What’s up … and who dunnit?

smoky cover-pizap.com14223749906101 copy 3Out of the haze of cigarette smoke and a sea of clustered dancers steps a very thin man. A gaunt man, with shuttered eyes betraying both sickness and a world of emotional hurt. Dashiell Hammett has come to Dun Linden on a covert assignment, and he meets his old friend Michael after seven years.

He’s astonished. Michael seems delighted. But Simon, refusing to admit how much he’s drawn to his handsome partner, is stricken by the sudden appearance of the man drawing Michael’s attention.

In a way this latest Gaslight Mystery comes full circle: from the day a year past when Michael first met his partner, to the anniversary of that well remembered occasion. But with a deadly mystery to solve and a new investigator in the mix, the men can never go back to the same relationship.

Before the debut of THIN AS SMOKE in a few days, I offer one more excerpt. This novel recounts a search:  For clues to a mystery which began as mundane but has turned deadly. For the trail of a missing private dick whose mind is on his dick and on saving his own neck. For the motives of a very thin man who can play any part to perfection—so what part is he playing now in the lives of Michael and Simon?

Here, the PIs are making sure “Sam” (Dashiell) Hammett has at least a place to sleep. Private even if not too swank …

~oOo~

Simon quickly arranged dormitory space for Sam. A small room with a tiny bed, close to lavatory facilities, overlooked an area of hedges and trees. The scant space seemed almost peaceful to Michael, who himself needed little in order to find body comfort and a refuge for his soul.

Sam flashed a smile, brief but genuine, Michael thought.

“Perfect, Simon.”

Simon downplayed his obvious pleasure at the compliment. “I cannot guarantee utmost privacy from someone who may have an ear glued to the wall in the next room.”

“As long as that person keeps his dick in his drawers, I’m okay with it.”

Again, Michael and Simon both laughed. He saw Simon was amused at the man’s flippant attitude about his own sexuality and the possibility of being accosted by another male. He himself, even while chuckling, was puzzled by Sam’s change from close-fitting dance partner to huffy hetero. He can play any part to perfection. So which role is he playing now?

~oOo~

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Find the first three Gaslight Mysteries on my Amazon author page:

http://amzn.to/1w8PVgI

And on my Amber Quill Press author page:

http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx

Thin as Smoke is currntly available at an introductory 35% discount here: http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2118-Thin-As-Smoke.aspx

Coming soon to Amazon dot com and dot uk and other dots near you!

Hammett, Gershwin, and O’Quinn

Dashiell Hammett, best known for his iconic novel The Maltese Falcon, struggled with tuberculosis most of his adult life. The portrait you’ll read of him in THIN AS SMOKE, however, is a creation of my frazzled brain and not a representation of the “real” Dashiell  Hammett, except insofar as a distinct personality emerges from reading his body of work.

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George Gershwin, beloved American composer of popular jazz and sophisticated orchestral pieces, was the son of Russian Jews. In Michael and Simon’s tavern, the music would have been heard on scratchy gramophones and even live, from the fingers and lips of jazz musicians for whom there were no international boundaries, only music.

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Both these fellows are imbedded in my new romcom mystery THIN AS SMOKE, each in a different way.

Hammett, the famous writer of hard-boiled crime novels, was really a Pinkerton Agency op from 1915 until 1922. And Gershwin wrote the hugely famous “The Man I Love” in 1924,* the year my story takes place.

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Those of you who’ve read the first Gaslight Mystery, Heart to Hart, already know the Pinkerton’s link with Michael. Because of this association, I postulate that my character had met Hammett, whom he calls “Sam,” on U.S. soil in 1917, right before the writer-to-be joined the WWI effort.

Almost impoverished, with a wife and newborn child to support, the tubercular, chain-smoking Hammett was living in San Francisco in 1924. And here’s where Erin O’Quinn’s imagination substitutes fiction for reality. It’s true that Hammett had bitterly turned away from the detection agency two years before (because of their anti-union activities, which I don’t mention in the book).

But needing money, he agrees to one last assignment for Pinkerton’s; and that covert operation takes him to Dun Linden, Ireland, back to the man he’d known Stateside seven years earlier.

And Simon, battling his inner demons—in love with Michael but refusing to admit his gayness … guilt-ridden over his ambivalent feelings—Simon does not like Hammett’s appearance and his teaming up with his PI partner Michael. Not one little bit.

Ironically, the man who’s “thin as smoke” comes between the two private investigators in a way that’s “hard as a fist,” and that tension drives the inner action of the book. The outer action hinges on two sets of mysteries, and the PIs must split up to investigate both.

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Now let’s segue to a lovely song … “The Man I Love” is a standard, usually sung by a female vocalist. But anyone who’s heard the lyrics knows it’s a tender yearning for love, no matter whether from one man to another or from a woman to a man.

The day Hammett shows up in their lives, he invites Michael to the dance floor in a gay tavern in order to discuss a secret op. The music they closely dance to, ironically, is Gershwin’s song. Simon sits listening, fantasizing, anguished, while his secret love is in the arms of a dangerously handsome man.tmil green

You may choose not to believe this. But the video I present below was totally new to me until a few weeks ago, months after I wrote the dance-floor scene with the Gershwin song. Watch it, and you may weep for its understated declaration of pure love, one man for another. I cannot see it without fighting down a lump in my throat.

One of life’s strange coincidences.

The song winds its way throughout the book, coming back like a leitmotif, and reprises in the Epilogue. Hearing that song in some crevice of his mind, Simon finally understands what he must do.

And the very thin one, Hammett? His very presence becomes the catalyst for profound change in the life of both Michael and Simon, in ways you’ll have to read about to understand.

Please click the link (not the arrow) and watch/listen!

http://youtu.be/rcdgKtT-i-k

nyc chorus

If you haven’t yet read the Gaslight Mysteries, I urge you to read them in order—both to avoid any spoiler of a few interesting quirks and quiddities; and especially for the developing relationship between Michael McCree and Simon Hart.

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Heart to Hart
Sparring with Shadows
To the Bone
Thin as Smoke http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2118-Thin-As-Smoke.aspx
Coming soon to Amazon dot com and dot uk.

Find all my novels on these author pages:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1w8PVgI
AmberQuillPress: http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx
OmniLit: http://bit.ly/1uxLxy4
Siren Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/erin-oquinn

*The music and lyrics were written in 1924 for inclusion in a Broadway musical but were later scrapped; and the song wasn’t heard as a single until 1927. So I’m pushing the boundaries a little for the sake of the story. So sue me …

Photos on this page from Yahoo! Images and from Wikipedia
Cover Images by Marion Sipe and Trace Edward Zaber

Another sneak peek: Thin as Smoke is almost here!

February 1 will mark the debut of the fourth Gaslight Mystery. I call it THIN AS SMOKE, a phrase which reflects the physique and the smile if not the intentions of mysterious stranger Samuel Dashiell Hammett.

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May 1, 1924. The tubercular young man, not yet known for his remarkable crime fiction, has come to Ireland on the track of Mafia bootleggers. The trail of illegal whiskey leads him straight to someone he knew seven years ago, on the east coast of America. That man is Michael McCree, partner of the brooding Simon Hart in the investigation firm of Hart & McCree … Discretion at Your Service.

Apart from the presence of Hammett, the novel traces what happens when two partners are forced to work apart—two partners who are drawn to each other in ways that the closeted Simon has fought against for an entire year, even while recognizing the truth.

~oOo~

Slowly, month by month, he’d been learning to accept his craving for Michael. To enjoy inconceivable pleasure from the man’s deft tongue, his knowing fingers, his ramrod insistence and his gentle withdrawal. And he’d discovered his own astounding need to tie his lover, to inflict blows on his chiseled buttocks with his cane, to utter words he’d never dared even think before. He’d even ejaculated all alone at times without masturbating, just imagining Michael tying him to the dowels of his bed, so keen was the stimulus of being put in bonds by the powerfully sensuous man.
This new world of sex was fierce, and frustrating. It was a mystery and a muddle, and it was damn satisfying. He’d not trade Michael and his attentions for anything in this world. Not money, not fame, nor any of the lame ambitions he’d once thought were the answer to happiness.si sepiapizap.com14183410729121

Happiness? If only he could accept himself, hell, then he could covertly pleasure himself every time he touched Michael. If only he could face his needs and fears, if he could openly admit love, and above all if he could shed his monstrous burden of guilt…

Then pigs would fly.

Being aroused by another man … That forbidden pleasure had scraped a wound somewhere in his brain which barely scabbed over before being opened again every time he came to Paddy’s.

~oOo~

Paddy’s is a tavern frequented by homosexuals—omi-palones, in the underground language called Polari. And suddenly, out of the haze of cigarette smoke and dancers there emerges a man Simon immediately reacts to with the clenched gut of a jealous lover … Samuel Dashiell Hammett.

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Be sure to pick up your copy of the first three mysteries, if you haven’t already done so. They’ve piled up forty-five 5-star reviews on Amazon alone. There must be a reason.

HEART TO HART
SPARRING WITH SHADOWS
TO THE BONE

Find them on my Amazon author page:

http://www.amazon.com/Erin-OQuinn/e/B009AW51SA

And they’re here on my Amber Quill Press author page:

http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx

Or here on my AllRomance author page:

http://bit.ly/1uxLxy4

M/Mysteries and Prohibition: Bottom’s Up!

On the cusp of THIN AS SMOKE, the fourth Gaslight Mystery, I need to take you back in time …

America, 1924.

prohib newspaper

Prohibition has put law enforcement and the Mafia on the front lines, in a battle for men’s (and women’s) unquenchable thirst for truth, justice, and bathtub gin.

prohibition era blue

The waters of the East Coast have become the playground for “rum-runners,” smart bootleggers who smuggle illegal booze into the country via torpedo boats and other fast vessels, swifter than the Coast Guard can possibly hope to follow and apprehend.

Into this scenario steps Dashiell Hammett, now famous for his hard-boiled crime novels; but back in the early 1920’s a tubercular, penniless ex-Pinkerton’s op trying to eke out a living in San Francisco.

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When the Pinkerton’s Agency approaches him to go to Ireland in search of the illegal whiskey trail, he reluctantly agrees to return for one last assignment with his former employer…for the right price.

Enter Michael McCree and Simon Hart.

Find out how these three men manage not just to meet in Ireland, but to work together. And learn how Hammett, thin as a smoke tendril, still manages to insinuate his way between the two close PI partners. His involvement guarantees that Michael and Simon will never return to the same old relationship.

~oOo~

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The first three Gaslight novels are
HEART TO HART
SPARRING WITH SHADOWS
TO THE BONE

THIN AS SMOKE arrives February 1

Find Erin’s work here:
http://amzn.to/1w8PVgI
and here:
http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx

Grow a set: The Gaslight Mysteries

~ April 13, 2015 ~

Welcome to Dun Linden, Ireland. Please meet Michael McCree and Simon Hart.

4 GL lined up 2-pizap.com14219502617254 copyHere is a mash-up of the four novels. Although I like the covers for their “old-timey” flavor, I find myself making other graphic representations of the books to go along with the articles I pose here and on Facebook.

Let me say right away that the universe of these books, the Ireland city of Dun Linden, is wholly fabricated. In every bloody detail. And because it’s set in the mid-1920s, I have deliberately left out The Troubles … the years of horrendous confrontations between the Irish and the British, and between Irish fathers and sons. The series is meant to be a romcom, not a representation of grim history.

michael 400 flipA couple of years ago, my attraction to all things Gaelic led me to imagine a man named Michael McCree—a roustabout Irishman, a lover of men and a drinker of whiskey, and yet one with some surprising depths and one huge secret. He makes a living out of being smarter than most, quicker, more athletic, and by-god more able to hold his liquor and swive more men.

A man like Michael is only as interesting as the man he sets his sights on. And that unlikely person is a surly, angry, altogether closeted and touch-me-not fellow named Simon Hart. Simon’s a Cambridge-educated private investigator whose partner has been murdered, and he meets Michael in a newspaper shop when turning in an obit notice.

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They meet. Fisticuffs fly. And before Simon knows what’s happened, he’s gained a new flat-mate, a new business partner, and a wanna-be lover. It’s the “wanna-be” that drives every novel, from first to latest.

Here’s a nutshell of the first four novels. The biggest surprise is how long it takes Michael and Simon to actually “come together,” in every way. Each book seems to tiptoe to the edge and by the next book, they must start all over again because of their complex personalities.

~oOo~

When I wrote HEART TO HART, I had to keep in mind the future of the two 1920s Private Investigators. I don’t mean their careers, but their hearts.

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In the first mystery, Michael McCree seduces a skittish Simon Hart, more uptight about his sexual self than the bluff Irishman can possibly guess, and far more sensitive than Michael has the experience to recognize. His slam-bam techniques work, up to a point.

But the man he finagles into being his flat-mate, the one who trusts him to be his new partner, is far too complex for Michael to bed and then take for granted.

These men’s story grows over the next three books. I need to add that each book is a stand-alone, but the developing relationship really cries out for a reader to start with the first one and continue from there.

This first mystery could well be called “The Case of the Crimson Feather” and introduces several characters who reappear in subsequent novels.

~

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SPARRING WITH SHADOWS finds Simon anguished about the loss of his former business partner and the recent loss of his virginity to heavy-handed Michael.

Merely calling him a “homosexual” causes Simon to fall apart in front of Michael’s eyes. The carefree McCree needs to change, and he needs to help Simon see past his angst. But can he? And is Simon capable of sparring with his private demons and seeing himself more truly?

There is a lot of action in this second novel, with the idea of “shadows” coming into play always.

~

In TO THE BONE, the men are visited by a ghost from Simon’s earlier life, a man named Moshe. Just as he is on the verge of reaching out to Michael, Simon finds himself withdrawing even more, avoiding not just the present but even his past.

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But something important begins to cement these men together. Call it Michael’s new-found awareness of Simon’s secret desires. Call it Simon’s slow acceptance of his own complicated sexual needs. No matter what the reason, these two PIs begin to explore matters both in and out of their two large beds. For them, it’s a work in progress. Apart from pooling their talents on PI cases, it also involves bed dowels, silken neckties, and a certain walking cane.

Like its prequel, this novel contains more than one mystery, and the threads come together rather provocatively. The book also contains some engaging private encounters, not the least of which occurs with verses from Omar Khayyám.

~

Now, finally, THIN AS SMOKE arrives (February 1), and a man from Michael’s past almost pulls the men apart for good.

Dashiell Hammett was unknown to readers in 1924, although the fledgling author and former Pinkerton’s op had a few stories published (“The Continental Op” series). The beginnings of a fictional hard-boiled operative would eventually result in THE MALTESE FALCON. But for now, sent to Ireland to pin down Mafia bootleggers, he renews ties with his old friend Michael.

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And Simon does not like this development. Not one bit. Hammett’s presence becomes a catalyst for change, in every way…

This latest novel is more “shoot ’em up” than the others—but what can one expect when Dashiell Hamnmett is on the case?

~oOo~

Throughout the books, Michael and Simon encounter and solve cases which “happen”—from murder to dog-napping—while they struggle with their own personal lives. I’ve found in writing these books that there is a lot of potential for humor, for irony, and for exploring the clues to bona fide mysteries.

Damn, I’m the luckiest author I know. To have conceived a pair of absolutely riveting and pleasing characters who’ve won a lot of dedicated followers.

For those who keep asking … The fifth mystery, MASTERS OF CANE, is in progress. It will include a few interesting facts and some action centering on the turn-of-the-century fad known as “Bartitsu” or cane-fighting which has had a resurgence and is alive and well all over the U.K. and the U.S.

And yes, Simon is still giving Michael a hard time. With and without his cane.

~

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Find the mysteries on my Amazon author page:

http://www.amazon.com/Erin-OQuinn/e/B009AW51SA 

And on  my AmberAllure author page:

http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx
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Erin O’Quinn sprang from the high desert hills of Nevada, from a tiny town which no longer exists. A truant officer dragged her kicking and screaming to grade school, too late to attend kindergarten; and since that time her best education has come from the ground she’s walked and the people she’s met.

Thin as Smoke: Pub Date February 1

Out of the smoke and 1920s jazz music of the gay tavern Paddy’s steps a new character—Samuel Dashiell Hammett, the novelist of hard-boiled crime and former friend of Michael McCree. The new novel, titled Thin as Smoke, is set to debut on Amber Allure’s site on Sunday, February 1, 2015. Its Amazon debut will follow.

Here is a teaser from the book:

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A muffled cough, a shimmer of silken shirt, the smell of a man’s cologne … Simon felt the presence of a stranger before he saw his shadowed face. A man, a very slender man, was leaning over Michael, his mouth close to his ear. Yet Simon heard his words clearly.

“May I have this dance?”

Michael seemed as startled by the intrusion as Simon. He saw his companion begin to shake his head in automatic denial.Then his eyebrows shot up, and his jaw slackened a little. Leaning close to Simon, he mouthed, “Finally,” and he lifted his head and grinned at the gangly man.

“Sure. Love to, me dally.”

He stood. A languid hand seized his, drew him away from the table and into the crowd.

Simon sat dumbfounded for a few minutes, not hearing the music or seeing anyone in the cluster of bodies except for Michael groin to groin with a thin, even gaunt, yet not-so-bad-looking partner.

Even from a twenty-foot distance, in the wavering light, through a film of smoke, Simon could see the man’s features. The languorous dancer had a shock of dark hair combed straight back from a narrow face; and over his top lip crouched the razor’s edge of a mustache. His eyes were unreadable. Black, heavy-lidded, almost deliberately expressionless. Dusky smudges under them bespoke either sickness or sleepless nights, or both. Below the dark circles, his prominent cheekbones reminded Simon of a bird of prey. A raven … or a vulture.

He shuddered. Who is this creature, and why is my gut in knots looking at him?

In case you want to visit Erin O’Quinn’s author page at the Amber Allure bookstore, or on Amazon, here are your links:

http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx

http://www.amazon.com/Erin-OQuinn/e/B009AW51SA

Home Page

MM: The Gaslight Mysteries is a blog devoted to Erin O’Quinn’s ongoing series of MM novels published by Amber Quill Press: Heart to Hart, Sparring with Shadows, and To the Bone.

Please note that a fourth mystery, Thin as Smoke, is now in the hands of my publisher. Here’s a brief teaser and a home-made piece of art:

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In this latest Gaslight Mystery a third character emerges from the cigarette smoke and jazz-age music of a 1920s gay tavern—a place and a man much more than they seem. The novelist Dashiell Hammett, historically a Pinkerton’s op, has come to elicit Michael’s assistance. Ironically, the man who would later famously write The Maltese Falcon and other hard-boiled crime fiction drives Michael and Simon so far apart they may never return to their old ways…Because Michael and his old friend share a secret, one which threatens to end both his career and his complex relationship with Simon.

To readers of these books: You’ll find an overview . . . a photo journey . . . through Heart to Hart on my Amber Allure blog. As you read the story, it’s fun to envision the old motorbike, the “pooor man’s pocket watch” church of Kell Pádraig, the 1923 Austin 7 motorcar, and more. Your link is Amber Heat & Amber Allure Authors: Heart to Hart: 1920s fantasy romcom

To readers of this blog: If you leave a comment, please leave us also a link to your blog or novel. I’ll make sure the link is live.

hearttohart - backcover 300 copyHeart to Hart has already won some critical acclaim. Please refer to the chapter REVIEWS.

There are also a few blogs devoted to it on my other manlove site The Man In Romance,

http://romancemanlove.wordpress.com

CA Marion Sipe designed the covers. On the left is the back cover for the  first two print versions.

Your purchase links are:

Amber Quill:

bit.ly/10crKOz

Amazon.com:

http://amzn.to/12gBwlL

Amazon.uk:

http://amzn.to/ZQ40kn

For now, kick back as I begin to unwind the story of Michael McCree and his reluctant partner Simon Hart. Excerpts from the beginning chapters will appear as pages on the blog. Be sure to read the free short “Wings of Angels” published here, which serves as a prologue to all four books.

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Here is a short story, a prologue if you will, to the “Gaslight Mysteries” novels. If you are at all curious about the necessarily brief character sketches, or by the hint of action to come, you may want to consider owning the books. The first three are available at Amber Allure. The fourth, Thin as Smoke, will be released soon.

Wings of Angels

The approaching man stumbled a little, oblivious to Michael’s presence in the room, sunk as he was in an ancient leather couch, his face buried behind the Dun Linden, Ireland New Dawn. As usual, this late at night, the man was carrying a bottle of Bushmills fine whiskey and walking with the deliberate gait of a drunk toward this end of the smoking room, where the dormitory entrance stood.

Michael McCree had been stalking this sensual dish, this marvelous bit o’hard, for the last few days. He’d found out Simon Hart was a private investigator, yet obviously one who needed to get sober before he investigated anything at all except a lumpy bed behind those double doors at his gentleman’s club.

Michael’s eyes rested longingly on Simon’s ass-end, revealed in all its muscled splendor by the tight athletic trousers. Only when the door was firmly shut and his quarry probably passed out on the cot inside would Michael finally leave and seek a late supper at the pub.

He tossed the newspaper aside and sat forward, elbows on knees, thinking about the impossibly handsome Simon. On Monday, three days ago, he’d handed Michael an obituary notice. Michael was a fair-to-middling newspaper typesetter, and Simon was a stranger in mourning. Their hands never touched. A starchy piece of paper did not even change hands. The sulky man had looked at him briefly, with aqua eyes like deep tide pools, and then he’d laid the notice carefully on the linotype as if he could not bear to have anyone wrench it from his possession.

The sheet of paper had been carefully inscribed with the details of a memorial service and a funeral following. It had taken Michael only a heartbeat to understand that the dead man had been Simon’s friend. And perhaps much more. Yet he could not tame the sudden lurch of his prick under the heavy leather typesetter’s apron. This was a man he wanted in his dreams, in his arms, in his ravening mouth. His prick, he knew, would fit nicely in his ass when the time came.

This man Simon fit his qualifications perfectly. He would not be a threat to Michael’s hidden life, one he’d closely guarded for years. After a sufficient amount of Bushmills, he may very well take a liking to Michael’s silk neckpiece. And those eyes … he could drown in their promise of smoldering resistance and eventual surrender.

O’course, he thought, he’d allow the man his period of mourning. And then ’twould be time to introduce himself properly. As a fisticuff fighter seeking to win a wager. As a potential new flat-mate. And finally, he hoped, as a savage-and-gentle lover.

Michael prided himself on having the eye and the sharp senses of a kestrel. And yet, when he rose and left the sagging couch, he did not notice another man in the large room get up and take his place near the dormitory door. He, too, held the New Dawn, a newspaper he did not intend to read.

The man called Moses watched Michael leave the club. His lower lip jutted out naturally, putting a kind of pout on the older man’s face. The expression in his very dark eyes was hidden by lowered lids and by shaggy brows that nevertheless told a prologue to danger.

I suspect this man who watches Simon has no hidden desire, except the desire to bed him. Not if I can help it.

His brows arched and flapped, a warning to anyone who would put this particular young man in peril. Especially the peril of a man entering another man, even in spirit.

Simon, oblivious to the wings of angels spread outside the tiny dorm room, let another bit of whiskey coat his mouth, then swallowed carefully.

“Funeral. Friday.” He set the bottle on the floor near the bed and lay back.

The first twenty-five years of his life had been hell. And yet, he thought, nothing like the next quarter century would be. In spite of the pain in his gut, he still would not cry. Because of it, he would not sleep.

Twenty feet away, in another world, the pages of a newspaper rustled softly, like the rousing of feathers, like the whisper of rushes in the Nile. And somewhere outside, walking the four miles to the Silver Hind pub where Simon had a flat, a man stretched his arms and yawned, unconsciously imitating his archangel namesake, Michael.

Half a world distant, in a fog-shrouded city called San Francisco, another man sat smoking on an indifferent bed in a cheap hotel room. The bottle he held was prohibited by national law, and all the more desired because it was forbidden.

Sam Dashiell Hammett thought about his life as an undercover agent. He briefly considered his rude scribblings about a plain dick, an anonymous operative. And suddenly, maybe because of the goddamn booze, he thought about a handsome young Irishman he’d known years before. One he was sure he’d never see again.

I left without saying goodbye. I had folded my wings over him, my only friend … and then released him to find my own hell in the trenches of a bloody war. Grinding out his smoldering butt, the tubercular man began to cough. And then, without even thinking about it, he pulled a pouch and thin paper packet from his shirt pocket and began to roll another cigarette.