Poisoned Pen Press
November 1, 2009
March 2010 -- exciting news! Frag Box has officially been named as a finalist in the 2010 Minnesota Book Awards.
Herman Jackson leads a quiet life as a bail bondsman in St. Paul, nicely distanced from his never-to-be-mentioned past as a bookie and numbers man in Detroit. But lately his quiet life is just one damn thing after another. His cash flow is more like a monetary hemorrhage, a mobster is trying to take over his business, and a couple of over-zealous Secret Service agents refuse to believe he does not know the identity of a contracted presidential assassin. To make matters worse, both the mobster and the agents are dangerously close to uncovering his criminal past. He’s been dealt worse hands, but offhand, he can’t remember when.
Charlie Victor is a homeless man, a burnt out Vietnam vet who has no obvious means of support but always has money when he needs it. He claims to have a huge secret stash of money, called his frag box. He keeps it, he says, to hire hit men to kill “bad” public officials. Jackson thinks he’s a harmless nut case, though a reliable regular customer. But when Victor is brutally murdered and both the Secret Service and some mysterious non-uniformed military types tear apart the homeless community looking for the box, he thinks again. Then he learns that he is Victor’s sole legal heir, and the race to find the box suddenly becomes very personal. It will take him from the dark byways of St. Paul’s Railroad Island to the snowbound Minnesota Iron Range and ultimately to a shootout in an abandoned machinery tunnel under the Mississippi River bluffs.
The key to the box and the murder seems to lie somewhere in Victor’s time in the jungles of Vietnam. But the more Jackson probes into that past, the more he keeps running into his own demons from a wasted youth in riot-torn Detroit. And the closer he gets to the box, the more his carefully constructed façade of lies begins to fall apart. Finding it could be more success than he can afford. It could, in fact, be the death of him.
Read an Excerpt
It was a day for pocket billiards, snow, and death. The snow came in the late afternoon, in fat, globular flakes that swirled in the eddies of the urban canyons, stuck to the rough brick of old buildings, and covered the streets in a layer of slush for cars to splash onto pedestrians. On the windows of Lefty's Pool Hall and Saloon in downtown St. Paul, they dribbled down the dirty glass and made mushy heaps on the sills, leaving crooked, wet trails behind them.
I was inside Lefty's at the time, shooting eight ball with Wide Track Wilkie. And while the hapless man on the street below was lost in a world of pain and despair, we were lost in the click of the balls and the smell of smoke and stale beer and the electric tension of money being put in harm's way.
Read an Excerpt from Frag Box...
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For a signed or personalized copy of Frag Box, contact:
Once Upon a Crime
604 West 26th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55405
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