Giovanni's Bones



Giovanni's Bones
By: Leonard Palmer

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The fourth book in the Johnny Jump series...


     It is the week of July 4th, 1947, two years after the great victory in World War Two, in a small factory city in the Chicago Milwaukee corridor. A man and a woman, artist and model, are at work in the basement of a corner grocery store in an immigrant neighborhood of that city. The model is pregnant and nude. The artist is father of the soon to be born baby, and he works slowly, lovingly, as he transfers the spirit of the mother and her unborn child to his empty canvas. The baby is due, and soon, and what the young parents will do after it is born is of great concern to the both of them. They should not have gotten close. They should have not become lovers. And they certainly should not have conceived this child, not in the America of 1947, and not in a city filled with old world immigrants with old world values.
     Fast forward to the weekend of July 4th, 1976. It is the year of the Bicentennial, America's 200th birthday. The city is already alive with excitement. Fireworks are popping. Gunfire is popping. People are in both a celebratory and riotous mood.
     Not Johnny Jump. He finds himself standing in a lonely hospital room, watching an old lady gasp for breath as she struggles through her last few days on earth. Johnny doesn't want to be here. He needs to be in his cab, hustling fares to make the rent on the apartment he shares with the beautiful Catherine Dupree to buy paints and brushes and canvas to create art. But Catherine Dupree is gone, off on one of her cloak and dagger missions, with a promised return on the 5th.
     The man who dragged Johnny to this unwanted tryst with a dying woman is one Crispus Attucks Smith, a dwarf of stunted proportions but with a Promethean intellect. Smith wants Johnny to assist him in trying to find the whereabouts of Giovanni Crespi, the dying woman's son who went missing nearly three decades before. Crespi was a talented artist whose few surviving works had recently been discovered by the New York art world and were now commanding record prices. There are rumors that there are other works extant, but no one knows where.
     Against his better judgment Johnny agrees to assist Smith in his search for the missing artist and give the old woman closure not out of a humanitarian urge, but because he considers Smith to be a kindred spirit. One quarter black, one quarter Jewish half Polish ex-con and war hero Johnny has been an outsider his entire life. He has nappy blonde hair, blue eyes and a complexion he describes as ''cafe au lait.'' He doesn't belong in the black world, he doesn't belong in the white world. Like the stunted Smith, Johnny operates on society's fringes.
     In their three day search for the missing artist, Johnny and Smith run up against a cast of colorful, and lethal, characters in a working class neighborhood down on its luck. There is self-styled artist Portia D'Uberville, who was a friend and confidant of Giovanni Crespi and may know more than she is revealing, Quentin Quincy Quixote Quillen, known to his friends as ''Q,'' the New York art critic who first discovered Crespi and has returned in search of the fabled missing paintings, ''Nails'' del Frate, hood extraordinaire, and his simian leg breaker Bobby Calabrese. And there is Crip and Pug, the crippled junk yard dealer and his junk yard dog, a malevolent duo that cut a wide and dangerous path on the city's streets. Every clue Johnny and Smith follow seems to lead them back to the junkyard, and the man with the twisted legs who owns the acres of twisted metal behind his razor wire topped barbed wire fence.
     What happened to Giovanni Crespi those many years ago? Had he hidden himself away somewhere, and was he now creating great works of art for art's sake? Had he fled the city, and renounced his art, and was perhaps working at some menial job in some menial city? Or has he been dead all these years, buried in an anonymous grave?
     In his quest to find the missing artist Johnny Jump comes face to face with some inconvenient truths about himself as he battles against an overwhelming tide of local sin and corruption that blocks his path at every twist and turn of his quest. The bodies pile up as the awful truth of what happened all those years ago slowly reveals itself in . . . 
     . . . Giovanni's Bones.




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