When the phone wakes Phil Broker on the morning of his forty-eighth birthday -- six months removed from his surviving a January cold snap that (in Absolute Zero) nearly claimed his life -- it's already ninety-two degrees. It's July, and Stillwater, Minnesota, finds itself in the middle of the worst heat wave in local memory.
The news on the phone has nothing to do with his birthday wishes, however. A year earlier, an angry citizen served as jury and executioner by pumping twelve bullets into a known pedophile -- and in the process became a folk hero, dubbed "the Saint" by locals. The investigation quickly went cold, and ever since rumors have circulated that the real reason the Saint hasn't been apprehended is that he -- or she -- is a cop.
Now a priest has been murdered. Was the priest a sexual predator? Is the Saint back? The caller begs for Broker's help, but as new victims start turning up, Broker wonders if he's been set up to catch a bullet for a scandal that threatens to bring down the Stillwater Police Department.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Vapor Trail is my fifth novel--the fourth featuring Phil Broker--and it's been suggested that Broker and I have more than a little bit in common. We're both former soldiers, alienated by the technology craze of the 1980s and '90s, choosing instead to drive the back roads, suspecting we'd survive long enough to come back into style.
I was born a week after the Battle of Midway in a country fighting for its existence. I grew up thinking there were only three ways to go for an American male: fireman, cop or paratrooper. I served in Vietnam; Broker turned out to be both paratrooper and cop. Neither of us was ever a fireman...
My father was a dark absent figure, who fought pro in Chicago and stayed mixed up with the wrong people. Mom left him when I was an infant. For a while I had a step dad who was a cop in Detroit. After the cop left, when I was eight, my mother sent me to Georgia Military Academy. In 1953 mom and I were driving during a storm in Marion, Kentucky. The car went off the road.I was thrown through the windshield into a swamp. Mom died at the wheel. I floated on my back in swamp water, unable to move because my chest was severely injured. I had deep cuts in my face and jaw; I was choking on my blood. If I panicked, I started to sink; so I had to remain calm, swallow the blood, and stay afloat until help arrived.
I grew up to become a talented drunk; after flunking out of college in Detroit I matriculated through the auto factories. Initially I wouldn't enlist for Vietnam because I was opposed the war. But I was nagged by the question of service. I knew who was fighting the war--I watched them leave the factories month after month while I hid out behind my invalid student deferment. So I volunteered for the Airborne because jump wings were a guaranteed ticket to a combat slot in Vietnam.
And so one of my childhood goals had been realized: I was an Army paratrooper assigned as a radioman to a small advisory team in Vietnam. [Broker makes a profitable return to Vietnam in THE PRICE OF BLOOD. Sorry to say, that episode isn't biographical.]
One moonless monsoon night in 1969 I was crossing flooded rice paddies in northern Quang Tri Province, going to the aid of an embattled Vietnamese militia unit. We hit a VC blocking force. As I dived for cover I split my lip and when I rolled over in the water, in the light of a flare, I saw that the paddy was full of corpses. The unit we were going to relieve had made a run for it and had been annihilated. There I was, face up to the rain, floating in muddy water, blood in my mouth, surrounded by the dead in an eerie replay of 1953.
Having such experiences recommends storytelling as a personal form of expression.
Several inpatient stints in drug dependency wards later I found employment doing art & graphics at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Somewhere around this time I was asked to do a book review. After it ran, some of the reporters asked me who'd written it for me.
Hmmmm. My chances of becoming a writer were about one in a million. I liked the odds and set to work. Fortunately, I had the encouragement of a remarkable editor at the paper, Deborah Howell, and the example and guidance of John Camp, aka John Sanford, friend and former colleague at the Pioneer Press.John was writing thrillers full time. Several false starts later, I sold my first book, Hunter's Moon, which was a rehash of many of the dark themes from my earlier life. But it was time to get on the with the second half of my life which included 25 years of stone cold sobriety, a successful marriage, a beautiful daughter and the geography and climate of northern Minnesota. The result was my loner character, Phil Broker.He has been described as a fugitive from modern psychology who believes in monsters because it requires old -- fashioned heroes to catch them.
And now it seems that Broker, having driven the backs roads long enough, might be getting some legs.During the 1980s and '90s that soldier service stuff was for "other people". But then the world got more real than virtual. Maybe in this post 9/11, post Enron world, the one percent of us under 65 who've actually served in combat, like my guy Broker, are coming back into style, to stand alongside cops and fireman.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Book Condition: Brand New. Book Condition: Brand New. Bookseller Inventory # 97800605356051.0
Book Description Harperaudio, Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 2003. Soft cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 12mo - over 6¾ - 7¾" tall. RARE Advance Reading Copy-Uncorrected Proof-Not For Sale. 1st Edition-Stated. 1st printing-Full # Line. New copy. Never read. Trade paperback format. BEAUTIFUL copy of book & cover. COLLECTOR'S COPY. Bookseller Inventory # 001513