Ordinary Handsome: An excerpt

ordinaryhandsomeiiThough it’s approaching two years since I published Ordinary Handsome, I still have deep affection for it. I still think of it as the benchmark of everything I’ve written since.  It’s the simple story of a thief, a mistake, a dying town, and the ghosts, real or imagined, that haunt the town of Handsome. If a writer is allowed to say such a thing, it still haunts me. Enjoy, and thank you for reading. – Steve

Link and reviews here.


Fifty-seven years ago I killed a boy. Tonight, you walked into my room with a Mossberg 510 and a stained hobo mattress and fired a shot into my belly.

But we’ve had this conversation before, haven’t we, Euart?

The memories get scattered like buckshot every time I revisit them. I play them in my head until the sentences become clearer and my confessional feels more sincere. Everything has been garbled and meaningless, tangled in memories and false perceptions; all right, lies.

I’ve lived with a lie for fifty-seven years, and built upon it my cathedral, and you were the only one who knew it. I’ve been expecting you for all these fifty-seven years. One lie built a thousand until I couldn’t cut through them without anything but honest confession. And, maybe, a Mossberg 510 to pare away my guts.

I’m still not sure you’re not a hallucination, though this blood between my fingers tells me different. At this point, it doesn’t matter.

The clock reads: 3:18.

I know I’m finished, and it would have been true even without you in front of my bed. Put down that damned mattress and I’ll tell you what happened that night. If there are any lies, it’s only because I’ve been swimming in them for so long that I don’t know the feel of dry land. They are not intentional lies, just the way I remember things.

Let me put my hands back on the wheel, hands at ten and two, and drive through that night again. And then you can let me be.

Ronny Salmon was hungover and in a nasty mood. His wife left him three days earlier and he’d been living on Evan Williams bourbon-fried egg sandwiches. Archie Dollar was attending a Baptist circus tent revival, so it was Ronny and me, and it was a coin toss as to who was the better driver. When Ronny was in that kind of mood, it was better to let him be, so I ended up with the keys. Would it have made a difference? Maybe not. If Archie was driving, it would have made all the difference. Or maybe not. Sometimes fate squeezes its hand around your throat no matter what you do.

Arlene was… not so well. It was more obvious every day. So I needed more money for treatments that wouldn’t work and I needed more work so I wouldn’t have to see her deteriorate. Selfish? Of course. But I also didn’t want her to see me deteriorate. I was operating on ninety percent grief and ten percent need. It was the right decision, I think. I was there at the end, that’s what counts.

But until it happens, grief is just a word. You may think you know it, but it runs deeper than cancer, more malignant than regret. What the hell did I know about grief? I was sad that my wife was going to die? Is that all? But never mind. You know what I’m talking about.

I needed something quick and uncomplicated. We weren’t showmen, Ronny and me. But we were efficient. And we….

No, that’s not right. We were simple crooks. No finesse, not much better than thugs. Smash and grab, that was more like it.

I said I’d be honest, and listen to me. Daydreaming about the good old days, a couple of daring pirates in an old Bel Air. No. I wasn’t that good or that smart. Any planning came down to: who do we hit/got your gun/what’s the fastest way out of here? It was a job. I needed the money. Simple.

It was another gas station. We were never audacious enough to try anything better. A liquor store once in a while, but mostly gas stations. Fill your tank, check your oil, keep the change.

You know there’s no decent place to rob in a place like Handsome. We usually took our show on the road. But the sky was filling up with some nasty weather, and we both wanted to get home. Maybe not Ronny, all he wanted was a bed and another drink. And maybe not me either, because all I had to go home to was a dying wife. But neither of us were particularly ambitious. It was just workaday until we punched our card. And neither of us wanted to be out in the storm that was coming. We were going through the motions for a few hundred bucks.

Even though it was gray overhead, it was dark gray. Heavy gray. It was going to come down hard. We almost called it off. But when the weather is going to turn, that may be the best time to do a job. Little or no traffic, and you know the poor bastard you’re going to hit isn’t going to care. He just wants to go home, too.


Ordinary Handsome – An excerpt


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 could taste the backsplash in my mouth, dripping bile and bowel, and it tasted like bits of wet cabbage.

Calm yourself, Jimmy, she oftentimes said.

Arlene. I can still smell your hair, and it smells like black tea.

Calm yourself….

The clock says 2:45. One more morning added to the four dozen years since she passed. Continue reading “Ordinary Handsome – An excerpt”


Ordinary Handsome cover

It’s been a full year since I published Ordinary Handsome, and I don’t know where the time has gone. I’ve since written another novel (soon to go through the editing process), struggled through several false starts, and have just begun yet another. Handsome didn’t have the success of, say, The Martian, but I’m still proud of it. The fault lies with the promoter (me). I would rather write than promote, but I still try.

And so a hearty, and deeply appreciated thank you to those who took the time to not only read it, but who actually commented, reblogged excerpts, and gave it amazing reviews (all unsolicited). Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And now it is time to move onto the next thing. Coming soon: A Very Tall Sky.

And Ordinary Handsome is still available. 🙂

Another Ordinary Handsome review


Another strong review for Ordinary Handsome. For those interested, the link is below. (However, I do wish the reviewer spelled my first name correctly. I blame Stephen King and his popularity. It would help greatly if he spelled his name with a V).


Attention Amazon shoppers


For a limited time, Ordinary Handsome is on sale for 99 cents. That’s right, shoppers, for a limited time only, an amazing and unbelievable 99 cents! But wait, there’s more! (There’s not really more.) What do I need to do, you ask? Follow the link! You too can say you bought something today on Amazon!

Tired of those cheap 65 cent /ton clothes pins? Frustrated by those pants that were shipped with only one leg and no zipper? Embarrassed by that David Hasselhoff “Knight Lover”  CD that was shipped “by mistake”? Well no more. Now you can be the proud owner of (turns page, loses spot on page, remembers his coffee is on the counter getting cold, watches the last half hour of CSI: Miami because, hey, they’re cool shades and David Caruso is a dweeb, but the shades almost make up for it) Ordinary Handsome! The novel everyone in the bathroom is talking about! (Forgets he’s in the bathroom and shuts the door.)

For less than the price of a gas station cup of coffee, you too can be the proud owner of something. Aggravated by harsh sales pitches? Annoyed by the guy who drives his ’74 Datsun up and down the road because he’s probably lost? Fed up with LOUD people asking you to buy stuff that you desperately need? Say no more. It’s here and it’s cheap, baby, cheaper than that strip mall you invested in before the Y2K, um, thing. (Really? A strip mall? In Buck Naked, Wyoming? Shame on you.)

Catches his breath, naps, and then waits for the next “Everyone Loves Raymond Episode”, the one where Robert maybe didn’t love Raymond after all.

Okay. Sales pitch done. Enjoy the rest of your evening. Regular programming will now resume.

Walks away grumbling about being a lousy salesman…. maybe drywall for dog houses next? Yeah.

Nettle’s Butcher Shop


There was a narrow lane between Garnet’s and Nettle’s. To call it an alley would be an exaggeration. It was littered with damp, broken pallets and heavy industrial garbage cans. There was a hodgepodge of wooden crates and broken pickling jars cluttering the pathway. One of the crates had writing on it: Ruckshaw’s Onions. It had a drawing of a smiling cartoon onion holding up a likeness of itself.

The path was essentially a garbage heap. Mr. Nettle used the area to toss out scraps of bone and spoiled intestinal meats. At best, it smelled like a slaughterhouse. In the summer, the path was worse because of the mounds of flies and fat maggots feeding on the spoiled animal flesh. If he remembered, Nettle would spread fresh lime over the mess, but he rarely remembered. The garbage cans were filthy and rife with a thousand different flavors of bacteria.

If you were careful, you could make it through the path without incident. It led to the back door of the butcher shop. I knew the door wouldn’t be locked. This was Handsome.

I found a crumbling brick that Mr. Nettle used as a doorstop. It was lying in a puddle of congealed fat, just beside a splintered piece of bone. Big green bottle flies were buzzing, their bodies shiny and bloated. The brick had decent heft; it might have weighed three or five pounds. It was the color of a fading sunset.

Mr. Nettle did not hear me. He was behind the meat counter, staring at the storefront window, watching the rain turn into something cold and mean. He might have seen me in his peripheral vision but he wasn’t paying attention. He just stared ahead.

I wanted him to see me. I don’t know why. I wanted him to know. When I got directly behind him (there really wasn’t much space for two people behind the counter), I nudged his shoulder with the brick. He turned around, but slowly, caught up in a daydream. I clipped his ear. His hand scrammed towards the blow, and I hit him again, mashing his hand against his head. Instead of falling to the floor, he kept turning towards me. I jammed him with the brick again, this time above the bridge of his nose. He finally went down. I don’t know if he saw me. His eyes were glassy and unfocussed. He fell to the floor like a side of beef. There was blood above his eyes, but nothing mortal. I stood over him and stared. I wanted to reach for the Browning under the counter, but I didn’t. It would have been cowardly.

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0. Free downloadable Kindle app available.

Blog vacation

Floatation device

I think it’s time to take a little break. I’ve been posting every day for over six months now, and it’s time to recharge the creative batteries.

I’ve got some writing projects in various stages of development that I want to work on. The self-promotional stuff is hard work, but if the books aren’t selling it’s time to move on. I’m a realist at heart. Onto the next thing(s).

So a couple of weeks off to get my writing back to where I want it.

But I’ll be around.

And the books are still available anytime.:)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0 http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WUC3RBA