Nana’s Buick shakes and coughs as the engine turns off, and the driver’s door screeches open like a prehistoric bird.For the rest of the extract, jump on over here …
Win pockets the key, wonders why Farouk the landlord is sitting on the back steps, lighting a cigarette. Since when does he smoke, and he’s breaking his own rule. No
smoking, no lighting matches or grills, not so much as a spark is allowed on the grounds of his nineteenth-century brick apartment building, a former school, impeccably
maintained and rented to privileged people. Or in Win’s case, to someone who earns his keep. It’s past midnight.
“Either you just started a nasty new habit or something’s up,” says Win.
“An ugly shorty was looking for you,” Farouk says, a dish towel under him, probably so he doesn’t get dirt on his ill-fitting white suit.
“She calls herself my shorty?” Win says. “Or is that what you’re calling her?”
“She say it, not me. I don’t know what it is.”
“Gang slang for girlfriend,” Win says.
“See! I knew she was a gangster! I knew it! That’s why I’m this upset! I don’t want peoples like that, try very hard to keep things the right way.” In his heavy accent. “These peoples you see in your job, they come here, I have to ask you to move out! My tenants will complain and I will lose my leases!”
“Easy going, Farouk . . .”
“No! I let you here for this unbelievable good price to protect me from bad peoples, and then they come here, these very ones you’re supposed to keep away!” He jabs his finger at Win. “Good thing no one but me sees her! I’m very upset. Peoples like that show up here, and you let me down. You have to move.”
“What did she look like, and tell me exactly what happened.” Win sits next to him.
“I come home from dinner and this white girl come from nowhere like a ghost ..”
“Where? Here in back? Were you sitting out here smoking when she showed up?”
“I got very upset and so I go to visit José across the street to have a beer and see if he know anything about the shorty, ever seen her, and he said no. So he give me a
cigarette or two. I only smoke when I get very stressed, you know. I don’t want you to have to move, you know.”
Win tries again. “What time was it when she showed up, and where were you? Inside your apartment?”
“I just was dropped off from dinner, so I’m thinking maybe nine o’clock, and you know I always come in from back here, and as I walk up these steps, there she is like a ghost out of a movie. Like she was waiting. I never seen her before and have no idea. She say to me, ‘Where’s the policeman?’ I say, “What policeman,’ Then she says, ‘Geronimo’.”
“She said that?” Few people know his nickname. Mostly cops.
“I swear,” Farouk says.
“It’s hard to see, you know. I should get lights. A cap on, big pants and short. Skinny.”
“What makes you think she’s involved in gang activity? Aside from my telling you what a shorty is.”
“The way she talk. Like a black person even though she white. And very rough talk, street talk, said a lot of bad words.” He repeats a few of them. “And when I say I don’t know a policeman named Geronimo, because I protect you always, she cuss me some more and say she knows you live here, and she hand me this.” He slides an envelope out of his jacket pocket. “I don’t want those gang peoples. Don’t need drugs and shootings around here.”
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Yon Patricia Cornwell’s Got Some FRONT, Hasn’t She?
Our newest VBFs, the chaps and chapesses at The Times, get in touch to let us know that they’re running an extract from Patricia Cornwell’s latest, THE FRONT, the gist of which runneth thusly: