Right now, I feel like I’m the mother of several children who all need my attention. Certainly, as the mother of six, I’ve had good practice, but I’m talking about the books I have written and soon to be released. Following the Lead, no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, will be out Nov. 3 on Kindle. Then, as announced this week, The Sacred Dog, which has a Dec. 27 release, is available for pre-orders. Of course, there are the others I’ve written.
Today I am going to give a little attention to the next-born.
As I noted before, The Sacred Dog was the first novel I completed a very long time ago. Despite the efforts of an agent, it failed to get picked up. So, I held onto it, giving it the attention it deserved, and now I’m glad my publisher, darkstroke books, has taken it on. Darkstroke also publishes my mystery series.
The Sacred Dog, set in 1984, is not a mystery but a thriller about my favorite setting, the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. I feel I know the area so well from my many years living here and certainly when I was a reporter and then an editor. Of course, that includes stories about personal conflicts and feuds between people who live there, but none so dark as between my book’s two main characters, Frank Hooker and Al Kitchen.
Frank is an all-around good guy who runs the town of Holden’s only bar, The Sacred Dog. But he has a fault. He hates Al because he blames him for the death of his reckless brother, Wes. And Al hates him for the way he’s been treated. Al grew up in one of those rough households with an abusive grandfather and a loyal although faulty grandmother.
If that weren’t enough, there is Verona Hooker, Frank’s ex, who will be returning to town with their daughter — and a secret.
The Sacred Dog is fast-paced and as those who have read it already have said, suspenseful. Here I will give you a look on how it starts.
Frank Hooker, tall, broad, and as handsome as an aging cowboy actor, lit a cigarette from the pack he kept beside the bar’s double sink. The rain fell hard, and it had started lightning. The storm, he was certain, would finish off tonight’s softball game at the Rod and Gun Club between the team he backed and Glenburn Sanitation, sponsored by a guy in the next town who pumped out septic systems.
Right now, Frank figured the men were sitting in their pickup trucks and cars, drinking beer, and waiting to see if the weather broke until the ump made the official call. Then, rather than go home to their families and ruin a good night out, they’d head to The Sacred Dog, or The Dog, as the regulars called his bar. Taking a drag of his cigarette, Frank anticipated their early arrival. He made a quick check inside the cooler, satisfied to see it filled with cold bottles of beer.
A pickup truck pulled into the parking lot, its tires grinding into the crushed stone Frank had put in this past spring, and Early Stevens, the only customer in the bar, twisted his head toward the door to see who would be the second. Early, his given name Ernest, had been sitting on his stool since 4:45 that afternoon after he was done hauling the day’s outgoing mail from the Holden Post Office to the one in Butterfield. He drank his usual: a Budweiser with a peppermint schnapps chaser. His topic of discussion today was a story he read in a magazine he found at the toilet in the Holden General Store that claimed the world was going to go to hell in 2000.
“The way it looks, we’ve got about sixteen years to get ready,” Early said. “What do you think, Frank?”
“I think you should find better readin’ material,” Frank answered.
Minutes later, when Al Kitchen came through the bar’s front door, Early muttered under his breath, “Shit, here comes trouble.”
The muscles around Frank’s mouth tightened as Al lumbered across the room to take a stool one over from Early. Al was all-smiles because he thought maybe he was on decent terms with Frank these days. But Frank stared at him blankly as he stubbed out his smoke. “What’ll it be?” he asked as if this wasn’t Al but someone else in front of him.
“Give me a Bud,” Al said, as he retrieved his wallet.
No tabs for Al. That was one of Frank’s rules. Another was a two-beer limit. Frank came up with the second after Al’s grandma, who raised him, begged to let him have some place to go closer to home, and considering The Sacred Dog was the only bar in town, this was it. For years, Al didn’t have the nerve to show his face in his bar.
“Two beers. He won’t be stayin’ long at your place if that’s all he gets,” Jenny Kitchen had said. “Besides, what’s the harm in two beers?”
Frank wanted to tell this old lady, who smelled like kerosene, what harm her grandson had already done. Jenny only came up to his chest, but she made her eyes small and defiant when she faced him. He told her if there was a lick of trouble, Al was out for good, and he’d call her and the cops.
Besides, Frank reasoned it was better to keep someone he disliked at close range. Actually, disliked was too soft a word to describe his feelings for the man, considering what happened to his younger brother, Wes.
LINK: I hope I have interested you in reading The Sacred Dog. Kindle readers, here is the link to pre-order which helps with ratings on Amazon: https://mybook.to/thesacreddog
And here is the link for Following the Lead: https://mybook.to/followingthelead
You won’t have to wait so long to read that baby.
ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: I spotted this metal sculpture of a duck somebody left on a stone post beneath the railroad trestle bridge in my village of Shelburne Falls.