Coming Soon: One Arm Willy and the Hand Jive

Synopsis:
April, 1975.

Life just doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with cabbie-artist Johnny Jump. Having helped rid his rust belt city of a dangerous, corrupt alderman and his murderous paramour he now finds himself under threat of violent termination from the underworld associates of the recently expired elected official. He is told in no uncertain terms by the local police that he must disappear. His very presence is hampering their investigation into the labyrinthine criminal dealings of local government, so Johnny is ordered to leave town, and pronto.

Johnny’s good friend and recently-promoted Captain Leonard Featherstone of the PD suggests Johnny cool his heels in Featherstone’s home town of Jerusalem, a centuries old port town on the upper Mississippi River. Featherstone remembers Jerusalem fondly as an idyllic boyhood fantasy, and he offers to buy Johnny a one-way bus ticket and set him up with Featherstone’s Tenth Mountain Division buddy, former biker and combat veteran turned artist One-Arm Willy Stubbs. Willy will put up Johnny for the duration until it is safe to return and pick up the pieces. Best of all, Willy has agreed to set up a studio for Johnny in the sprawling former tobacco warehouse he calls home so Johnny can devote his time to creating art. Johnny learned in his two tours in the jungles of Viet Nam that sometimes discretion is the better part of valor so he takes the offer and that afternoon is on the bus north with a single military-issue duffle bag holding two changes of clothes, two bottles of whiskey and his paints and brushes in anticipation of a placid few months in God’s Country in the pursuit of Jim Beam and art.

Placid is not what he gets. No town he has ever visited in his many travels is more inaptly named than the ancient anchorage on the banks of the Big Muddy. God’s Country it is not. Its two main streets, one perched above the other on a steep hillside, run for a mile parallel to the river and contain a collection of ramshackle buildings housing residences, a grocery store, gas station, the town hall, elementary school and a barn-sized saloon, the hangout for the hardscrabble farmers who call New Jerusalem home. To them every outsider is an intruder, especially a one-quarter black, one-quarter Jewish, half-Polish city boy like Johnny. Their collective prejudices burn deep in the breast of Reanna Haley, the town constable and daughter of Frank Fink, saloon keeper and Jerusalem’s mayor. She hounds Johnny with a dogged tenacity and a feral hatred, determined to burn him for crimes both known and unknown, simply because he is who and what he is: a stranger in a strange land.

But the insanity doesn’t end there.

A mile east from the town on a flat plain sits a huge turn of the century stone farmhouse, four stories and forty rooms simply named “The Farm,” that has for the last five years been the home of a collection of ‘60s-vintage flower children, followers of a semi-religious visionary named Estella who is rumored to have messianic powers of healing. Estella has drawn a hodgepodge of believers, many of them young girls who traverse the grounds of the Farm outfitted in the skimpiest of clothing, and sometimes none at all. There are rumors of sexual orgies, hallucinogenic voyages and other perversions and these rumors have drawn a gaggle of bikers, dune buggy hipsters, crispy critters and ne’er-do-wells led by a former Chicago Outlaw with the handle of “Buckshot.” Buckshot and his followers have constructed a tent city a half mile from the Farm. They drink, fight, do drugs, and party through the night, raising so much hell that they have become a nuisance to both the residents of the town and those of the Farm. It is into this simmering stew of smoldering resentment and violence that Johnny Jump jumps, feet first and without any warning of what lies ahead.

Seething just below the surface of this Carnevale di pazzia Jerusalem is hiding a deep, dark secret, buried in furtive glances and whispers exchanged in dark corners. It threatens to boil over and finally explode and consume Johnny Jump, unless he can discover where the bodies are buried and who buried them, and why. It takes him on a roller coaster odyssey of love and life and death and ultimate revelation, and shakes him to very foundation of his being.

Will Johnny be able to ride out the coming storm and survive unscathed?

Only time . . . and endless effusions of blood . . . will resolve the conflict.                                          

You can take a peek at and purchase my other two Johnny Jump novels at www.lennypalmer.com.

Chapter 1 & 2 of Tricky Dick Nixon and the Five Naked Nuns

 July 31, 1974

I damned near ran over the corpse.

I’ve seen plenty of dead men, and plenty of violent death in Viet Nam, and you could say I’d become immune to the shock, but this dead man gave me a jolt. I thought at first it was a raccoon, one of those big sons of bitches that live in the city’s sewers and whose bulging eyes are frequently trapped in my cab’s headlights as they creep out of the concrete caverns they call home. Or maybe a porcine urban rat, one that scurried off a thick docking rope tied to one of the ocean-going ships anchored in the harbor; the kind that morph to the size of puppies. Or an alley cat; the thirty-plus pounders that every animal in the city gave a wide birth, or risk a world-class ass-whipping. But it wasn’t any expired metropolitan wildlife bathed in my cab’s beams. It was a dead man sprawled out in the middle of the road, legs bifurcated, arms spread crucifix-style, face pressed against the pavement like some half-assed Jesus ashamed to look heavenward and face his Dad.

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Out Cold

City Hall occupied a five-story red brick building a few blocks off of the lakefront. A former bicycle factory turned discount furniture warehouse, it had been purchased by the city after the company went bankrupt and was retrofitted to accommodate city offices and the city council chambers. Its monolithic cold brick facade reminded me of the anonymous prisons of fascist governments, where innocent civilians entered and none ever returned. I imagined people on the streets outside hurrying by, covering their ears to muffle the screams of the tortured inside, hoping against hope that if they kept their heads down and their mouths shut they could slide under the radar of the gendarmerie but knowing deep down inside that soon it would be they whose screams would float through the halls and out into the street as thuggish secret police beat false confessions out of them.

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Cicero Dies, Part Three

Myron "Chick" Skurnick was the last of the old-time bartenders. He still wore a white apron, folded and tied tightly around his ample waist. He also always wore a smile, no matter how difficult the customer. His cheeks were bubble-gum pink. His military-style crew cut, though gray, stood at attention and although he had a grandfatherly look it belied the fact that he was one tough son of a bitch, an inside player in local Democratic party circles. When it came to politics Chick Skurnick was all assholes and elbows, and if you crossed him he would put you down, hard.

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