Posts tagged ‘Hadley Colt’
November 27, 2017
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List of Titles
- The Painter’s Women
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- The Red-Handed League
- The Death of Tarpons
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Author Hadley Colt discusses which famous film portrayals influenced her ‘Sherlock Holmes’ novel, “The Red-Handed League”.
October 24, 2016
From Hadley Colt’s Blog:
THE RED-HANDED LEAGUE & THE FACES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
The faces of Sherlock Holmes: So many, so varied. Some so bewildering.
I’m specifically thinking about Mr. Holmes’ countless incarnations on film.
When you look over the list of actors who’ve taken on the task of playing Sherlock—and ifyou’ve somehow evaded forming your own opinions of The Great Detective—then you might believe the character to be wildly elastic.
There’s a vast range between Basil Rathbone and Benedict Cumberbatch; bigger still between Roger Moore (James Bond, The Saint) and Tom Baker (Rasputin…Doctor Who).
Even the guy who played Max Headroom got several turns as Holmes early during the previous decade.
The old black-and-white Rathbone films simply don’t speak to me. Not a smidge.
Rathbone’s Holmes is rigid, distant, and terribly off-putting to me.
The Basil-era Watson comes across as a daft old uncle slipping into senility. You can’t fathom the two men actually being able to spend a simple evening together in their Baker Street digs, let alone having a constructive partnership as crime fighters.
Surely, that Watson would drive that Holmes to murder.
Throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s, it seems to be there was more very bad miscasting: venerable but dull old British actors (Peter Cushing, John Neville) and some bewildering choices including George C. Scott and “I Dream of Jeanie’s” Larry Hagman (it’s true, look it up!).
Things started to improve, at least from my perspective, in the late 1970s, with Nicol Williamson’s haunted take on a cocaine-addicted Great Detective in Nicholas Meyer’s “The Seven-Percent Solution.”
Soon after came Christopher Plummer’s rather dashing Holmes in the under-rated “Murder by Decree.”
In both those iterations, Watson finally got an I.Q. up-grade courtesy of Robert Duval and James Mason.
In 1984, my definitive Holmes at last arrived in the person of Jeremy Brett.
Particularly in the early going of his sublime array of Granada adaptations, Brett for me embodies the Holmes that captivated me on the page.
Once Mr. Brett passed, it took over a decade of this new century to give me another Holmes in whom I could invest in and take to my heart in the person of Benedict Cumberbatch.
We all have our favorite or preferred takes on Holmes and Watson.
I know some actually prefer Robert Downey, Jr. and Johnny Lee Miller to Cumberbatch. I don’t get it, but to each his own, right?
When it came time to put my spin on Sherlock Holmes for my new novel, The Red-Handed League, I was aiming for a synthesis of the younger Jeremy Brett and the current Cumberbatch versions of Holmes.
Given the chance, how would you portray Holmes and Watson? Who would you be seeing in your mind’s eye as you tried to restore them to life on the page?
Find out if Hadley Colt has created your perfect Sherlock Holmes by buying The Red-Handed League at Amazon.
Hadley Colt about her second novel for Betimes Books, a reinvention of the timeless legend of Sherlock Holmes
September 28, 2016
From Hadley Colt‘s blog:
PUBLISH OR PERISH? (THE RED-HANDED LEAGUE DEBUTS)
“I am lost without my Boswell.”
The Red-Handed League, my new thriller about Sherlock Holmes, debuts this week.
Hewing to a Doylean naming strategy, this little essay might be called, The Matter of the Murdered Biographer. It could also be titled, The Case of Fearful Symmetry.
My first work published by Betimes Books was the literary thriller Permanent Fatal Error. It centers on a presumed-dead cult novelist ala J.D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon whose would-be biographers mysteriously die.
The Red-Handed League is a present-day prequel to Conan Doyle’s first-published Sherlock Holmes tale, A Study in Scarlet.
My new book spins on inappropriate relationships between students and instructors at an upscale private school. It also re-imagines and melds aspects of several noted Holmes tales, including “The Red-Headed League” and “The Master Blackmailer.”
What goes around comes around, they say.
Or as Holmes might observe, “Everything comes in circles. The old wheel turns and the same spoke comes up. It’s all been done before, and will be again.”
There’s a creepy nexus between my first and second books for Betimes, you see.
While we were working on cover designs and last touches for The Red-Handed League, my publisher ran across an article about a man obsessed with writing the definitive biography of a famous author, only to die violently under the most mysterious of circumstances.
The excellent article by David Grann detailing this real-life mystery was published in The New Yorker in December 2004.
“That’s pretty far back in the rearview mirror, Ms. Colt,” you might point out.
And I’d respond, “Yes. Yes, it is.”
There is fearful symmetry in this. Deliciously lingering mystery, too.
The Betimes Books publisher and her author were struck by the very strange overlap between the mysterious death of a deceased novelist’s would-be biographer (the set up for an elevator pitch for Permanent Fatal Error) and the fact our second novel together centers on Sherlock Holmes.
You see, the real-life biographer who met his mysterious death in his home surrounded by Holmesian books and collectibles was a revered Sherlock scholar named Richard Lancelyn Green.
His intended biographical subject was (of course) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Apparent cause of death: (Clears throat) Self-garroting with a bit of string and a spoon.
Pray, go off now and read Mr. Grann’s superb piece on this mysterious affair. I’ll wait here, staring out the window, surely brooding, but sans pipe or violin.”
Hooked? Continue reading here
May 11, 2015
March 24, 2015
PERMANENT FATAL ERROR by Hadley Colt in Australia:
• Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
• #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Suspense
• #3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Crime
March 19, 2015
The following excerpt refers to Everett Hyde’s letter:
“Ashley’s former professor drew a deep breath and said, “Tough stuff, isn’t it? I received it, via his publisher, about three months after the publication of his third novel, Rain Dogs. About a year before the death, as I recall it. I was asking his publisher to pass along to Hyde some questions for a biographical section I originally envisioned opening my book on Hyde and his first three novels. This is what I received instead.”
Chase had placed the professor on speaker-phone after Ashley had called Adam Greenwood, engaging him in a bit of small talk and reminiscing about classes with him before explaining about Chase and his new project and then passing the phone to Chase.
Rubbing his jaw, Chase said, “Rain Dogs. That’s an interesting title. What’s it mean?”
Ashley narrowed her eyes, then raised her hands in a, “Why are you asking that?” gesture.
Professor Adam Greenwood hesitated, then said, “You haven’t read any of Hyde’s novels, Mr. Alger?”
“The first, I think, but it’s been a long, long time ago,” Chase said. He squirmed in his chair, trying to avoid Ashley’s eyes. “Rest assured, I’m knuckling down to re-reading them soon. I was freshly struck by that title when you said it just now.”
“Tom Waits, the singer-songwriter, used it for an album title not long after Hyde’s last book appeared,” the professor said. “Maybe it was done in homage to Hyde. Anyway, it’s from an obscure turn of phrase. In New York City, or any large urban area, the dogs may wander the streets at will, but sometimes the rain comes, hard and unexpected, and the dogs lose their trail for the path back home, the scent washed away. So they wander around lost and stray, or rain dogs.”
“Evocative,” Chase said.”
To our Australian readers: don’t miss the Kindle Daily deal for PERMANENT FATAL ERROR on March 23: http://viewbook.at/permanentfatalerror
December 17, 2014
Christmas is not always magic but good books always are.
Whether you love or hate Christmas, you might enjoy a good story.
Our collection GIFTS: NINE BITTERSWEET CHRISTMAS STORIES is free on Amazon this week: getBook.at/FREE_GIFTS
December 11, 2014
A limited print edition of GIFTS is now also available here: http://www.bookdepository.com/Gifts-Betimes-Books/9780992967444
Free delivery worldwide!
November 27, 2014
November 25, 2014
From “Slay Belles” by Hadley Colt:
“Given his very reason for needing the disguise, and his attendant obligation to escort Selma to her misbegotten agency Christmas party, Ace desperately needed to find some way to pack a piece for swift and easy access. Looking down, he settled on his right, fur-topped Santa boot. Yes, an ankle holster would work well enough. Then he looked at his big red mittens and tore them off. That part of his costume he’d simply have to forego: a man couldn’t pull a trigger wearing big crimson elf mittens; there was simply no damned way to do that.”
Read or download GIFTS for free here
Or buy a collector edition here
October 20, 2014
We asked Craig McDonald, author of the Hector Lassiter series and also of two books of interviews with American and European crime novelists, to interview the mysterious Hadley Colt, author of PERMANENT FATAL ERROR. They each have new novels centered by authors and informed by the craft of fiction writing. Hadley and Craig engaged in a conversation about their shared subject matter, as well as the enticements and challenges of writing about writers.
Hadley Colt: Mr. McDonald, your new book is FOREVER’S JUST PRETEND, an early and decidedly sexy chapter in the life of a twenty-something crime writer Hector Lassiter.
Craig McDonald: Ms. Colt—it’s a pleasure talking shop with you by the way—your new novel is PERMANENT FATAL ERROR, a literary thriller about the mystery surrounding “a long-missing, presumed dead cult author.”
HC: Right, but bottom-lining it and pleasing our publicists, you could say we both wrote sexy page-turners about writers in love, couldn’t you?
CM: Love, lust… Some earthy head games, if you’ll forgive the pun. And the solving of mysteries, large and small. Yeah, I think that’s a fair pitch for both our books. PERMANENT FATAL ERROR is actually chalk-full of writers of various stripes, as well as all the dubious industry figures surrounding and leeching off such writers. I’d go so far as to say your novel is a dark and erotic satire on the current state of publishing.
HC: My novel is about a biographer with his own shadowy past who is hired under odd circumstances to prepare an authorized biography of a reclusive author believed to be dead. As the biographer pokes around this dead author’s past, dark clouds gather. A body count mounts. Deals are cut. Careers are made. And, yes, many beds are wrecked.
CM: Ala Thomas Pynchon or J.D. Salinger, your legendary “dead” author, Everett Hyde, aggressively worked his recluse act while establishing himself, never allowing publicity photos or detailed biographies… Never giving an interview like this one or even a simple public reading. Everett built up a mystique to establish his so-called publishing platform. I think I admire and envy his career track.
HC: Yes, and adding to the mix is a young, aspiring female fiction writer named Ashley McKnight, as well as a snarky shark of a literary agent and a guy who writes men’s adventure novels between mercenary gigs.
CM: That guy would be your “character” Ace, the so-called “Iron Seal.” Frankly, I think I’ve brushed shoulders with that fella’s real-life counterpart in bars at about half-a-dozen Bouchercons. Even held his leather coat once outside a bar during a dustup in Baltimore. You definitely win the war in terms of populating your book with writers. FOREVER’S JUST PRETEND features a second novelist, Brinke Devlin, who is a more established genre fiction writer and the woman who more or less makes Hector into the man we come to know as the series—and Hector—matures, but that’s it for writers in my book.
Let’s return to this whole Pynchon/Salinger angle for a moment. Your timeline is such that you’re able to have most of Everett Hyde’s published works out in the world prior to the driving need or demand for author web sites, for tweeting, Facebook stalking or engagement of potential readers. All the stuff writers like you and I are expected to engage in and excel at doing. Would Everett Hyde have ever pulled off his mystery act in today’s market?
HC: Candidly, I’m pretty sure he could not. And maybe anticipating your next question, I’d venture Pynchon and Salinger would sink like stones if they tried their same mysterious author acts in our present publishing market. I’m working my own mystery thing presently, of course—Hadley Colt isn’t my real name or my first writing identity, and I’ve played with that promotionally a bit since PERMANENT FATAL ERROR launched. It hasn’t yet in any way proven to be a rocket to stardom. You’re a Hemingway aficionado of sorts, right?
CM: It’s been said.
HC: How would Hemingway have fared in today’s market?
CM: Maybe okay. He was kind of the template for Madonna or Gaga and the like in that he knew how to present a macho, adventuring public image of himself that was quite different from the real Hemingway. That invented Hemingway sold a lot of books but I’ve also ventured the opinion it destroyed the real Hem in the end. That image couldn’t accommodate an older man in failing health who could no longer drink younger men under the table, win the hearts of younger women, or clear bars in Key West brawls. As the image and man grew farther apart, the words trickled to a stall and Hemingway destroyed himself. Having said that, it’s worth noting Hem only sat for one or two meaningful, surviving interviews like this one we’re sharing now. He only gave maybe two public readings I’m aware of.
HC: As a Lassiter fan, I’ve noted the larger arc of Hector’s career—“the man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives”—is revealing a kind of evolution or impulse on Hector’s part to shed his public image, which rivals that of Hemingway’s.
CM: The crazy or audacious thing I did was to write the whole Lassiter series—at least all of the books in draft form—before the second was contracted for publication. I didn’t want to be writing annual entries in a series until they planted me under six-feet of sod. I wanted a contained arc in which quality could be sustained—probably less than a dozen books—and in which a larger story could be told. As you’ve seemingly intuited, that story will be the story of Hector Lassiter the writer: the arc of his rise, his sustained and eventually faltering success, and his determination to survive and even escape the dubious legend he’s built for himself as the world and literary culture changes around him.
HC: There’s a bit in TOROS & TORSOS where a woman riffs on a line I’ve seen others cite about Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. In your version, it goes something like, “Chandler wrote the man he wanted to be. Hammett wrote the man he feared he was. And you, Hector? You increasingly write about the man you don’t want to be anymore.”
CM: That’s Hector’s larger journey in a nutshell. As some point, Hector even begins to write about himself as a character. And then he takes the next logical, if stunning step beyond that.
HC: Brinke Devlin is also an author. She’s Hector’s love interest introduced in ONE TRUE SENTENCE and she returns in FOREVER’S JUST PRETEND. Mild spoiler here, in the latter, she’s living on a remote island, and many presume she’s dead. She’s beginning to write under another name and… You see where I’m headed?
CM: Again, she’s the great influence on Hector’s development as a man, as an author and as a public figure. Without Brinke, there would be no Hector Lassiter as he comes to be known. Brinke is also one of Hector’s rare contemporaries, romantically. She’s actually a little older than Hector and far wiser, and she steers him around some potential career pitfalls.
It strikes me a similar but gender-inverted dynamic is at work in PERMANENT FATAL ERROR, where your heroine—I for one view your novel as really being Ashley McKnight’s story—is the youngest of your writer characters. I’ll tread lightly here: Along the lines of Brinke, one of your writer characters has also undergone a kind of career reinvention. Like you, and like Brinke, that author character has also flirted with a different writing identity and presents the possibility of a different potential mentor for Ashley as her career launches.
HC: Yes, and that writer resents the new terrain that they have to move in, now. Ashley is also strongly and explicitly cautioned against all the traps you mentioned earlier that can plague authors—all the things you listed like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
CM: I was on a panel a couple of weeks back at a literary conference. It was a decidedly multi-cultural mix. The topic was loyalty and betrayal in the context of writing. I focused on much of that promotional and cyber stuff as a potential betrayal that clearly cuts into writing time and the quality of the words on the page for too many writers. Strikingly, many of the authors from other cultures were aghast this was an issue. But as I threw out certain terms that I feel no writer of conscience should know—“SEO,” “platform,” and “digital footprints”—there were knowing head-nods from American publishing types in the audience. Suffice it to say, it’s a crazy and challenging time to be a fiction writer.
HC: You recently wrote an essay about why you write about a writer.
CM: I did. But Hadley, why do you write about writers?
HC: Partly it was the ambition to cast light on the present writing milieu we’ve talked about. Partly it was something else you wrote about in your essay: I agree with you that writers think and talk differently than other people, and I think non-writers get that. So you can write UP HERE a little more freely and readers will follow you there.
CM: What’s next for Hadley Colt?
HC: Like you, my fellow Betimes author, I’m prepping a short piece for a special Betimes Christmas presentation to come soon. After that, we’ll see. Hadley Colt is, after all, an “enigma wrapped in mystery”. Betimes is publishing your whole Lassiter series in bang-bang-bang fashion. Five are now out—two of them re-issues and three of the novels are entirely new. What’s number six going to be about?
CM: The next one is another new book, which is to say long-ago-written, but never-before-published novel, called THE RUNNING KIND. It’s set in 1950. It’s winter. The Kefauver hearings are dragging mobsters onto television to the horror of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Hector falls in love. It’s a road novel. It ends in the Mexican desert. It also sets the stage for a repackaged and rereleased HEAD GAMES, which put me on the map as a published novelist and netted an Edgar nomination.
HC: Mr. McDonald, it’s been a pleasure.
CM: Likewise, Ms. Colt. I’m just sorry so many decades separate our respective characters: I expect some of them would get on quite well. They’d certainly have a lot about which to talk shop.
About the authors:
Hadley Colt is the pseudonym for an internationally acclaimed author. Colt’s previous novels were published in several languages to excellent reviews and high praise from fellow writers who’ve declared the author’s work, “subtle, moving and tragic,” “non conformist,” “bold and extravagant,” “reviving,” “an explosive mix of humor and action” and who has been described as “an erudite with formidable imagination” and a “master of suspense.”
Craig McDonald is an award-winning author and journalist. McDonald’s debut novel was nominated for Edgar, Anthony and Gumshoe awards in the U.S. and the 2011 Sélection du prix polar Saint-Maur en Poche in France. The Lassiter series has been enthusiastically endorsed by a who’s who of crime fiction authors including: Michael Connelly, Laura Lippmann, Daniel Woodrell, James Crumley, James Sallis, Diana Gabaldon and Ken Bruen, among many others.
Craig McDonald’s non-fiction books include Art in the Blood: Crime Novelists Discuss Their Craft and Rogues Males: Conversations & Confrontations about the Writing Life, finalist of the Macavity Award.
July 29, 2014
It started with an email:
Subject: Query Regarding Suggested Life of Author Everett Hyde
To: Chase Alger
Reply-To: Amanda Hyde
Chase was accustomed to acquiring editors writing to suggest topics for biographies. The recent PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Chase’s biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had resulted in a flurry of suggested subjects for his next book.
But after five consecutive biographies of men of letters, a part of Chase craved something in a different vein.
Still… He stared at the subject line.
Everett Hyde. Son of a bitch!
Chase sipped his first coffee of the morning, still mulling that name, “Everett Hyde.” No denying that interested him. So did the sender’s name, Amanda Hyde. Perhaps the legendary author’s widow?
He clicked open the email and read on.
Dear Mr. Alger:
For the longest time, I have resisted repeated inquiries seeking my participation in various projects and biographical studies of my late husband, Everett Hyde.
After all the years, I have finally resolved to participate in the preparation of an authorized, scholarly biography of my darling Everett. To that end, I’m willing to provide complete access to official documents, typed manuscripts, typed personal journals and other privately held, never-before-seen materials.
I’ve been quite impressed with your biographies of Richard Haliburton, B. Travern, of Everett Ruess, Ambrose Bierce and so many others.
I am, therefore, reaching out to you as so many have (admittedly quite unsuccessfully!) reached out to me.
I do hope you’ll consider my request that you be the one to write my husband’s sanctioned biography.
You are my first and only choice for this project.
I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Damn. Chase wasn’t sure he could stand to immerse himself in the dusty debris of another novelist’s life for eighteen or twenty-four months. Not even one with as sensational and sexy a back-story as Everett Hyde’s.
The past several weeks had found Chase flirting with the notion of composing a biography of Sydney Reilly, the legendary 20th-century British Spy alleged to have inspired Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
Reilly, it had emerged a few years ago, had in fact been a Russian Jew by birth, and Reilly’s audacious self-reinvention and eventual disappearance along the Bolshevik-patrolled Finish frontier, and the man’s still unknown fate, gripped Chase’s imagination. Reilly’s story resonated for Chase in sundry, idiosyncratic ways.
Some part of Chase also fancied the notion of potentially spending several months conducting research in Russia.
Chase might have ignored the email query regarding Everett Hyde, simply deleted it without a response, but for that Reply-to line: “Amanda Hyde,” the reclusive late-author’s equally reclusive wife. Late author? No, that wasn’t quite right, not really. Everett Hyde’s fate was as open to conjecture and sinister conspiracy theories as that of Reilly’s, in many ways.
Shivering, Chase pulled his robe closer, thinking it was time to finally turn on the heat. Or, better, he should hustle back to bed with Ashley. That’d warm him up, he thought.
He read Amanda Hyde’s message over twice more, decided to respond. Chase kept his note back neutral. He didn’t commit to anything, but expressed an interest in talking further with Mrs. Hyde. He asked for a phone number and a time when he might call to discuss her proposal.
He read his reply over three times and hit Send. Responding in this way didn’t lock him into anything. He thought it bought him some time to decide to go ahead with her offer or to find some tactful excuse to pass. A sanctioned Hyde biography was potentially somebody’s goldmine; maybe it should be his after all.
Chase then turned his attention to other emails, just getting the gist of what had come in overnight. He was inclined to get back in bed with Ashley, to nudge her awake if she hadn’t heard him rise.
The digitized woman’s voice from his computer’s speakers suddenly chirped: “Mail truck!” The voice startled Chase, nearly made him spill his coffee.
Smiling crookedly at his reaction to the email alert, Chase scrolled back to the top of his inbox and saw a “Failure Notification Notice.” He clicked on the notice to see which of his emails had bounced back to him.
It was the reply to Amanda Hyde, marked “Unable to Deliver: Permanent Fatal Error.”
Less than a minute had passed since Chase had sent the reply to Amanda Hyde’s biography query. He shook his head, went back to his Sent box and reopened his note to Amanda Hyde. Chase hit Send again.
Thirty seconds later, he received another delivery error notification: “Permanent Fatal Error.”
Frowning, Chase copied the text of his message back to Amanda Hyde and pasted it into a new-message template. He checked Amanda’s email address from her original note and this time keyed it in by hand, twice checking what he’d typed against Amanda Hyde’s original message.
Chase hit Send again, waited a few seconds, then tapped the Send/Receive button of his email client. That perky voice again called out, “Mail truck!” Another failure notice marked “Permanent Fatal Error” appeared. Damn it to hell.
Perplexed, Chase ran his fingers back through his sandy brown hair and stood, shaking his head and pulling his robe closer around him. What the hell? Well… maybe—maybe—it was an omen of some kind.
And anyway, he really didn’t want to write about another writer; he was quite sure about that now.
So Chase decided he’d take it as a fortunate thing his email replies to Amanda Hyde’s offer had repeatedly fouled-out for whatever reason.
Consider it some kind of half-ass good luck, he told himself.
Ashley rolled onto her back, heart still racing. She smiled at Chase, said, “I think we’re finally getting the hang of this.” She clasped his hand, raised it to her mouth and kissed its back.
He laughed, pulled the covers back up around them and said, “Pretty sure I can still count the number of times we’ve been together.”
Chase had rushed back to bed and Ashley after checking his email. If he’d been working on a book, he’d probably have stayed at his desk until lunchtime or thereabouts. But as it was a chilly November morning, he’d instead brushed his teeth to wash away the smell and taste of his morning’s coffee and then slid back into bed, spooning up against Ashley’s long, bare body and cupping her left breast in his hand. Within a few minutes, Chase’s soft squeezes and his erection had sleepy Ashley pushing her hips back against him.
Brushing tangled hair back from her forehead, Ashley said, “Time to turn up the thermostat, don’t you think? It’s icy in here now.”
“I’m almost comfortable,” he said. “Finally.”
“I’m freezing.” She reached to the nightstand and turned on her iPod for some background music.
Muttering, Chase slid out of bed, his knees cracking and feet cold on the hardwood floor. He crossed the loft and edged behind the sectional couch to flip the lever to heat. He turned the thermostat up to seventy. There was the immediate whir of the blower; the scent of dust charring in the long-languishing ducts soon permeated the loft.
Chase hesitated, glancing at his computer screen before returning to bed with Ashley.
He had five new email messages. They included a note from his agent, two pieces of spam that had gotten by his filters. Esquire was proposing an article.
And there was another email from Amanda Hyde.
The query line on this note was the same as the first, but there was a different email address this time. The first query, the one Chase couldn’t reply to, had been sent from a Yahoo address. This new email was written from a Hotmail account.
Chase opened the new email and read it over. The text was nearly verbatim to the first note. Chase opened his Sent file again, found his reply to Amanda Hyde and copied it. He returned to her Hotmail note, hit Reply, and pasted his answer into the message area and tapped Send.
Ashley called to him, “Coming back? And do I smell coffee? If I do, I want some.” He could hear the smile in her voice: “Just sayin’.”
“A minute,” he answered. Chase waited about fifteen seconds, then hit the Send/Receive button on his email and cursed softly as another error message returned to him. He opened it and read through the boilerplate text. The words “Permanent Fatal Error” again leapt out.
Cursing again, he put his computer to sleep.
Chase fetched a couple of mugs and filled them with coffee from the steaming pot. He poured a little cream and sugar into Ashley’s mug.
She struggled up as she saw him returning, propping pillows up behind her back and running her fingers through her long, auburn hair. She turned down the sound on her iPod. “You lose your way to the thermostat?” She wrinkled her nose as he handed her the mug. “This isn’t early-onset Alzheimer’s, is it?”
“You won’t think it’s funny when you’re spoon-feeding me,” Chase said, sliding in next to her as she lifted the sheet and comforter for him. “I’m not that old, you know.”
At twenty-three, the late forties probably did seem rather old to Ashley, Chase figured. Or he feared it might. She sometimes seemed so young. And her devotion to him scared him a little. Ashley struck him as almost too clingy, or so he sometimes thought—usually when she wasn’t around. “I got this strange email,” he said. “Someone suggesting a book about her dead, well, her probably dead, husband.”
Ashley sipped her coffee, said, “I thought you’d decided to write about the spy. I like that idea.” She sipped some more coffee and frowned. “Who’s the husband? And what do you mean, probably dead?”
“Another writer, as it happens,” he said. “Another novelist.”
Chase stroked Ashley’s cheek. He remembered she had graduated Wellesley with a degree in English literature. In the course of the past six months, she’d been enjoying increasing publication of her short stories in various literary journals. Her day-job was a copywriting gig for a P.R. company. Gambling she might know more about Hyde than he did, Chase said, “You’ve heard of Everett Hyde?”
“Had a professor who was mad about him,” Ashley said. “I mean really nuts about the guy. Professor Greenwood even wrote a critical analysis of Hyde’s works. All three of Hyde’s novels were assigned texts for my class. Hyde is, was, a little like Salinger or Pynchon. The mystery man, ooo, ahh!” Ashley shrugged and the sheet fell down around her waist. She tugged it back up to cover her breasts. “Personally? I always suspected it was a cynical marketing ploy on Hyde’s part. The wife’s as much a hermit as Hyde was, as I recall. She actually wrote you? That’s pretty amazing on its own.”
“She wrote twice, from two different email accounts,” Chase said. “Haven’t decided to do anything about her offer, but I didn’t want to just shut the door cold, you know? Hell, it could be a big book, done right. And with her cooperation? Well, it could be bigger still. But each of my responses came back with these delivery failure notifications.”
“On both email accounts?” Ashley shivered and pulled the comforter up over her breasts. She sipped more coffee, watching him over her cup’s rim.
“Both, yeah,” Chase said. “Strange, isn’t it? I even wrote a fresh note back and typed in her email address myself. Still no go. Same result.”
Ashley nodded. She sat her coffee mug on the side table and slid out of bed, forearms crossed over her breasts and hands rubbing below her shoulders as she padded naked on tiptoe to his floor-to-ceiling bookshelf. Like so many young women her age, Ashley was bare there. That excited Chase. She also had a tattoo of a butterfly at her bikini line, just above her right thigh, some Latin motto across the small of her back. Her tattoos? Chase tolerated those.
He looked again at her iPod set up there on the nightstand. Ashley had lately been leaving more of her stuff around his place, almost like she was gradually moving in with him. Not good. Then Chase looked at her again. Still… And that fine young body of hers?
Over her shoulder Ashley said, “You have any of his novels here? Hyde’s, I mean?”
“Maybe, though it’s been years, decades, since I looked at them, if I do.”
“If you’d only alphabetize your books.”
Chase had been in Ashley’s apartment just a couple of times. It was a small and depressing place, he thought, but probably the best she could afford in the city with some help from her not-rich parents. Oh, she’d made some attempts with the joint, made it as homey as it probably could be. Kept it neat. And even her rattiest paperbacks were organized by subject, genre and shelved by author’s last name.
The thing that has most struck Chase about Ashley’s place was the number of family photos littering her apartment, almost a comical number of them. An only child, nearly all of the photos were pictures of Ashley with her parents. She’d pressed him a couple times in recent weeks to pay a visit home with her. So far, he’d successfully deflected each of her attempts. He’d taken her requests as a sign she thought they were moving to the next level. Again, not good. And, anyway, what could he possibly have to talk about with those people?
“Here we go,” she said, standing on one long leg, up high on her toes now, a long back and shapely ass. Her toned arm stretched to reach the book on a high shelf. She grabbed her right side briefly, mumbled, “God, must have pulled something at the gym.”
Still clutching her side with one hand, Ashley scurried back to bed and curled up against Chase, her feet already grown cold as she snuggled up with him. She kept her hand pressed to her side, over her butterfly.
Wincing at her cold toes poking against his calf, he said, “What’s with the book?” It was Hyde’s first novel, Steal Me a Dream.
Ashley smiled. “Hyde’s publisher. I figure it’s like a lot of the big authors, you know? A long and exclusive publishing relationship. Since the wife wrote you, and since she’s probably Hyde’s literary executrix, chances are Hyde’s present editor will be able to give you a phone number to reach the wife. I mean, if you decide you do want to pursue it.”
It was a good idea. He should have thought of it. Chase checked the book’s spine, scooped up his cell and dialed 411. He agreed to pay extra to have the operator dial the number for him and was passed through several desks before being connected to someone named Kathleen DeCarlo. Chase told Kathleen about the two email solicitations he’d received from Amanda Hyde.
Kathleen listened and then said, “I know your work, otherwise I’d accuse you of a sick joke or a scam, Mr. Alger.”
“Call me Chase. And what do you mean?”
“When did you receive these emails, Mr. Alger?”
Chase looked at Ashley—the volume was up all the way on his phone and Chase could tell she could hear both sides of the conversation. Ashley’s tongue teased her top lip. Her warm, hazel eyes watched him.
A pause, then Kathleen said, “That’s impossible, Mr. Alger. Chase, rather.”
“Why is it impossible?”
“Because Amanda Hyde passed away two months ago. From cancer.”
“I didn’t know. Hadn’t heard. I’m very sorry to hear that.”
“Given it was Amanda Hyde, you wouldn’t really have expected to hear about it, would you, Chase?” Just a little acid there.
“No, I suppose not. But these notes were from Amanda Hyde,” Chase insisted. “Or at least they purported to be. Did you ever receive any emails from Amanda?”
“Several, but as she’s been deceased for nearly eight weeks, what dif—”
He pressed ahead: “Can you open your inbox and search for one of her old notes to you? I just want to see if the address I received my emails from matches yours.”
There was some hesitation, then the sound of keys tapping. Kathleen began reading the email address. Chase waited until she reached “at” and finished for her, “Yahoo.com, right?”
“That’s right,” Kathleen said. “You’re not saying—?”
“I am. That’s the exact email address my note was sent from,” Chase said, feeling gooseflesh on his arms and back. He saw Ashley shiver again. Hearing something strange in his voice, he said, “Did Amanda ever write you from a Hotmail account, Ms. DeCarlo?”
“Kathleen. And never. But that doesn’t mean Amanda might not have had one.” A pause. “I don’t understand any of this. It’s very strange.”
“Can you tell me who is representing the Hyde estate now, Kathleen? I seem to remember there being at least one child.”
“A daughter,” the woman said. “I’ll need to make a call before we proceed further. If we even are to proceed further.”
“I’ll give you my cell number,” Chase said, “and—”
“I have caller-ID,” Kathleen said. “I’ll be in touch. Or, I won’t. Good morning, Mr. Alger. I mean, Chase.”
Chase closed his phone.
Ashley said it for him. “Creepy.”
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May 13, 2014
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