Many thanks to The Novel Approach for allowing me to post a guest blog on its web site. Also, my appreciation to the folks at DSP Publications for publishing my BJ Vinson Mystery Series.
The Zozobra Incident, the first book of the series featuring BJ Vinson as a gay Albuquerque confidential investigator, is due out on Tuesday, November 15. (It’s inching closer and closer.)
The second book in the series, The Bisti Business, is scheduled for publication in April 2017, and the third book, The City of Rocks, will follow that one by about four months. The fourth novel in the series, The Lovely Pines, is currently finding its way out of my pen onto paper. (Well, let’s get real… from my computer into OneDrive.) My adopted home, the great state of New Mexico, shares the spotlight with the characters in my novels.
The blurb for Zozobra reads: B. J. Vinson is a former marine and ex-Albuquerque PD detective turned confidential investigator. Against his better judgment, BJ agrees to find the gay gigolo who was responsible for his breakup with prominent Albuquerque lawyer Del Dahlman and recover some racy photographs from the handsome bastard. The assignment should be fast and simple.
But it quickly becomes clear the hustler isn’t the one making the anonymous demands, and things turn deadly with a high-profile murder at the burning of Zozobra on the first night of the Santa Fe Fiesta. BJ’s search takes him through virtually every stratum of Albuquerque and Santa Fe society, both straight and gay. Before it is over, BJ is uncertain whether Paul Barton, the young man quickly insinuating himself in BJ’s life, is friend or foe. But he knows he’s stepped into something much more serious than a modest blackmail scheme. With Paul and BJ next on the killer’s list, BJ must find a way to put a stop to the death threats once and for all.
In the following scene, which comes at the end of Chapter 2, our protagonist, BJ Vinson, has located Emilio Prada, the gay hustler who’s supposedly trying to blackmail BJ’s ex, Del Dahlman, with some sordid photographs. They are driving in the Far Northeast Heights of Albuquerque looking for the home of a “trick” who copied a couple of the photos. I hope it snags your interest.
I glanced nervously at Emilio sitting silently beside me in the Impala. He was leading us down a meandering road in the remote far Northeast Heights. Lampposts were infrequent. My headlights were the only bright spot in the deep night. Sandia Peak with its corona of blinking, red-tipped TV antennae and the Cibola National Forest crowded us on the east. The Sandia Indian Reservation blocked the way north.
This was one of the ritzy sections well outside of the city limits where front yards were left desert wild, except for cement driveways snaking across the hardpan to anchor the buildings to the roadway. Most of the landscape was vacant, but an occasional rambling house hunkered down beside some dusty road with a name like Black Bear Lane or Calle del Oso. Albuquerqueans were big on bears.
Although it occurred to me that the good-looking creep might be planning something, it was more likely he was simply lost. It was hard enough finding an address out here in the daytime, much less at midnight.
“Shit,” he mumbled. “It all looks different.”
“You leading me around by the nose?”
“Naw, I swear man. I figured I could find the guy any time I wanted.” His teeth gleamed in the faint moonlight as he smiled weakly. “He give me a hundred-dollar tip. But this don’t look familiar.”
“Okay, you’re coming home with me for the night. I’m going to lock you in the basement. We’ll try it again tomorrow.”
“You can’t do that. That’s kidnapping or something.”
“Maybe so, but that’s the way it is.”
“Go on down the road. Let’s try some more. I got a woman waiting for me, man.”
“She’s long gone by now. But we’ll give it another few minutes.”
As we plowed on through the darkness, the first car we’d seen in an hour of wandering the foothills came roaring up on us from the rear. Its sudden appearance made me nervous, but the massive Caddy Escalade roared by in a cloud of dust as I pulled to the side of the road.
“That’s him!” Emilio threw a wiry arm toward the windshield. “That’s the dude’s big fucking tank.”
“Yeah. That’s him, I tell you.”
“Emilio, if you’re lying—”
“I ain’t. I swear. Follow the Caddy.”
Half a mile farther down the dusty road, the vehicle turned left at an intersection that was invisible until you were practically through it.
“That rock. I remember that rock.” Emilio jabbed a finger at a huge boulder on the far side of the roadway. “Yeah, remember that rock.” The excitement in his voice convinced me he was on the up-and-up—at least for now.
As my Impala maneuvered the sharp turn, the other vehicle pulled into the driveway of a rambling affair almost as massive as the C&W. I killed my lights and eased down the rough gravel road in time to see a husky, silver-haired man come around the car and open the door for an elaborately coiffed woman. His wife, most likely. The trick with Emilio had merely been a little dessert on the side. This was obviously a prosperous couple returning from a night out.
By the glare of the motion-activated intruder light over the garage, the man seemed somehow familiar. After memorizing his license plate to jot down in my pocket notebook later, I motored past the house and turned on my headlamps. It took another half hour to find our way out of the maze of roads.
When we finally arrived back on Tramway Road, a paved, well-lighted street, I headed straight for the C&W parking lot, using the time to extract details of Emilio’s assignation with the mystery man. Misunderstanding, he gave a smirk.
“You get off on that, huh? You know, hearing ’bout me doing it with other dudes.”
“In your dreams, asshole. I’m going to get inside that house, and the things you saw are going to prove to me you’re not lying. And the details you’re going to give me about the man are going to prove to him I know what happened.”
“You gonna face the dude down? Hey, man, he give me a big tip. You gonna mess it up for me.”
Emilio sulked the rest of the way. Nonetheless, I managed to pry a couple of details about his night with the man out of him. As Emilio crawled out of my car in the parking lot, I handed him a couple of bills.
“There’s a leather shop on Fourth and Griegos. They’ll repair the cut in your rear seat. You won’t even know it was ripped.”
I used the rearview mirror to watch him watch me pull out of the parking lot and turn west. All the way down the long hill toward the Rio Grande, I puzzled over how the beautiful, loving acts Del and I had engaged in so many times looked so sordid in the photographs burning a hole in my jacket pocket.
I’m an Okie who graduated from college in Texas with a degree in government and history. After serving in the US Army, I found gainful employment in Denver, Colorado where I met my future wife. Then we moved to Albuquerque, where I lost her to pneumonia. Despite that tragedy, New Mexico has become my adopted state. I hope my love for the place shows in my work.
I do a weekly blog centering on my writing and my personal foibles at dontravis.com. A member of SouthWest Writers, New Mexico’s largest writing association, I teach a writing class at one of Albuquerque’s multigenerational centers.
Again, thanks to The Novel Approach and DSP Publications for this great opportunity.