Join author Carlyle Clark on his Virtual Book Tour for The Black Song Inside, presented by Pump Up Your Book, from December 2 – February 28, 2014. Please leave a comment or question for Carlyle to let him know you stopped by. You can enter his tour wide giveaway by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. You can also follow the rest of his tour here.
Stephen King’s Influence
This is a guest post written by Carlyle Clark, author of mystery thriller, The Black Song Inside.
Some writers’ greatest joy is to bring characters to life and share them with others. A skillful writer has the ability to enthrall and entertain no matter what the genre. What a feeling! To touch people, make them cry, laugh, bite their nails, wipe their brows with anticipation, and to ask the question all writers hope to inspire - what happens next?
My favorite genres for both reading and writing are crime fiction and fantasy, but I am also a fan of the prolific master, Stephen King. I’m not a fan of horror novels, but he’s the only novelist whose short story collections I sometimes prefer and I’ll read anything he does that’s not horror, like his epic Gunlslinger novels. He puts his down-home characters in the most horrific situations, often immersing them in bodily fluids that King is so fond of describing, and I’m not all that fond of visualizing or worse, smellilizing. However, King has one specific talent with which he rises above the rest - the uncanny ability to imbue each character with a unique voice. The words he gives them serve to show the reader exactly who these people are, and that creates a powerful connection. We care for them, feel their terror, wish them well, and mourn their gruesome deaths.
King said something that made a great impression on me when I began writing seriously - “We want your hearts”. That made me wonder - how does a writer touch a heart? By designing the cleverest of plots? By making up fantastical settings? Those things are wonderful, but they are not enough. There is only one element, if skillfully executed, that has that magic power. It lies with the characters that occupy that bustling space in every writer’s mind and the voices with which they speak.
Sure, there are some stories that you are awed by and enjoy because of some aspect or another, a surprising plot twist, or a fascinating mystery, but the majority of tales you cherish are because the characters have moved you and stayed with you for a very long time - like the best of friends, or the very worst of nightmares and I hope that I have included both types of characters in The Black Song Inside.
Title: The Black Song InsideAuthor: Carlyle Clark
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Format: Paperback, Kindle, AudiobookPurchase at AMAZONAbout the book:Atticus Wynn and Rosemary Sanchez, newly engaged private investigators, have seen the dark and violent side of life. Nothing, though, has prepared them for an explosive murder investigation that threatens to tear their relationship apart as they struggle to solve a case that could leave them in prison or dead.Atticus’s manipulative ex-girlfriend bursts back into their lives wielding a secret about Rosemary’s family that she exploits to force the couple into investigating the execution-style slaying of her lover. The case thrusts Atticus and Rosemary headlong into the world of human trafficking and drug smuggling, while rendering them pawns in Tijuana Cartel captain Armando Villanueva’s bloody bid to take over the cartel.The Black Song Inside is a vivid crime thriller rife with murder and madness, melded with gallows humor and the heroism of two flawed and compelling protagonists who, if they can save themselves, may learn the nature of redemption and the ability to forgive.
This is an adult excerpt with adult language and themes. Intended for 18+ years of age.
ATTICUS WYNN’S GAZE locked on the distorted twin reflections of himself in Detective Meadows’s sunglasses as he prepared to spur himself toward an action that had, for countless people, led to immediate and violent death.
The two men stood in Atticus’s driveway, facing each other a body length apart. Bloated clouds riddled with darkness, threatening to add to San Diego’s record summer rainfall, bunched and rolled across the noon sky as though something large and better unseen moved restlessly inside them. The moisture and heat conspired to transform the air into the breath of a beast.
Detective Meadows stood spread-legged in a pair of khakis, his palms upturned, fingers hooked. His gray golf shirt bulged across his waist, but his arms and shoulders were humped with muscle. His smile was as unnatural as his gel-spiked hair. “Are you going to help us out or not” he asked. “We’re just looking for some professional courtesy here.”
Atticus, back to the wall of his Spanish-style stucco home, hands jammed beneath his armpits with the thumbs skyward, narrowed his eyes. Professional courtesy? That meant Meadows knew Atticus was a private investigator. The subtext was also clear--tell us what you know or lose your license. What had Claire gotten him into? No way to know but to go with Meadows. Before he did however, there was one ploy he could try. It was risky, perhaps fatal. Like every other African-American man, Atticus’s elders had jack-hammered into him the need to never surprise a cop, and he never had, until now.
Atticus lunged into Detective Meadows’s personal space, his face wrangled into a grin. His hand darted up to clutch and squeeze the tall man’s shoulder as he said, “I’d be glad to help.”
The detective flinched, shoulder flexing under Atticus’s palm, fair-skinned cheeks roaring with redness. Atticus stepped back, hands dangling at his sides. He gauged Meadows’s reaction, expecting threats, a tirade, a freckled fist crashing into his jaw--anything but a conciliatory nod and a thin-lipped grin like a slit in an overripe peach.
The black-veined clouds felt very close then, their shadows obscuring the rules of the world Atticus knew. In his experience, men like Meadows considered every encounter a confrontation and would have it no other way. What could motivate him to meet Atticus with such a commitment to faux friendliness?
The detective stepped over to his gray, unmarked cruiser; its buggy whip antenna, fastened into an arc like a scorpion’s tail, quivered with the opening of the door. The back door.
“What happened to professional courtesy?” Atticus said.
Meadows held the smile, the tendons in his neck as taut with potential as the power lines overhead. “Regulations”.
“Of course,” Atticus said, walking toward the cruiser. “What other reason could there be?”
An hour later in police headquarters, Atticus had spent forty-five minutes alone in an interrogation room that reeked of ammonia and fear, with no idea whether his wait was to last seconds or hours. He expected that. It’s part of how they break you. The waiting and wondering make you feel powerless even when you know that’s what it’s supposed to do. If it were important, they’d talk to you immediately, right? So it’s probably no big deal. No need to keep your guard up. By the time they finally come for you, you’re desperate to talk yourself out of your situation. And getting you anxious and talking is what interrogation is all about.
In the age of the smartphone, the isolation ploy doesn’t work as well with a cooperative witness like Atticus. But smartphones create problems too. Like trying to explain why you didn’t call your fiancee, who’s also your partner in your PI business, the moment you had a chance. Pondering Rosemary’s reaction, Atticus shook his head.
No way could he actually talk to her. She’d hear the stress in his voice before he finished his first sentence. And what could he say? “Why am I stressed, honey? Well, the cops are questioning me. Why you ask? Well, it’s like this. Remember Claire? That’s right--my ex, Claire. You know, the sister of your former fiance who killed himself after you dumped him? The one who despises you, swore she’d never forgive you. Well, funny thing, hon. Guess what! She’s blackmailing me into helping her beat a murder charge. What has she got on me, you ask? What could she possibly blackmail me with? Oh nothing. Nothing at all. Actually, the person she’s got something on is you.”
He compromised and texted Rosemary, asking her to shoot him as much info as she could on Meadows ASAP.
Meadows shoved the door open and marched in with a man he introduced as Detective Morales, his partner. Morales stood behind Meadows, thumbs hooked in his belt, and smiled vaguely at Atticus. He seemed to be trying for harmless, but stocky and clad in a bright-banded shirt, his dark-skinned face spattered with nodules and pockmarked, black-pebble eyes measuringly cold, and a bald head, he looked like a Gila monster eyeing a wounded rabbit.
Meadows sat at the head of the table and plunked down a tape recorder. “We’re going to play a 911 call. Please tell us if you recognize the voice of the caller or have any idea what she’s talking about.”
Atticus nodded, suspecting the real reason they wanted to play it for him without a hint of what it was about was to keep him from having the chance to guard his reaction. That didn’t worry him. His childhood had trained him to hide his feelings well. The question was how was he going to glean more information than he gave?
“911, what’s your emergency?” the dispatcher said.
“There’s a girl,” a woman said, choking back tears. “She needs help.”
“Is she there with you?”
“No, no, oh God help me. I left her out there.”
“Left here where, ma’am?”
“In the desert. She was dying and I . . .I just left her there. You have to understand! She was already dying. There was nothing I could have done. It was hours ago. She’s dead by now anyway.”
Meadows leaned toward Atticus. Morales seemed to stop breathing, but who can tell with a Gila monster?
Then came the sound of five quick thwacks that sounded like the receiver was being banged against something while the woman repeated “fuck” over and over.
“Listen, ma’am,” the dispatcher said, “you need to calm down and tell me who you are, where you are, and where the girl is. We can send people to give you whatever help you need.”
The woman was suddenly back, her voice tight and venomous. “You can send me whatever help I need? That’s so wonderful. Can you send someone who can tell me how to get my soul back?”
“It’s a very simple fucking question! Can you send me someone who can help me get my fucking soul back, or can't you?”
“Ma’am, you need to calm--“
“GOD HELP ME!” the woman shrieked.
There was banging again, but this sounded different, not something hard against something hard, but soft against hard. The woman’s crying grew fainter, along with the sound of footsteps walking away, and then came the roar of a car engine and the squeal of tires. The tape ended.
“What was that at the end there?” Atticus asked. He hadn’t recognized the voice or had a clue what was going on, which was good, for him at least. For that woman and that girl, the moon was closer than good.
Morales and Meadows glanced at each other. Morales shrugged. Meadows said, “She was calling from one of those three-quarter phone booths. We’ve got a witness who said she went crazy at the end, banging the plastic with her fists, palms, elbows, her head, everything. Then she staggered away crying, got into a car, and drove away.”
“Was she alone?”
“Do you know what girl she was talking about?”
“The question is, Atticus, do you?”
“Not a clue.”
“When was the last time you saw Clarice Rousseau?”
Atticus blinked, paused, blurted too late, “About two hours ago.”
Morales tilted his head, his brow furrowing, a caricature of confusion.
Meadows leaned forward and said, “Took you awhile to remember. Weird, isn’t it?”
So much for not giving anything away, Atticus thought. Damn. He had been foolish to think he could spring a trap laid by professionals, snatch the bait, and spring away unscathed. Now they had him on the ropes, and the way to get off them was by swinging. “I wasn’t remembering. Just found it quite a coincidence that you would ask about her right after the first time I’ve seen her in years. You were following her, huh? Then you followed me. The timing’s about right. You ran my license, pulled my files, and then decided to drag me in here. But you came to see me alone, Detective. Isn’t that a break with your beloved regulations?”
Meadows’s blue eyes were almost as unreadable as his sunglasses were. “Was your meeting with Claire planned?”
“My lawyer said she wanted to see me. I met her there.”
“Why did she want to see you so bad?”
“Claire didn’t really want to see me,” Atticus said, skating the rim of a lie. “She was just hoping I would clean up her mess like I used to.”
“Mess?” Meadows asked.
“She said you guys think she killed her boyfriend, and the Tijuana Cartel thinks she has the drug money her boyfriend supposedly had.”
When the detectives heard “drug money”, their gazes sharpened.
Atticus couldn’t tell if he had surprised them or confirmed something they suspected.
“How much money?” Meadows asked.
“You guys don’t know?” Silent stone cop faces was the reply, so Atticus said, “Don’t know. Way she talked, it sounded like a lot.”
“Why come to you?”
“We dated in college. Maybe she thought I was still carrying a torch for her and would be eager to help her out.”
“Will you?” Meadows was poking around, feeling out whether Atticus was a broken-hearted puppet awaiting the return of his puppeteer, a pathetic man who would murder on command for a lover who’d scorned him.
Atticus shook his head. “Seeing her was the best thing that could have happened to me. Now I know I’ve moved on. I don’t wish her any ill, but she’s on her own.”
Meadows’s expression told Atticus that the last line sold it--the jilted lover taking a smidgen of pleasure in his ex’s pain, but not enough to be suspected of being the cause of it. Pettiness can be useful.
“Do you know a Steven Delacroix from Morgan City, Louisiana?”
“No, but I know he’s the victim,” Atticus said. Claire was from Morgan City, but she had never mentioned Delacroix back when she and Atticus were together.
Meadows and Morales eyed him expectantly. When you’re innocent, they expect you to proclaim it loudly and passionately, to anyone who will listen, but to Atticus that felt like begging, and begging he would never, ever do. But show emotion? That he could do, just by cracking open the bottle he kept it in. Instead, he stared into the space between the detectives, keeping his face pleasant and quizzical, knowing that few could bear a charged silence like the detectives had created. Atticus let the moment stretch.
What were the detectives really up to? Too many things from the moment Meadows stopped him in his driveway didn’t make sense. They were too loose with information without knowing what he knew. Like they needed him to know certain things. Could the interrogation be a ruse? If so, why? What did the girl and woman on the tape have to do with the murder of Claire’s boyfriend and the missing drug money?
Atticus knew that despite what primetime TV might say, cops never turn to civilians looking for Sherlock Holmesian feats of investigation. They use civilians as informants, willing or unwilling, knowing or unknowing, pawns pushed into battle with knights, bishops, rooks, and queens. As for the fate of the pawn, that’s on him. It’s a blame-the-victim world.
A dark mystery with adult themes, The Black Song Inside by Carlyle Clark, is not for the faint of heart. Well developed multicultural characters, an engaging mystery and plenty of emotional angst kept me turning the pages to discover what was going to happen next. Filled with frank and occasionally disturbing language, violence and the occasional racial slur, Mr. Clark’s story is engaging and reflective of the criminal underbelly of our society.Engaged to be married, private investigators Atticus Wynn and Rosemary Sanchez agree to investigate a “gangland” style murder and end up in the middle of a drug war in San Diego. While working their case, they uncover ties between the Tijuana Cartel and a man known only as “The Priest”. As they dig further into the case, Atticus and Rosemary will have to decide if uncovering the truth is worth everything they will endure.Mr. Carlyle does a good job developing both Atticus and Rosemary’s characters. An African-American male who grew up in abject poverty, Atticus is forced to deal with racial bigotry and a police department determined to frame him for something. Meanwhile, Rosemary, a Hispanic woman who grew up in the midst of a severely dysfunctional family, is dealing with the loss of her leg, from her years in the Army, and a bad case of PTSD. While their romance is not center stage (this is a mystery and not a romance), it’s clear to see they are good for each other and that being together is the only real “light” in their lives.The secondary characters, as well as the villains, are well developed and make large contributions to the story. Next to Atticus and Rosemary, the best developed character is “The Priest”; a strange man who believes he is the messenger of God and whose interference in their case really complicates matters. Especially since he’s somewhat of a mental deviant and has an agenda of his own which puts him in Atticus’ path.Will Rosemary and Atticus solve their investigation and survive the drug war they find themselves involved in? Will their relationship survive all of the secrets they uncover about each other? You’ll have to read The Dark Song Inside to find out. I enjoyed reading this story and I hope Mr. Carlyle has more adventures planned for these characters.
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.
About the Author:
Carlyle Clark was raised in Poway, a city just north of San Diego, but is now a proud Chicagolander working in the field of Corporate Security and writing crime and fantasy fiction. He has flailed ineffectually at performing the writer's requisite myriad of random jobs: pizza deliverer, curb address painter, sweatshop laborer, day laborer, night laborer, security guard, campus police, Gallup pollster, medical courier, vehicle procurer, and signature-for-petitions-getter.
He is a married man with two cats and a dog. He is also a martial arts enthusiast and a CrossFit endurer who enjoys fishing, sports, movies, TV series with continuing storylines, and of course, reading. Most inconsequentially, he holds the unrecognized distinction of being one of the few people in the world who have been paid to watch concrete dry in the dark. Tragically, that is a true statement.
His latest book is the mystery thriller, The Black Song Inside.
Visit his website at http://carlyleclark.wordpress.com/
Connect & Socialize with Carlyle!
Pump Up Your Book & Carlyle Clark are giving away a $100 Amazon Gift Card!
- By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
- One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the Accelerate Your Power Grand Prize.
- This giveaway begins December 2 and ends February 28.
- Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, March 3, 2013.
- Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!