wafers, and the same Boone’s Farm wine I used to sneak sips from back when I was still an altar boy. Sweat it out amid the smell of burning candles and incense, until my fiancée (and former Green Haven Prison secretary), Val Antonelli, began her long slow march down the church aisle on her way to a second marriage.
Hers and mine.
In my right hand, collecting snowflakes, a weightless bundle of wildflowers wrapped in baby-blue tissue paper. Under my left arm —hidden by the blue blazer—a leather shoulder holster that cradled a two-and-one-half-pound Colt 45.
The low midday clouds showered the sloping landscape in wet snow. The white stuff came down fast and furious as it fell against the crooked, leafless branches of the trees, against the bleached marble headstones and miniature churchlike mausoleums.
I stood over the five-by-ten plot with the granite marker at its head inscribed with Fran’s birth and death dates.
Setting the bundle of wildflowers onto the plot, I watched the petals begin to disappear in the falling snow. But what I saw was a battered black, four-door Buick sedan with tinted windows slamming directly into the passenger side of my Ford Bronco at fifty miles per hour, Fran’s head and shoulders going through the windshield, the jagged edge of the glass taking her head clean off like a razor blade, her body slumping back into the seat as though nothing at all has happened. Like her life hasn’t slipped away in the split second of time it takes for that windshield to shatter. Then the screaming of the witnesses and the spattered blood and the sight of that black Buick tearing away. But not before the driver rolls down his window, just enough for me to get a good look at his bald head, hoop earring, and a thin mustache that covers only half of his upper lip.
The Bald Man…
I stood in the falling snow and I recalled the two full years I’d spent in search of the Bald Man, only to have come up empty. There were the endless hours spent sifting through mug shots, photographic kits, evidence folders, and case files. There were the posters printed with the Bald Man’s likeness—the likeness I viewed for only a split second but committed to memory—that I stapled to telephone poles all across the state. There was the ten-thousand-dollar reward offered for any “verifiable information” leading to his whereabouts.
The entire two-year effort now resided in my brain, neatly categorized under FAILURE with a capital F. I knew that with my marriage to Val only a few minutes away, I had no choice but to once and for all give up the search for good, call it another unsolved mystery, just like the Albany cops did less than a year ago. All that was left was to move on with my life, remember Fran the way she had lived.
I stepped away from the plot.
The wildflowers were gone now. Completely covered over. I had barely ten minutes left to make it—you guessed it—to the church on time. Ten minutes to put the past behind me for good.
I might have made it too.
If it hadn’t been for the battered black Buick sedan that drove in through the cemetery gates.
It was the car I remembered. The car that rammed into my Ford Bronco, sending Fran to her death.
My black Buick with the tinted windows, just sitting there idle, the engine running, exhaust smoking out the rusted tailpipe, rising up gray-black in the falling white snow.
Here’s what I should have done: pulled out my .45, blasted a couple of rounds over the roof of the car. Or maybe blown out a rear tire.
But here’s what I did instead: not a goddamned thing.
I just stood there, as stuck to the ground as Fran’s marker, while the driver of the Buick backed up, spun the front end around, and drove back out the same way he’d come in.
Some time went by before I was able to move.
I wasn’t sure how much time.
Seconds maybe. Or minutes.
Time was relative. It was hard to read.
But at some point I forced myself up off my knees, made my way back to my 4-Runner through the snow and ice to place a call to the APD, South Pearl Street Division, the precinct that had originally spearheaded Fran’s hit-and-run. I sat inside the SUV, drinking sweet whiskey from the emergency fifth I kept in the glove box, fighting off the tremors, waiting for the cops to arrive, knowing I should have been calling Saint Mary’s rectory to explain what had happened. Explain why I hadn’t shown up yet for my own wedding.
But there was no explaining anything.
I just sat there, watching the snow fall, drinking from the bottle, feeling my body shake and my brain buzz. It was all I could do to swallow the whiskey without bringing it back up. And that was that.
By the time the cops pulled up, I was already ten minutes late for the ceremony. The two black-and-whites that parked outside the cemetery gates made me think of the black-and-white taffeta gowns Val had chosen for her bridesmaids to wear. I pictured the dark blazers and white button-downs my best man and ushers were wearing at that very moment. I imagined their blank expressions and their wide eyes staring into watch faces that didn’t lie. From where I sat shivering inside the 4-Runner with the heat blasting against my wet shirt, I saw the small beads of sweat that had begun to form on their foreheads when the guests who had filled the church pews started whispering to one another, “I’ll be damned, Keeper’s not coming.”
It was the tinny drone of a cop radio that broke the spell as a tall, black-haired detective by the name of Ryan tapped on my windshield. Ryan claimed he was a new guy, having just been transferred from the New York State Office of General Services to South Pearl Street’s Behavioral Sciences Unit. Together we walked side by side while I led him to the spot where I first saw the black Buick. Wearing a leather car jacket with wide epaulets and buttons, this thirty-something Detective Ryan checked my PI license along with my laminated permit for carrying a concealed weapon. He then questioned me calmly and methodically while we walked, sometimes asking and re-asking the same question two and three times to check for “accuracy and consistency of testimony.” But then, sometimes cops forget that former wardens know as much about due process as they do.
It all went as smoothly as something like that can on a snowy day in March. That is, until we came to the spot near Fran’s grave where I’d first seen the Buick. The problem, if you want to call it that, was that no sign of the Buick remained. The ruts the tires had made when it peeled out were gone, wiped smooth by the still-falling snow. Or, in the words of Detective Ryan, “Just maybe, Mr. Marconi, the tire tracks, along with the Buick, were never there to begin with.”
“The snow,” I insisted. “It must have covered the tracks.”
I slipped and skidded my way to Fran’s plot. I dug my hand through the snow. I pulled up the bouquet of wild-flowers, shook them off.
“I’m not imagining these,” I said.
Ryan stood there, studying the white flakes collecting on the tops of his black lace-up shoes.
He let out a resigned breath. “You’re that ex-warden,” he said. “You lost your wife some years back. I’ve been over the file at Division.”
“Hit and run,” I said.
“And you’re getting married again, is that it?”
I was missing the wedding as he spoke.
“You came back here out of guilt.”
“What’s your point?” I asked.
“Maybe you imagined the Buick.”
I dropped the flowers, struggled back to my feet.
“All I’m saying,” he went on, “is that in times of emotional stress and turmoil, it’s only natural to imagine things. Especially in a spooky place like this.” He pinched closed his leather collar, cocked his head in the direction of the gates.
I took a couple of steps toward him. “Is this what a Behavioral Science cop is supposed to do?” I asked. “Convince me of what I didn’t see?”
He walked up to me, brought his face to within inches of my own, sniffed me up and down with his nose. Like a police dog.
I knew he could smell the whiskey on my breath.
Because he could smell the whiskey on my breath, I knew exactly what he was thinking, although neither one of us said anything about it. In fact, the D word never came up. Not even in passing.
I cleared my throat. “I took a couple of shots.” I said. “You know, to ease the jitters. After I saw the Buick.” But I could tell by the furrows in his brow that he didn’t believe me.
“Tell you what,” he said finally, his gray breath mixing with the snow. “I’ll have an officer take down your testimony. And if we see a black Buick matching the description, we’ll pull it over, question the driver. How’s that sound?”
“Don’t go out of your way,” I said.
“Call it a courtesy, Mr. Marconi,” he said. “One lawman to another.”
Back at the south-side gates, he called over another plain-clothes cop to take my statement.
As promised. One lawman to another.
The beefy cop dressed in uniform blacks asked if I got “A good look at the supposed black Buick in question…enough to create a composite image, that is.”
He was trying so hard to hold back the laughs, he was making little raspberry noises through clenched lips.
When I finished with my description of the Buick, I made my way back to Ryan.
“Sorry I wasted your time,” I said as he was about to get back inside the cruiser.
I was standing right beside him, the passenger-side door to the cruiser wide open, his left foot already inside, a wave of hot air blowing out the dashboard heater onto my legs.
“You did the right thing,” he said, taking hold of my forearm, giving it a sympathetic squeeze, as though the cops were still my fraternal cousins-in-arms. “Go get married,” he said with a grin. He got in and closed the car door, smiling at me through the lightly fogged glass.
But it was way too late to get married. In more ways than one.
As I walked slowly back to my 4-Runner, I couldn’t help but look into each of the cop’s faces as I passed them, one by stinking one. I couldn’t help but pick up on the way they whispered into one another’s ears, thinking I had to be out of earshot when they referred to me as “One paranoid bastard.”
That’s what I remembered.
The rest was either repressed or just a dream, or both.
I wasn’t sure how long he’d been staring at me. Christ, I wasn’t sure how long the entire crowd had been staring at me. But when I came out of my trance, Bill was standing across from me, his chubby face somehow tight, his receding hair slicked back, his customary white bar rag slung over his right shoulder.
“You okay?” he asked me.
My hands were wrapped tight around the empty beer bottle to keep them from shaking. The bottom of the caramel-colored bottle made a clickety-clack sound against the solid wood bar.
“Maybe it’s time to go home, Mr. Marconi,” Bill said.
There, I thought. He said it. My name: Jack Harrison “Keeper” Marconi. He knew who I was. Just like everyone else probably knew who 1 was —Keeper Marconi, former maximum-security-prison warden turned unemployed private investigator.
“Tell you what,” Bill went on. “I’ll call you a cab.”
I’m pretty sure it was then, when Bill went for the phone, that I pulled out my Colt. Come to think of it, that’s exactly when I got a good look at my sad face in the mirror behind the bar, pulled the piece out, and emptied the entire eight-round clip, blowing away Jim Beam and Jack Daniels and even managing to nail some Wild Turkey in the process. It was a damned shame too, having to waste good booze like that. But I suppose, in the end, it would have been a worse shame to have wasted me.
Watch the Trailer!
Here’s what critics are saying about Godchild!
“A Satisfying Yarn.”
“Exciting…An Engrossing Thriller…the descriptions of life behind bars will stand your hair on end.”
—Rocky Mountain News
“Readers will be held captive by prose that pounds as steadily as an elevated pulse… Vincent Zandri nails readers’ attention.”
“A smoking gun of a debut novel. The rough and tumble pages turn quicker than men turn on each other.”
“The story line is non-stop action and the flashback to Attica is eerily brilliant. If this debut is any indication of his work, readers will demand a lifetime sentence of novels by Vincent Zandri.”
—I Love a Mystery
“A tough-minded, involving novel…Zandri writes strong prose that rarely strains for effect, and some of his scenes…achieve a powerful hallucinatory horror.”
“A classic detective tale.”
—The Record (Troy, NY)
“[Zandri] demonstrates an uncanny knack for exposition, introducing new characters and narrative possibilities with the confidence of an old pro….Zandri does a superb job creating interlocking puzzle pieces.”
—San Diego Union-Tribune
“This is a tough, stylish, heartbreaking car accident of a book: You don’t want to look but you can’t look away. Zandri’s a terrific writer and he tells a terrific story.”
–Don Winslow, author of The Death and Life of Bobby Z
“A lot of my peeps have been chiming in asking me what it feels like to be selling a whole bunch of Kindle E-Books these days on Amazon. Like thousands, per day. No kidding. That ain’t no typo. Not bad numbers for a former construction worker.”
“Vincent Zandri, in my opinion, has got to be THE best thriller/suspense novelist out there. All his books reach out, grab you into the story, and put you on a roller coaster of up,downs, twists and turns like never before. He uses skillful writing, life-like characters, and plot lines that leave you thirsting for more. He’s unforgettable characters become one with the reader, as the reader follows along and feels as if Zandri uses them for the plot line. It becomes real. It becomes incredibly real. AWESOME-NESS!”
“I guess you could say I’m about to come full circle,” he says. “Not since the invention of the printing press all those centuries ago, has a more exciting period of publishing been at hand. I thank God I’m young enough to enjoy it. Not only has my career been resurrected by the “indies,” I’m back making a great living as a fiction author. Can a former zero turned hero ask for anything more?”
“My dad is going on 60 years in the commercial construction business. He is tremendously successful. He didn’t get wealthy because he sat around talking about building. He didn’t pretend to be a successful businessman by hanging around conferences, and country clubs, and ritzy bars buying expensive cocktails for pretty girls. He achieved success by working day and night, seven days a week.”
“Freedom. I write full-time, and it allows me the freedom to go and do whatever I want when I want to do it. I can just as easily write from my apartment in Florence as I can in New York. So why not do it somewhere beautiful?”
Vincent Zandri’s GODCHILD VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ‘10 will officially begin on May 2 and end on May 27 ’11. Please contact Dorothy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in hosting and/or reviewing his book or click here to use the form. Thank you!
If you would like to book your own virtual book tour with us, click here to find out how!
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“This has been a wonderful experience. Dorothy Thompson and her whole team are very committed to each author, take each author’s tour very seriously, and work towards maximum exposure in the right places. This is the best book promotion expenditure I’ve made in terms of return on investment. I highly recommend Pump Up Your Book Promotion.” --Phyllis Zimbler Miller, MRS: LIEUTENANT
"I used Pump Up Your Book promotions a few months ago for my novel, Nephilim. My publisher is a great person, but when it comes to promotions, she encourages authors to do that on their own. Enter Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book. I had 8 reviews of the book and was featured as a guest author every day of the week at various websites during the month that I used her company. Amazing! She secured everything for me which was really nice and I didn't have to do anything but write a few blogs or answer interview questions. I would use Pump Up Your Book again in a heart beat!" --Mary Ann Loesch, NEPHILIM