Fifty-seven years ago I killed a boy. Tonight, Euart Monroe walked into my room with a Mossberg 510 and a stained hobo mattress and fired a shot into my belly. It should have killed me right off, but he didn’t want that. He wanted me to know who pulled the trigger.
I’m excited to announce that Ordinary Handsome is now available in paperback. It’s an oversize 6.69″ x 9.61″ book with a matte cover and cream pages. Pardon the indulgence, but it really is quite handsome. Weighing in at a whopping 187 pages, it’s got a spanky new cover and even a tiny author photo on the back for your mustache-drawing indulgence. Please check it out and let me know what you think. As always, thank you for reading. — Steve
I got all these feelings bundled up in a snarl, all the should-have’s and supposed-to’s and unfair verdicts of past mistakes. There are all these bricks of grief and regret and wondering if I could have changed just one moment. Just one. And when I try to build something out of them bricks, they crack and shift into different shapes, and then they fall into a heap worse off than when I started. I know Gram was thinking about Daniel. We’d been stepping in and out of his shadow since I first showed up here, neither of us wanting to conjure him up for real. Thinking about Daniel made me tired and sad, cracked at the spine, broke in the heart.
Excerpt from Maggie, now available from Amazon. Many thanks to D. Wallace Peach for her remarkable editing skills. I was under a particularly tight deadline to complete this story, and Diana’s suggestions and thoroughness gave Maggie a little more shine. And I won’t mention all those damned commas. Thank you, my friend.
I could lay it down at a lot of people’s feet, but I lay it down mostly on myself for being foolish and lonely. But like Gram says, it ain’t a sin to be lonely.
It was a very tall summer in 1957, and I’ll tell you why…
And so begins the most terrible summer for Charlotte Windover.
She and husband Jeremiah began a new life together surrounded by a wide expanse of a corn and sky. After years of brutal disappointment, she finally resolves to change her life. When Jeremiah is suddenly killed at an abandoned homestead, life becomes more isolated and harrowing. And with the threat of random fires being set by a mysterious figure known only as Croy, Charlotte’s life has become even more desperate.
In a land of big skies and small dreams, A Very Tall Summer is the tale of a woman’s resolve to overcome her broken past, and at any cost.
“The land takes hold and humbles and diminishes. It punishes a soul for the vainglorious hope of harnessing it. Rich brown, powder gray, it makes no difference; it overwhelms and chokes a man’s thoughts. It lodges itself upon the skin, under the fingernails, inside work boots and carburetors, it’s always there, at the foot of the bed, in the washing machine, behind the ears, laying claim to you, reminding you it’s there and soon you won’t be. You will be buried in it in time, and even if a hard wind comes and pulls your bones out of the ground, it will mock you, mock your arrogance.
“This was our life, and we expected no more than a decent crop, grocery money, medicine money, repair-the-tin-roof money. Warmth in winter, clean water in summer, the haunting fragrance of corn to placate our shabby mortality.”
Available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01A4YRM5C
- You met her at a roadside cafe just outside of Little Rock. It was two in the morning and you were on your third cup of coffee. You’d been hitchhiking for three days without much sleep. She was a waitress and you were her only customer. She took her cigarette outside and waited for you to finish. But she kept sneaking peaks at you, and you knew it.
- You knew you smelled bad, and your eyes were as red as sundown, but you were polite and didn’t have liquor on your breath. You knew you looked used-up, but she saw something in you no one else did. She saw you as someone lost and looking to find a way back home. When she came back inside after her third smoke, she sat right down beside you and introduced herself. And she was bold! Asked you if you had a place to stay, and offered you a decent bed. Not to share it with her, Lord no, but she kept a small spare bedroom that was warm. You could clean yourself up before you hit the road again, and she wouldn’t mind if you did a few chores for her. But nothing funny. She kept a loaded gun in her bedroom and wanted you to know it.
- You were so overwhelmed – and surprised – by her kindness that you couldn’t think of a decent excuse to walk away.
- So she took you home and you slept in her spare bedroom in the back, next to the laundry room, and you slept for most of a day.
- And she was with you every day from then.
- Sometimes, in the deepest heart of the night, you woke up clinging to her tightly, fiercely, and you remember that same kind of fierceness as when you were holding on to a pine tree in the middle of a rain storm, that deepest heart of that deepest night. And you swore you’d never let go.
Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com//dp/B00P46ZPA0 for only $2.99.
Fifty-seven. Four syllables, ten letters. Literally a lifetime of years, more than half a century in those four syllables, ten letters. It seemed cruel that cancer was going to take him out so late in the game. It should have happened sooner. When he left Handsome this last time, he was going to park his Jeep in the middle of town and spit on its corrupted old bones. Maybe take a piss in the blackened, empty lot that was The Handsome Hotel.
No. He was too tired and too old to hold onto all the resentments. It was done, it was done a long time ago.
Sharp curve up next. The gravel was so eroded it was practically sand. No one ever graded Little Route as far as he knew. He guessed the town owned it, but never maintained it. No reason to keep it up to code. No one ever traveled it, and the dead end wasn’t even interesting enough to turn into a decent ghost story.
He took the curve slowly, slower than necessary, but not out of any concern for his vehicle. He drove a few more yards and pulled the Jeep over to the side of the road. He rolled up the windows and turned on the air. He was going to be here for awhile, and wanted to cool down first.
He closed his eyes and listened to the soft air hush through the vents. It got cold almost immediately, but he let it run. It was good for the flowers in the back seat. And cold air always felt good to him.
“I miss you, son,” he said to no one.
He sat for almost fifteen minutes, eyes shut, a few tears squeezed out. Fifty-seven years.
Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Only $2.99. Available at http://www.amazon.com/ebook/dp/B00P46ZPA0
For your reading pleasure….
Source: Available from Amazon
Two reviews for A Very Tall Summer have come in. Both are very generous and encouraging, and of course much appreciated.
From Diana: “I purchased this book after reading Baird’s novel Ordinary Handsome, which I highly recommend. A Very Tall Summer is another unique tale, full of ghosts that Baird introduces at his leisure as the story bubbles up from the deep. He’s in no hurry to divulge the secrets of Charlotte’s life; they percolate to the surface as the reader sits inside her head and listens to her moment by moment thoughts. There’s no narrator giving the reader a bird’s eye view. The extremely tight point of view requires the reader to float with the story until the pieces take shape, shift, and sharpen. Baird is a master wordsmith, painting a vivid world of sound and motion, rife with feeling, and deadly in its inevitability. Enjoy.”
From Jane: “I’m still having a hard time describing how Baird’s story affected me. Take that as a good thing. I went back and re-read it to make sure I had extracted all I could.
Baird’s use of language is both elegant and gritty. It is layered and often unexpected; and it makes something striking out of an otherwise simple story. He uses his skill to pin you to the page in a way which both pleases and disturbs, creating a kind of cognitive dissonance which will both repel and compel you. A keen observer, he will activate all your senses, sometimes in ways you wish he would not. You will find you are unable to turn away from the taste of sweat and the crunch of cartilage….
“Steven Baird has something special. I suspect he can produce literature with a capital L, and I look forward to finding out.”
A Very Tall Summer is available at: http://www.amazon.com/Steven-Baird/e/B00P4KW612
Now available from Amazon.
It was a very tall summer in 1957, and I’ll tell you why:
Old homesteads were set afire for no good reason, and the smoke and the dust eclipsed any kindness that may have had a chance to grow. I do recall the anger that slid in the smoky heat, uncoiling like a snake, waiting to strike…