Sean Joye is a fae-touched young veteran of 1923’s Irish Civil War. He wants nothing more than to start a clean, new life in America, free of supernatural misadventures and shoot-on-sight orders.
He takes what he thinks is an easy job as bodyguard for a St. Louis judge, driving him to Missouri’s infamous state penitentiary to witness an execution. The appointed day is clear and fine. A perfect day for a hanging. Yet as soon as they arrive at the prison, Sean realizes his back is up over something. Maybe it’s just the summer heat or Sean’s memories of his own time as a prisoner of war, but psychic premonitions of trouble are more likely. He soon finds himself a pawn in a jailhouse preacher’s mountain-magic-fueled escape attempt. Sean must rise to the occasion, evading rioting convicts, trigger-happy guards, and a preternatural cyclone to rescue both the judge and an unjustly condemned prisoner from the resurrectionist.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My father was a prison guard in Illinois for a brief period in the late 1940s. He shared several memorable tales from those days. One of them really stuck in my head. A version of it appears in the opening scene of the book when a crew of prisoners are digging a grave in the prison burial grounds. The novella took off from there!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main character, Sean Joye, appears in a number of my stories. He originated fifteen years ago as a ghost who was haunting the protagonist of my first (unpublished) novel. As I thought more and more about—What's up with the ghost? What does he want?—I had to delve into early-twentieth century Ireland and what a person from the era might be like.
"Turn here,” the Judge said from the back seat as he tapped me on the shoulder. “You’re about to miss the prison entrance.” Obedient ever, I veered left, the Model T skidding across the melting asphalt only to lurch over the gravel road’s ruts. At the sight of a chain gang marching toward us, I slammed the brake, and the tires spewed a cloud of red dust into the air. The walking boss—on horseback today, no fool in the summer heat—tipped his hat and hurried them along.
Four denim-clad white men stumbled over the gravel and their chains but managed to hang onto the rectangular pine box they carried. Another inmate, a tall, freckled ginger laden with shovels and pickaxes, hurried behind them.
“You’d think they’d assign trusties to the burial detail,” the Judge said. “Then they wouldn’t have to chain them together.”
At the time, I’d only been in the States a few months. All I knew about the American penal system was the getting nicked part, but I’d heard somewhere that convicts could gained special status and privileges, even authority over other inmates, through the trusty system. Whether the grift operated on good behavior, bribes, or extraordinary kowtowing, I couldn’t say. “Maybe they don’t trust all that many prisoners.”
I continued to watch the men as they made for a small burial plot atop a rise about fifty feet off the road. The ugliest tree I’d ever seen in my life—half-dead, misshapen, and sprouting wicked thorns at odd intervals—crowned the hilltop but provided not a whit of shade from the noonday sun. Crumbling limestone grave markers poked out of its base. I pictured the roots, slow but sure, crushing the flimsy pine boxes and the poor sods under the hillside.
Just thinking on the fella they were about to plant among strangers in this godforsaken place gave me the heebie-jeebies. A wisp of a cloud must have passed over the sun; shadows covered the graveyard for a moment. But what should have been a small blessing felt like a threat.
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