Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Blue Cheer

Writer Ed Lynsky's new novel, The Blue Cheer, has now been published by PointBlank Press, an imprint of Wildside Press.

Synopsis for The Blue Cheer

My murder mystery novel manuscript, The Blue Cheer, runs about 68,000 words parsed into 29 chapters and occurs in October 2002. Narrated by Frank Johnson in first person point-of-view, it opens with his having just moved to the West Virginia outback. Frank is a divorced thirty-something part-time gunsmith and PI who moved from the fictitious small town of Pelham, Virginia. He likes his bluegrass country music and whiskey (even if he’s supposed to be on the wagon). The move to West Virginia has made him lax and carefree. That will change.

While Frank is fixing dinner, he hears a bizarre hum flying over his mountain cabin. He races outside and gapes up as a Stinger rocket blasts something out of the twilight sky. His hopes for a new, tranquil life far away from his bad experiences in the PI trade go up with the explosion’s smoke and fire. He telephones Old Man Maddox, a retiree neighbor with a CIA background, for aid and they go report the incident to the incredulous sheriff’s department in Scarab, West Virginia.

Frank relies on his criminal investigative skills and soon catches wind of a cult calling themselves “The Blue Cheer.” His initial probes peg it for a white supremacist group who dislikes Frank’s partnership with Old Man, an African-American. When Old Man’s wife, Jan Maddox, is found murdered, they conclude The Blue Cheer has also targeted them for knowing about the Stinger rocket. After the still apathetic sheriff blows them off, they opt to act on their own.

Sheriff Deputy Goines next arrests Frank on trumped up vagrancy charges and roughs up Frank during an interrogation. Old Man calls up Frank’s lawyer back in Virginia, Robert Gatlin. Gatlin arrives in time for the arraignment hearing helps Frank make bail. Old Man and Frank resume their pursuit of The Blue Cheer. They visit a fire tower on a summit located between their cabins. Andes, an aspiring crime novelist and MFA candidate, spent the summer there on a dubious fire patrol. Andes has returned to college. Before leaving, Andes asked Frank to keep an eye on things at the fire tower. But Frank has bigger worries.

A subplot is Frank’s cousin Rod Bellwether on death row at Bitterroot Prison in Virginia reaching out for Frank’s help. Time runs short for Rod but his claims of innocence for not having slain his wife seem credible enough. Frank drives down from Pelham to visit Rod and reluctantly agrees to assist him. Second thoughts, however, help to persuade Frank to leave Pelham for his West Virginia mountain retreat and forget about Rod’s problems.

Unfortunately, Rod doesn’t go away that easily. Gatlin notifies Frank that Rod has broken out of Bitterroot Prison and counsels Frank on damage control. Frank and Old Man race over the mountains to maximum-security Bitterroot Prison and meet with its enraged warden. The only way that Frank can absolve himself for complicity in Rod’s escape is to recapture him.

That night with Frank and Old Man staying at a nearby motel, two gunmen storm into their room. The assassins kill Old Man but Frank manages to bring down the assassins. Distraught, he calls on Gerald Peyton, a fearless if not reckless bounty hunter back home. Gerald comes to join Frank. They arrive in time for Jan Maddox’s autopsy in Scarab. Forensic evidence is uncovered that implicates The Blue Cheer as Jan’s killer.

The novel’s final murder reveals who The Blue Cheer really is -- a vengeful atheist enclave with terrorist ambitions. Frank and Gerald find Jan’s preacher, Zelma Roe, killed in a local church. Zelma has kept a journal about The Blue Cheer harassing her as well as drawn a map leading to their remote compound in a National Park forest. Gerald and Frank team up with Old Man’s sister, Betty Maddox. Gerald contacts his friend with the West Virginia State Police, Lieutenant Craig Logan. But time is critical and Betty, Frank, and Gerald strike out for the compound. They sneak in under the fence when a fierce gun battle breaks out. Frank goes after The Blue Cheer member who slips away.

Frank spends a cold, scary night on a mountaintop with the fanatical Andes now his prisoner and exacts some surprising answers. Andes the would-be novelist is the leader of The Blue Cheer. Sheriff Deputy Goines is also involved. They claim credit for the murders of Jan Maddox and Zelma Roe. The next morning Frank marched Andes back to the compound now safely in the hands of Lieutenant Logan and local authorities. Gerald figures out where The Blue Cheer cached the Stinger rockets.

Frank in the final chapter attends the funerals for Zelma Roe, Old Man Maddox, and Jan Maddox. Afterward Rod turns up at Frank’s cabin but Frank is now on to Rod’s guile. He goes back to Bitterroot Prison. A now sober Frank also decides to end his mountain man experiment and return to Pelham. Robert Gatlin, elated, has urgent PI work waiting for him.

The Blue Cheer is written in a stylish, modern hardboiled voice. Its topical interest is based on my own professional expertise. For 18 years I wrote the technical manuals for building the Stinger rockets. My research includes interviews with the West Virginia Chief Medical Examiner, West Virginia State Police, West Virginia Clerk of Court, a forensic pathologist, and an autopsy assistant.

THE BLUE CHEER (Point Blank/Wildside Press, February 2006) ISBN: 6844/0-8095-5667-7 (SRP $12.95 trade paperback original) ARCs sent out for review at major media outlets. Nationally distributed to bookstores through Diamond Comics (2500-3000 offset print copies). Edited by 2004 CWA-nominee and 2006 EDGAR-nominee Al Guthrie. Dustjacket blurbs: Ken Bruen, Bill Pronzini, Ed Gorman, Jerry Healy, and John Lescroart.