Think of it. Nary a wizard, hobbit, or vampire. Not even a talking dragon. What a burn. But herein waits ambrosia for the lover of great prose and fecund imagination. Everything, dude, doesn't have to be about questing pubescent loner-heroes. So drop that skateboard, put down that lightsaber and . . . emigrate. Then text your friends and tell 'em all who set you straight.
Excerpt from CANYON KILLER:
Half-memories swirl like falling leaves: a jogger . . . a wandering bard . . . a young photographer. Victims mangled and mutilated. Tension razzles my nervous system in little electric waves. Dirty whites. Have they found the old man yet—the bills are burning in my pockets. Wolf down the coffee, ignore the pain. Too paranoid to order a refill. But I’ll have to do some more caffeine; anything that will help me stay awake.
Dawn is breaking as I grope along the sidewalk. I’m gonna swoon, man. What is it that makes a man fall asleep on his feet? Oscar won’t be out until dark. Even assholes have rhythm.
Helicopters sweep the hills in the semi-darkness, their searchlights’ beams jerking this way and that. You can make out the call of their rotors as they move between crests.
To my left, an old woman sits slumped against a market wall. She raises a languid arm and smiles gummily. What does she want: money . . . company . . . sympathy? I blow her off until I see a sheriff’s car climbing the hill, then instinctively sit behind her, away from the road. She grabs my hand and jabbers her psychedelic whatnot while I peer around her, see the car slow and continue up the road. My mind refocuses.
“I read you,” she’s saying, gripping my hand with passion. “Sleep. Sleep is your problem.” I try to pull away but she only clings tighter.
“What do you want, man? Money?” I pull out a twenty and hold it in her face. She snatches the bill like a bullfrog catching a gnat, shoves it in her bra with one claw, takes my paused hand with the other.
“You are hiding,” she drones. “You are on the run.”
“F—k you, lady. Let go of my hand.” I push myself upright. She’s trying to haul me back down when her eyes shoot open and her jaw drops.
“No! It’s you!”
“I said,” I snarl, “let . . . go!” Pull myself free, bang around the wall and slump down the bricks, my head brimming with sleep’s cement. Pedestrians pop out of nowhere. Traffic picks up. It’s all a buzz, man, I can’t stay awake. Feel my way around the shop . . . a space behind garbage bins. Don’t close your eyes, jerkoff, stay awake! Don’t close your eyes.
He’s slinking ahead, but not so hazily, not so irresistibly. I could reach him, if only I could break free of this mucus. And I know where he’s going; I can feel his want.
He moves like smoke, seeping between buildings. Just a shape: a head and torso impelled by four liquid limbs; a spectral spider. He doesn’t look back, though I scream myself hoarse.
Down a broken walkway to a gutted cottage, stripped black by wildfire. I’m almost on him when he reaches the sleeping old woman, but my arms and legs lock into a slow-motion spacewalk, my long howl of protest splinters and fades.
He has her by the throat now, he’s lifting her up the wall and choking her for all he’s worth. I can’t stop him, but for one crazy moment he pauses to look behind. I’m drifting back out of reach, my fingers cramping, as the woman’s head bobs and bounces, as her arms slap left and right on the wall. Then, with one final, impassioned squeeze, the nosy old witch is silenced.