Thin as Smoke: Read it Now

For most folks, today is Super Bowl Sunday. For me, it’s launch day of Thin as Smoke, the fourth Gaslight Mystery.

If you’ve read any of the earlier mysteries, you know that Michael McCree and Simon Hart are two private eyes in 1920s Ireland; and that Michael began their relationship in the role of a covert op for an agency not-to-be-named here. No spoiler alerts from me!

Michael wormed his way into Simon’s flat after winning a fisticuffs wager. From that point, he worked his way into the surly man’s PI business, and from there into his four-poster bed. More out of than into, as a matter of fact.crop fisticuffs=pizap.com13997302866531

With each ensuing novel, the relationship between roustabout Michael and snotty, angry Simon  grows more tangled, more edgy, more sensual in its tacit promise of pursuit and climax.

The newest mystery opens May 1, 1924. It’s been exactly one year from the morning private investigator Simon stumbled into Michael’s newspaper office, rumpled and unshaven, bearing an obituary notice. For the darkly handsome PI, that day was a journey through ghastly memories of finding his former partner murdered. For the brash Irishman with a secret, the day brought into his life the man he wanted to be with the rest of his days …
~

Opening words of Heart to Hart, Gaslight Mystery 1:

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Michael’s life began all over again on Monday. The rain that had been threatening for weeks finally banged Dun Linden with bare fists just as dawn broke, pummeling and pounding, leaving everyone a little off balance. Setting the banner line for the day’s newspaper edition, he’d looked up from the linotype into the most arresting pair of eyes he’d ever seen. They were soulful and tormented, of a color somewhere between teal and turquoise, like a rare metal seen once in a lifetime. Or an undiscovered ocean on the edge of a wet dream. He stared in spite of himself at the man behind the eyes.

He was tall—all of six feet, almost as tall as Michael. A black felt bowler hat covered his hair. But Michael knew it had to be as dark as the eyebrows and the growing shadow around his upper lip and chin. Had the man even slept last night? The mouth itself was sulky, arrogant, almost angry.

Michael’s cock set up a slow hammering beneath the stiff leather apron.

~

Segue to one year later: May 1, 1924.  Michael and Simon are now partners in a PI firm, and they have an off-and-on sleeping arrangement which Simon still, after twelve months, is finding difficult to accept. Long story.

As the new novel opens, the men are sitting in the gay pub Paddy’s waiting for an undercover tryst with an agent. Why there? Because that tavern is the unlikely headquarters of Michael’s secret employer.

Michael is already planning a celebration; Simon is dreading it.

Just as Simon is barely beginning to warm to Michael, something happens which will utterly change their relationship. A gaunt man appears at Michael’s elbow, murmuring into his ear.  And while Simon watches them dance on the crowded floor, his gut wrenches with all the agony a jealous man can feel.

In this excerpt, Simon gets a closer look at this new man who will prove to be closer to Michael than merely a dance partner in a homosexual tavern.

~

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

Despite the cadaverous look of his face, this stranger was striking, even sensual. Simon had learned to appreciate and fear those men who guarded their secrets with their eyes. He thought briefly of the Brown Man, a former opponent. If he didn’t know damn well it was impossible, this man could be Chanda Gopala in one of a thousand disguises, come back to exact some perverted retribution.

The musicians were coaxing long minutes from the song. Simon had instantly learned the lyrics a few months ago from a scratchy table-model gramophone with a wind-up spring motor. Paddy’s often cranked it up when their players left to drink, or eat, or fornicate.

Some day he’ll come along,
The man I love
And he’ll be big and strong,
The man I love
And when he comes my way
I’ll do my best to make him stay.

 He wondered what the hollow-chested man was telling Michael, his mouth plastered in his ear …

~

So why in hell would Samuel Dashiell Hammett, the well-known writer of hard-boiled crime novels, be closeted in a gay tavern in Dun Linden, Ireland?

And how does this gaunt man with the hooded eyes forever change the lives of two PIs?

If you don’t already own the first three mysteries, isn’t it time you rushed over and bought them?

Heart to Hart: http://amzn.to/12gBwlL
Sparring with Shadows: http://amzn.to/14QXtqW
To the Bone: http://amzn.to/1bEXep2
The mysteries can also be found on my Amber Quill Press author page:
http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx

And now: Thin as Smoke cover reveal …

resized 8x120ThinAsSmokeCover copyright 2015 by Trace Edward Zaber, Amber Quill Press.

Now on Amazon:
http://amzn.to/17gOVCi

On ARe/OmniLit:

https://www.omnilit.com/product-thinassmoke-1741558-340.html
For your Kindle, choose Mobipocket .prc

Or on the publisher’s web page:
http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2118-Thin-As-Smoke.aspx

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.

thin man cover

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.

These M/Mysteries are contagious

January 29, 2015 Hi, everyone! You’ve reached the home page of Michael McCree and Simon Hart, otherwise known as Erin’s gaslight boys. Their sexcapades and investigations stretch over four books now:

tnHeartToHart.jpg 97x150 Heart to Hart sets up the improbable pairing of a roustabout named Michael McCree, a man with a huge secret … and a snotty, angry man named Simon Hart, whose good looks have drawn Michael into a murder mystery and a lot more on the emotional side of the ledger.

http://amzn.to/12gBwlL

sparringwithshadows 97 copySparring with Shadows continues the adventures of two unlikely private investigators, who look into affairs very private indeed. Their efforts take them from a gay bar to the sewers under a city in their quest for a priceless treasure, a master criminal, and an answer to Simon’s anguished question about himself.

http://amzn.to/14QXtqW

tothebone 97To the Bone introduces a character who worms his way between the two men, burrowing like a tick almost to the bone, while the investigators are on the trail of a thief and a murderer…not to mention a possible breakthrough in their always edgy relationship.

http://amzn.to/1bEXep2

tnThinAsSmokeThin as Smoke: Out of the haze of cigarette smoke and the 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,

Now on amazon dot com: http://amzn.to/17gOVCi

And on these sites:

ARe/OmniLit  https://www.omnilit.com/product-thinassmoke-1741558-340.html
For your Kindle, choose Mobipocket .prc
Or go to my pub site: http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx