Our friends over at Titan Books have released a compelling new title: THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH. Titan's press release on the matter explains more...
“Bold, innovative, and thrilling—The Twenty-Year Death crackles with suspense and will keep you up late.” - Stephen King
THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH tells the story of a writer and his wife whose lives are torn apart by violence and calamity – but tells it in the form of three separate, complete novels, each set in a different decade (1931, 1941, 1951) and each written in a style inspired by a different giant of the mystery genre: Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler, and Jim Thompson. Although each of the three novels is self-contained, featuring its own detectives, plot, and resolution, the three are woven together into a larger meta-narrative through the presence of characters who reappear in all three books, moving from background figures in the first to take on more prominent roles in the second and fully occupy the harsh glare of the spotlight in the third.
In addition to his years as a bookseller for The Corner Bookstore in New York City and Borders in Baltimore, Winter is also the author of the blog We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie, devoted to the rediscovery of long-forgotten children’s books written by literary icons such as John Updike, Langston Hughes, and Gertrude Stein. His writing has appeared in The Urbanite and on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and in 2008 he won the Free Press “Who Can Save Us Now?” short story contest. He also has a children’s picture book – One of a Kind (Aladdin) – coming out this year.
THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH has been published simultaneously in hardcover and e-book editions, with a cover painting in the classic pulp style by Charles Pyle. Hollywood star Rose McGowan (Grindhouse, The Black Dahlia, Charmed) posed for the cover in the role of the book’s femme fatale.
Below is a sample of the book, sent over by Titan for your esteemed consideration. I haven't finished my own copy yet, but I've very much enjoyed what I've read thus far. Do note that this is a heftier book than some - 670 pages in hardcover form - but I'm profoundly impressed at the effortlessness with which author Winter juggles so many styles and characters. Three books set over three decades with shared personalties interspersed amidst a crime saga...is one helluva mission statement for an author, and in THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH, Winter meets the challenge very, very well.
Here's the excerpt. Enjoy...
The first time I saw her in person, it was at a distance and she was on a horse. From what I could make out, she had a small frame; like she weighed less than the saddle they had under her. They had her dressed in a tan leather jerkin with tassels over a blue gingham dress that made no effort to hide a pair of black maryjanes, which I assumed they would keep safely out of the shot. Much of the thick dark hair she was known for was hidden under a ten-gallon cowboy hat. She sat sidesaddle but held the reins like someone who was used to riding the conventional way. Her famous face could have been any pretty girl’s at that distance, just a canvas the makeup artist had painted on. Up close I knew she’d look the way I’d seen her dozens of times on posters and billboards and at the pictures. She wasn’t a woman, she was a star. Chloë Rose.
We parked the golf cart on the suburban side of the backlot street and walked over to the Old West. The standing set had been built on a stretch of dirt road not quite as long as a foot- ball field. There was a ragtag of wooden building fronts lining the street. Some had gotten paint and some hadn’t. Each building had a sign, to indicate which one was the saloon, which one was the chemist’s, and which one was the jail. It wasn’t a bad façade if you closed your eyes and used your imagination.
There were at least fifteen other people on the set—a horse handler, the director, the assistant director, makeup, electric, and some I couldn’t identify. As we approached, another woman in a cowgirl costume and a man in a rumpled suit shouted at each other in the shade of the dry goods store. A child of eleven or twelve stood nearby, uninterested.
“You’d better not forget yourself,” the man said, “or who got you where you are.”
“A washed-up drunk who lives off his wife?”
“You’re living off my wife too, aren’t you?” That made him Shem Rosenkrantz. “We’re all living off of Clotilde on this damn set. I’m just asking for a little favor, that you watch him for a few hours. I’ve got to work.”
She shot her fists out behind her. “Mandy, do this. Mandy, do that. I’ve paid you back plenty already. Or are you dissatisfied with the service?”
At that, Chloë Rose jerked her horse away from the handler, almost knocking the director over, and cantered to where the couple was fighting. They stopped and looked up at her. The young boy took a step back. “Can’t you at least pretend here?” she said in that famous French accent.
Rosenkrantz said something in reply, but Chloë Rose had already turned her horse and brought it almost to a gallop, not slowing until she reached the far end of the Old West set. Rosenkrantz chased after her, running through the cloud of dust her horse had kicked up. As he passed Sturgeon, the director gave him an angry look that was a step away from tears. Rosenkrantz made a placating motion with his hands, still hurrying through his wife’s wake.
Knox turned to me. “Wait here. This might not be a good time.”
“What makes you think that?” I said.
He started over to the assistant director, who had turned to say something to the director of photography, shaking his head.
I stood with the woman and the kid. She had auburn hair in waves that were too regular to be natural. Her face was angular, so that it was pretty from the front but not as much from the side. When it was angry, which it was just then, all the lines in her face turned sinewy, like she was stretched too tight and might snap at any moment. Knox had warned me off of asking questions, but it was an old habit with me. I said, “Miss Ehrhardt? I’m Dennis Foster. I’m looking into some reports of unusual activity on the set. You see any strange men about? Anyone who doesn’t belong? Or maybe he belongs, but not quite as much as he’s around.”
She didn’t turn to look at me while I said all this. She kept her hip cocked with one fist planted on it to show that she was angry. “With all these people around, who knows who any of them are?”
“So you didn’t notice anything?”
“Look around. Notice anything you’d like. I’m working.”
“I can see that.”
She looked at me then. “Was that a crack? You forgot to tell me when to laugh.”
“Now would do fine.”
She sneered. “Watch it, mister, or I might have to call security.”
I pointed to Al Knox, who was making large gestures as he talked, but seemed unable to distract the assistant director from his clipboard. “That’s the head of security there. I came with him. Or didn’t you notice?”
“I didn’t care.”
“You don’t notice anyone, do you?”
“Sure, today there’s been the mailman, the milkman, the ice-man, the priest, a guy from the paper, and a talking cow.”
The boy beside her gave one short pant of amusement.
I looked at him, then back at her. “I get it,” I said. “You didn’t notice anything you feel like talking about. Or at least talking about with me.”
“You get paid for being so smart?”
“What’s this all about anyway? Is it because of Chloë?”
I said nothing.
“Chloë’s scared of her own shadow. Look at all the time we’re wasting now because something upset her fragile disposition.”
“I wonder what it could have been.”
“You know what? —— Chloë, and —— you too.”
“There are children present,” I said.
She crossed her arms over her breasts and turned her back to me. I noticed the kid staring at me. I smiled at him, but his face remained impassive. “You see any strange men around?” I said to him.
“I see you,” he said.