Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rattleman by George D Shuman: Interview and Excerpt: Bewitching Tour Stop


Does travel play in the writing of your books?


It actually does, but here I will include virtual travel. 18 Seconds was highly influenced by childhood vacations on the New Jersey Seashore.

Some of my other novels are set in places I have never been. And I find it wonderful that so much of the world is at our fingertips now with the Internet and Google Earth. That we can now write confidently about places we have never visited and things we have never seen. I often visit the streets and back alleys of foreign countries on my laptop, snatching mental images as I tour. And Oh I love to research in real time and along the way, finding everything interesting, getting sidetracked for days. I’m sure it’s not the best formula for how to write a book, but it’s my way.


I would also say that I begin each of my novels with some primary location in mind. I give much thought to what it looks like and how it feels. Add the benefit of some personal experience (anywhere) and I can drop in my characters and see what they will do. Rattleman is set entirely in the Appalachian Mountains, a fact that shouldn’t have surprised me since I grew up on an extension of the Appalachian chain. But in truth I didn’t realize that I came from the mountains until well after I had written the novel. I thought I was writing about mountain life down in West Virginia…

Coming home to live in Pennsylvania after so many years in the city and on an island in the ocean, it was if I was just seeing it for the first time. It suddenly dawned on me I was one of those mountain boys myself.


Another book is set predominantly in Haiti. I know Jamaica rather well, so it wasn’t a stretch, but I spent days traveling Haiti on Google Earth.


Tell us about your next release.


 This will be my Sixth novel, my Fifth Sherry Moore and I have to say one of my favorites. It was pure ecstasy to write and it reads as fast as any bullet. In was in fact written in a personal best of 80 days from the first word to pushing Send to my agent.


The novel is very timely and I mean that in so many ways. It was highly researched and on quite complicated subjects. This novel transformed my usual tidy office into a war room with flip charts and diagrams and graphs to keep me straight. In the end I think I reduced it into a wonderful, terrible, heartrending story of human beings at their best and worst. Hint words… Depression/Aggression/Resurrection/Terror...

Who is your favorite author?


John Le Carre   He parcels out words as sparsely as if they were diamonds, but they land with the precision and impact of guided missiles.

What was your first sale as an author?


18 SECONDS. Nominated for both a Shamus and International Thriller Association’s Best First Novel. Translated now into twenty-three languages. Slated to be an internationally casted film in 2014.

When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?


I can say I write better in the mornings than in the evenings. My concentration wanes mid afternoon. BUT some weeks I’ll write a sentence a day and hate every one. Some weeks I’ll write twenty pages a day and hardly cut a word.


Now, having said that, I must add that I am the world’s worst example of how to be an author. There are weeks I will walk around my laptop like’s it’s a coiled snake. I must sometimes get past the doubts and force myself in. But every time I do the magic begins to happen. Then I am constantly jotting down ideas, and going into the Internet to research…and like a child in a candy store finding everything all so interesting…which leads to random trips to the library and virtual tours through foreign cities and downloading page up page of interesting things. Sometimes I’ll download movies that have something to do with my project; certainly I’ll end up reading half a dozen books per novel.


I keep a RESEARCH file (everything idea I come up with or find in research gets added or pasted into it) a NAMES file to keep track of who is who…and a CUT AND PASTE file to keep things I’ve written and then extracted.  About 10 percent of this file gets back into the book.

When I’m all done I read each of the files carefully to make sure no good ideas were left on the table.


What is the hardest part of writing your books?


Sitting down at the laptop and getting past the doubts. You have to get past the doubts.

Where do you research for your books?


I have widely explored the world’s oceans and farms and villages and cities on the Internet, I even keep Google Earth files of my locations for every novel…and I download hundreds and hundreds of pieces of information. I do find myself in the library now and then, but more and more is available at my fingertips.

What was the scariest moment of your life?


I was diving for clams in Nantucket Harbor in 2000. I had a single air tank on, but was only in twenty feet of water. My yellow lab “Ci” was sleeping above on my little Boston Whaler. The clams were everywhere, I was aware the skies were getting dark, but nothing out of the ordinary. Twenty minutes went quickly by and when I surfaced the boat was fifty meters away and drifting fast to deeper waters. The anchor had come loose from the sandy bottom. I had made a critical (often fatal) error and I knew it. I had not allowed enough “scope” on the anchor to allow for waves and winds.


The storm had kicked up a chop. I had to decide to chase the boat or swim toward the shoreline. My tank was all but out of air. I swam a few strokes toward the boat and wasn’t getting anywhere. I changed my mind and released the equipment and let it sink. And then turned for shore and swam for my life.

I’ll never forget the time that passed by-I don’t know how long it was. I was thoroughly exhausted and not making visible progress. At least not that I could then see.


And I was thinking it was a damned shame, that it was such a silly way to die. 


I kept swimming and resting and swimming against the tide. And then suddenly the heel of my foot struck sand and the feeling was indescribable. I had already had two other very-near-death experiences, once in the line of duty, but this one took time to unfold. This one I could see coming.


Utterly spent and walking/jogging a half-mile of shoreline I found a lone intrepid fishermen on the tip of a Peninsula who had a small boat and outboard and who took me out in the storm to look for my boat. My boat and floating anchor was just rolling in the waves by the time we found it, and my heart sank for I couldn’t see my dog! Coming alongside with my in my throat, I hooked the rail and pulled us in and there she was curled up sleeping in the bow.  

What book are you reading now?


A History of the Inquisition and Daniel Silva’s THE FALLEN ANGEL

What group did you hang out with in high school?


The weirdo rock band people. Oh that was so not cool back in my day…

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?


You know, I remember in my early twenties finding myself living in a DC rooming house without a TV and I poured through stacks of paperback novels every night. And became aware of how powerfully entertaining they could be. And with volume came distinction, I was becoming a discerning reader and by then I was in awe of several writers. Le Carre always comes out of my mouth when I speak on this subject. I was blown away by his italent to dispense words so precisely, so economically and yet draw you into his world where you can touch the dust on the bannister and feel the hairs rise on the back of your neck because you opened the closet door and saw a pair of shoes out of place. Le Carre hits bull’s-eyes with every word. AND THEN, I picked up a book by an author I do not remember. And thought it was just awful. And for the first time in my life, I realized it wasn’t my job to like the writing. It wasn’t my fault when I couldn’t get through a book. That Publishers’ did indeed print garbage! And an idea germinated in my head. What if I could do better than what I’d just read?


How do you react to a bad review of your book?


I would like to go out on a limb here and presume that everyone knows what the employee review is.  And the annual Car and Driver review and the Grammys and Tony’s and Best Dogs and Boston Marathons.


Some things appear to be more obvious than others, but sometimes opinions and choices are not so clear. What is certain, is that behind every winner there is a declining succession of “non-winners” and that among all the “non-winners” there are a finite number who place second or third.

I cannot imagine the author who hasn’t cringed at the mere subject line of an incoming email that starts out “Publishers Weekly, Booklist, or Kirkus (I really cringe when I see that word Kirkus…) And I can’t name a single prolific author that has survived them unscathed.  God knows I haven’t and neither should I. To be honest, I knew when I missed the target. I didn’t always like what I read about my writing, but way down deep in the recesses of my soul, I’d known those times and would have agreed I could have done better. Yes I’ve been blindsided by a reviewer now and then, one major reviewer was so utterly incensed over my apparent lack of a sense of direction that he couldn’t let it go until he got to the end of the review. Yes I’ve had my heart ripped and more than once I promise, but it is a reality that reviewers are only human and their impressions formed not by an incalculable series of zeros and ones, but unique and personal preference and perhaps, as we all suspect, a bit of the nature of their mood on any given day.


What is most important to remember is that reviewers must presume—and rightfully so—that nothing is perfect. Who would retain the manager that authored nothing but five-star employee reviews, or handed out nothing but five-star hotel or restaurant reviews? Who would subscribe to the publication that treated books in a like manner.


I will leave you with two thoughts that to me soar above all others. One is that if you published something which prompted a review be thankful. Two is that at the end of the day it is not a review that makes or breaks us. It is the sum of what is written about our work and if that sum is as troubling as any single review then it is time to get out the mirror and have a talk.


Are the names of the characters in your novels important?  How and why?


Every thing about a novel has a sound that matters. There is always the perfect word if you only search for it, even if it takes hours. I have spent entire days trying to find the perfect name for a character. Say the words out loud! I mean can you imagine the mean old miserly Mr. Butterworth playing Scrooge?

Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?


Australia hands down. I was actually booked on a two-week tour with events in Melbourne and Sydney when the markets crashed in 2009. The trip was cancelled with a whole lot of advertising. I had an unusually large fan base in Australia at the time and still communicate daily with a very interesting friend who prospects gold and owns a thriving jewelry shop in Ballarat.


Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?


 I get to the point and I don’t waste time doing it. Seatbelts are advised.


Entice us, what future projects are you considering?


Already deep into my next Sherry Moore novel, this will be book Seven, Sixth of the Sherry Moore Series and due out in August.


You just won a huge lottery what is the first thing you'll buy?


A rare Gibson guitar I had to sell twenty years ago to fix the dishwasher.


Do you have a favorite quote, quip, or saying? What is it?


Yeah right!


Do you have a Website or Blog?

What do you find most rewarding about writing? 


There is nothing that can make you feel as good as writing when you’re in flow. No drug. No food. No drink. Nothing!


Is there a piece of advice that you have received that has really stuck with you? If so, what was it?


Don’t stop!



George D Shuman
Available from Kindle - here

From George D. Shuman who served twenty years with the Metropolitan Police Department, Washington DC, and whose international bestseller, '18 Seconds', is currently in production as a major Hollywood motion picture. 

Better still, 'Rattleman' is George D. Shuman's most gripping crime thriller yet.

The Rattleman knows every crevice, every creek, every cave, every ravine, every inch of his remote hunting grounds in the Appalachian Mountains.

He is a determined serial killer, always waiting for his next victim to cross his path.

When Park Ranger Jane Cameron literally stumbles across the remains of two of his victims, she discovers that she too has been caught in his trap.

And when the 'Rattleman's prey is at his mercy, she’s dead.

Rattleman Chapter 1

Iron Mountain

West Virginia

            Everywhere the Sheriff looked there was water. Water dripping, water gurgling, water trickling down the hillsides. It melted from the snow-covered rocks and ice covered trees, from power lines and rooftops creating fissures beneath packed snow. It gouged ruts through the muddy roads, feeding brooks and creeks that formed gravity powered streams, plunging off the mountain to Silver River nearly four thousand feet below.
            The Sheriff sat in his Jeep, defroster on high, blowing warm breath into numb hands, ears prickling like they were stuck with a thousand pins. He tugged wet socks from his feet and laid them over the vents on the dash. The windows had fogged and he wiped them with his elbow, watching the road behind in the side mirror.
Spring had come early to Kettle Hollow.
The radio crackled.
“331… are you there?”
            He reached for the microphone and keyed it, interrupting the static. “331 go. Where’s the crime lab, Sam?”
            “…accident … Dilley’s … noon….Douglas… to raise you.”
            “I copy the crime lab for noon? Tell Chief Douglas I’ll call him tonight.”
            He tossed the microphone on the dash and massaged his feet with cold hands. He sneezed on the sleeve of his jacket and rummaged through the glove box for a bottle of aspirin, shook a few into his hand and chewed them dry.
            Kettle Hollow had once been a summer hunting camp for the Cherokee Indians. Then fur trappers supplying London with America’s first great commodity. When the beavers were all decimated, the loggers came for timber and when the timber was all felled they bored holes into the earth to plunder coal. When the coal was all gone the survivors were left to farm the piteous soil so they grew corn and potatoes and made moonshine for a living. They had become, by majority, a community of de facto outlaws.
            Winters were especially hard in Kettle Hollow, snows cutting the mountain off from civilization for weeks at time. If someone died in the interim, they were packed on a rooftop to keep the animals from getting to them. Which was probably what Buc Thompson was thinking when he brought the lady’s head down from Lake Nawakwa.
            Martin Wayne looked into the cloud of exhaust rising from his rear view mirror. The thermometer was rising fast and a thick ground fog was forming over the warming snow. On a hillside he could see the top half of a cow, the bottom shrouded by mist. An old woman walked by the Jeep carrying a bundle of wood, a man wearing a sack for a hat stopped to peek through the passenger side window. People stood in open doorways scratching fleas and puffing on cigarettes. Then there was movement in the mirror and a vehicle appeared, a dark Chevrolet Suburban with a light bar on the roof. He pulled the damp socks from the dash and began to stretch them over his feet.
            The driver was a pretty brunette named Kirsten Berkley, a state police corporal and senior forensic technician. She’d opened the window and was banging a radio microphone against the side of the vehicle. “How in the hell do you talk to anyone up here? Isn’t this still part of America?”
Marty jerked his head toward the shanties. “Go ask someone who the President is.”
She tossed the mike on the seat, nodding at the man sitting next to her. “Marty, this is Jeff Wittis. Jeff’s a Bluefield boy, former Jug-head like you.”
She rolled her eyes. “Or was that jar-head? I get confused.” She leaned back in her seat. “Jeff, this is Sheriff Wayne.”
Marty leaned over to look at the young man. He wore a blue jumpsuit with the insignia of the West Virginia State Police. “No such thing as a former,” he smiled, reaching past Kirsten to shake the man’s hand.
She was wearing perfume, something familiar and nice. It was impossible to avoid the open second button on her blouse.
The rookie smiled back.
“Hoo-ugh,” Kirsten said dryly.
Kirsten Berkley was assigned to K Troop out of Pocahontas County. She was also the daughter of Superior Court Judge Adam Berkley who presided over Superior Court in Marion West Virginia.
She unfastened her shoulder harness and let it snap away. “So what have you got here anyhow?”
Jane Doe,” Marty said, pointing to the top of a building. “At least the head part of her.”
Kirsten rolled her eyes. “That girl is just everywhere,” she made a smiley face at her partner and bobbed her head back and forth Valley-Girl-style. “And now she’s lost her head.”
She opened the door. “Why don’t you introduce us?”
He led them to a woodshed behind an old smokehouse. All traces of wood had long since been removed and the small enclosure was covered with snow, trampled by muddy boots and large paw prints. Marty nodded toward a ladder that looked less sturdy than the wall.
“I left her like I found her, Kirsten.”
The trooper wrinkled her nose and stepped across a pile of dog shit, climbed the ladder to the roof and bent over until the upper half of her body was out of sight. “How long has she been up here?”
“About nine hours,” Marty said.
“Looks like something from Creature Feature.” She put her hand behind her back and wiggled it. “Jeff, grab the bag with the yellow tag out of the truck.”
The young man took off for the Suburban.
“Farmer got pulled under the wheel of his tractor down in Dilley’s Mill,” she said. “The family was all in the field by the time we arrived. Cousins and little kiddies standing knee high in the snow, dead body under the tire, parents letting them hang out like they were at a circus. Why do they do that?”
Marty shrugged.
“So the boy that found her. Sam said he was ice fishing?”
“Yep,” Marty said. “Saw her head caught in the flow along the shoreline. He had to break the ice away to remove it from the lake. Brought her here and put her on the roof so the dogs wouldn’t get to her.”
She looked over the edge at a pile of dog shit then went back to what she was doing. “Pretty smart, I’d say. She’s in relatively good shape. You were up there yourself?”
“About two hours ago,” he nodded. “I staked the hole where he found her and shot a dozen pictures around the shoreline. If my shoe size is sufficiently calibrated for your reports, you won’t have to slog a mile with your measuring tape.”
Kirsten lifted a boot. “These little piggy’s are just fine with the size of your little piggy’s. In fact, you can’t imagine how thankful they are.” She looked down to make sure her partner hadn’t returned. “You know we should get them together some time.”
Marty rolled his eyes.
“He never saw the rest of her body?”
“Nope,” Marty said, “but she could easily have been under there. Ice is a foot thick and piling up along the shore. Slabs as big as a refrigerator door.”
Kirsten nodded and leaned close until her face was almost touching the woman’s. “Ice expands with literal tons of pressure. Easy to separate a head from the body if it gets wedged in between.”
She tugged out a pair of surgical gloves and snapped them over her wrists.  “If she was caught in the ice she had to have been in the lake before the water froze. Sometime early December I would think.”
Marty nodded and sneezed.
“God bless you,” she said. “I can tell you she’s not a local,” Kirsten lifted the ear lobes with her finger, “five piercings in each and hair color came out of a bottle. Mall cut too, short and spiky on the top.” She turned the head sideways and put her flashlight on the mouth. “Cuts around the lips and gums, nice set of teeth. They’ll be dental records if she’s ever ID’d.”
Kirsten straightened up and played the flashlight down on Marty’s face.
“So when were you planning on calling me?”
Marty put a hand up, squinting to block the light. “Did I say I was going to call you?”
“Last month.”
“Refresh my memory,” he said, eyes straying to the back of her jumpsuit. Kirsten was all woman uniform or no.
“Almost Heaven, end of the bar, around midnight. I think there was at least a dozen witnesses.”
“Drunksies don’t count, Kirs and besides, you’re still married.” His eyes went to her wedding ring and he nodded toward it.
“Oh, Marty. It comes off like everything else.” She used her free hand to unzip her jacket.
 “See?” She zipped it back up. “Besides, how will I know if I want to leave my husband if I don’t sleep with you first?”
He laughed. “You’ve been sniffing too much formaldehyde Kirs.”
The rookie Wittis returned just then, gingerly climbing the ladder until he could reach her hand to transfer the bag.
She removed a camera from it and strapped it over her neck. Then she took another and twisted off the lens cap.
“Marty’s father,” she called down to the rookie, was a cross between a cowboy and the last of the Mohicans. He could travel at night dead reckoning, no moon, no stars, no compass.”
She blew warm breath into her hands to limber up the fingers.
“Ever hear of Calvin Wynn Wayne?”
The rookie shook his head.
“Only the most famous lawman east of the Mississippi.” She put the lens cap between her teeth and fired off a volley of still shots. “All the sports magazines featured him in the sixties and seventies,” she said out of the side of her mouth, lens cap still clenched between her teeth. “Shot and killed a fugitive here in 1967.” She switched cameras, lifted it over the top of the head and took a few pictures straight down at the head. “Just up the road past the general store, isn’t that right, Marty? Of course, there wasn’t a real road back then. Calvin had to come up on horseback, shoot the guy and then lash him to the saddle to take him back down. It took him all night, but the next morning he walked his horse up Main Street in Marion while the churches were letting out Easter morning. Can you picture all those little darlings in their white gloves and bonnets?” She spit the lens cap back into her hand. “Reigns in one hand, dead man over the saddle, big black hole in his back where the bullet came out.”  She shuddered, faking an orgasm. “Now that’s when cops had balls.”
Wittis raised an eyebrow at Marty, who only shrugged.
“Reporters just happened to be in town to write a piece on the hundredth anniversary of the coal mine massacres.” She lowered both cameras and the bag to Wittis. “Wait for me at the bottom,” she told him, pointing to where she wanted him to stand.
Wittis backed down the last two rungs while she finished taking pictures. Then she tucked the smaller camera into a thigh pocket and picked up the woman’s head in her gloved hands.
“A cameraman snapped a shot of Calvin tying his horse to a parking meter. It made the cover of Time Magazine.”
“Put a sheet of plastic down there, Jeff.” She nodded toward a spot that the dogs hadn’t stepped on, looked over at Marty and said, “You don’t mind if I share your family history, do you? Mine’s not nearly as interesting.”
She started down the ladder carefully with the head in both hands, not waiting for his reply.
“Anyhow, Calvin Wayne’s best friend was a full-blooded Cherokee.” “Toby’s still living up on Emmett’s Fork by you. Ain’t that right, Marty?”
Marty sighed.
She set foot on the ground and lay the head between the men on the plastic sheet. “So you see he was raised half cowboy and half Indian. Best of both worlds, huh?”
Marty looked apologetically at the rookie.”
Kirsten was crouched over the woman’s head. “So she’s obviously been preserved by the cold.” She pressed a finger against the woman’s neck and skin moved under her glove. “Eyelids are torn here. See those cuts on the lips I been talking about? One, two… third one here.”
“Fish?” Marty noticed that the rookie Wittis was trying to busy himself with the equipment instead of looking at the head.
Kirsten shrugged. “I don’t think so. Lines look too clean to be bites.” She leaned close to the face again and shook her head. “Once again, I’m going with sharp ice. Jeff, how about bagging her up for me.” She came to her feet and peeled off the gloves.
The rookie gathered the cameras and headed back for the Suburban. Marty thought the young man was looking less well by the minute.
“Shall we call it undetermined?” Marty asked.
Kirsten nodded, reaching into her jumpsuit for a notebook. “Yeah, I’ll get her under some lights tonight and we’ll send her off to the lab in Charleston. Are you coming over for the second half of my show?”
Marty shook his head. “Have to catch the rerun, Kirs. I’m in court with your father in the morning.”
“Then how about tomorrow night?”
“Tomorrow night?”
“When you buy me a beer for all the fine work I did.”
Marty smiled tiredly. “Kirsten, you really need to remember the last time we had a beer.”
She tried to look innocent, which was wholly ridiculous on Kirsten. “What?”
“We made damn fools of ourselves, is what.”
“Oh, Marty. No one cares what we were doing.”
The rookie came back wearing heavy rubber gloves. He was carrying a seven-foot body bag.
“This?” he asked doubtfully.
Kirsten nodded.
He looked at both of them, then put the head in the bag and rolled up the remaining ends. Afterward he headed back to the Suburban.
“And they were just jealous,” Kirsten said. “If you hadn’t been so sappy over Sarah, you might have gotten lucky in the parking lot,” she ran her tongue over her lips.
Marty laughed and started for the Jeep, but Kirsten ran to catch up with him. By the time he reached the running board, she was at his shoulder and this time the smell of her perfume made him sad.
“Of course, we could skip the beers and just go straight to your place, Marty.”
Marty put his back to the door and sighed. “Kirsten, we are not going to go anywhere together. Not as long as you’re married. Got it?”
“Seriously, Marty,” she put her hands together. “Things haven’t been that great between Mark and I. We’ve been having problems.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said earnestly. “Really I am, but the answer is still no. Not in this town,” he lifted her hand, “and not while this is on your finger.”
“Your problem isn’t that I’m married,” she drew her hand away. “Your problem is Sarah. You’re hoping she’ll come back and you don’t want anything to spoil it in case she does. You’re living in a dream world Marty you know that?”
Kirsten began to walk away.
“You’re not even close, Kirsten,” Marty yelled.
“Bullshit,” she turned and snorted. “You think Sarah will get tired of the big city and come crawling back and you’ll both live happily ever after. Well, I got news for you. Sarah isn’t interested in small pond fish anymore. Sarah’s landed a much bigger trophy than you.”
She turned and strutted toward the Suburban, stopping halfway to look over her shoulder, her voice suddenly silky. “I’m on evenings next week. Call me. I’ll slip out early.”
“Jesus,” he said pounding his fist on the cab. “Just what in the hell is that supposed to mean?” He took a few steps toward her, not caring that her partner was staring at them wide-eyed from the Suburban.
“Just what I said,” she turned to face him. “I’ll meet you after work at your place.”
“About Sarah,” he shouted.
Kirsten groaned and turned to look at him. “I saw her at the Holiday Inn last week at Vickie Patterson’s wedding. I was taking pictures.”
“Sarah,” he said skeptically. “Here in Marion?”
“She was with State Representative Stanton.” Kirsten put her hands on her hips. “You know, he’s a real handsome guy in person. Didn’t she intern with him in after grad school?”
Marty looked at her, unable to speak.
“Give me a call, Marty. It’ll be fun,” she winked and turned for the car.
He stood there in the snow, staring at her as she got in the Suburban, managed a U-turn and started back down the mountain. He tried to recall any conversations he had had with Sarah about her internship at the state capital, but nothing came to mind. Not that it would, Marty was a lot like his father in that way, blind to the details going on around him in life. So blind he’d come home one evening to find his engagement ring on the kitchen counter and all of Sarah’s things gone from the closets.
Marty spun and kicked a chunk of ice that struck high on the wall of the woodshed, sending a cat yowling into the eaves. Then he started up the sidewalk, taking deep breaths and thinking it might be a good night for a beer after all.
The door to the general store was swollen shut and he had to shoulder it open. Smoke was seeping from the seams of a blistering woodstove and it burned his eyes when he entered.
“Got any chewing gum, Mattie,” he pulled off his gloves, stamping his boots on a pile of flattened cardboard. An old woman was stocking shelves behind the counter.
“I’ve got Teaberry and Juicyfruit,” she said. “Which will it be?”
“Juicyfruit,” he fished out a dollar bill and sat on a crude wooden bench.
“They’re not old,” she said, “just brittle from the cold.”
He grunted.
“So how was your climb to the lake?”
“Wet,” he told her, unwrapping a stick of gum that he pushed into his mouth. “What do you think about the head that Buc found?”
“Not exactly friendly country up there,” she nodded in the direction of the mountaintop. “Not for city people anyhow.”
“Who said she was from the city?”
“I saw the girl’s hair,” she said. “Everyone did.”
“You think it was an accident?”
“She wouldn’t be the first or last to get lost in the Appalachians. I say a prayer every time one of them hikers goes by. They don’t like to follow the trails anymore. Not exciting enough. They want to pit themselves against nature. Act like them survivalists on television.”
Marty looked at her, wondering what television she was talking about. There wasn’t a television within ten miles of Kettle Hollow.
“What people, Mattie?” he made a face.
“You know. Survivalist people. They go out in the middle of nowhere and see who can outlast the other.”
Marty squinted at her.
Marty considered the possibility of someone hiking to the lake and drowning. There were thousands of people on the Appalachian Trail each year and it was easy enough for them to see the Iron’s summit looming to their west, conceivable that someone might leave the well-marked trails if they were curious enough to climb it.
Iron Mountain was not named for any mineral deposits, but for its physical resemblance to a flat iron. The western face a sheer wall of stone that climbed to 4700 feet. The north, which was quite jagged, dropped vertically to the Silver River gorge. To the south the mountain was a virtual boulder field that descended to the Monongahela National Forest.
If someone did approach on foot they would most likely come out of the east. That’s where the summit sloped to Lake Nawakwa and it would be one of the first things they would see. Who would dare swim in the lake he couldn’t imagine. Nawakwa was frigid mid summer and the shallow waters were covered with dead trees. It was not a lake for recreation as anyone could see.
“Gaudineer Mountain is just up range too,” Mattie was saying as if reading his thoughts.
“They get tourists up there by the busload to see the leaves turn each fall. Come to see the Virgin Spruce. Buy them I SLEPT WITH THE VIRGINS T-shirts from the locals. You know they take in more money on them T-shirts than the state gives them in preservation funding each year?”
“Mattie, no offense, but where do you get all this stuff?”
“I read,” she shrugged. “You know I read.”
He shook his head, rolling the pack of gum back and forth in the palms of his hands. An image of Sarah and Representative Stanton crept into his thoughts... Sarah interned with him the summer she graduated.
“Gaudineer is one hell of hike from here, Mattie.”
Mattie shrugged. “Well if she wasn’t a hiker she must have come from a city and got into a bad situation and someone brought her up here and dumped her body in the lake. Would have had to have happened last fall before the lake froze over.” Mattie split a box down its spine with a buck knife and clucked with her tongue.
“But you haven’t seen any strangers up here?”
“Everyone’s a stranger,” she folded the box and dropped it on the floor.
Just then his mind wondered to something that happened last year, about a month after he’d taken the job as Sheriff. A woman went jogging near Durbin West Virginia and was never seen again.


George Shuman is the international bestselling author of the Sherry Moore series about a blind woman who can see 18 seconds from a dead person's life, using her innate ability to track down their killers.

George's first four Sherry Moore books are published by Simon & Schuster. '!8 Seconds' is currently in production for a major Hollywood motion picture.

'Rattleman' is the first of George's books to be published by Taylor Street. It too will be a major Hollywood motion picture.

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Kalex said...


Kristen Heyl said...

Thanks for the giveaway
I would need a kindle format