“A compelling moral fable in the shape of a gritty, twist-filled thriller.”— Wall Street Journal
John Shannon is a petty thief on the run. A three-time loser framed for murder, he knows that he’s facing life in prison—or death by lethal injection. Then, a bizarre text message draws him to a meeting in the dark of night. A foreigner who calls himself the Identity Man offers Shannon an incredible chance to start again: a new face, a new home, a new beginning. In a ruined city trying to rebuild, he gets work as a carpenter, and falls in love. It seems too good to be true—and it is. It turns out this city is crawling with crooked politicians, gangsters, and dirty cops—all of whom seem to want Shannon dead.
Moving through the shambles of a town, he’s got to ferret out the secret of his new life—and fast—if he wants to be left with any life at all.
“A gripping thriller.”—Entertainment Weekly
“A work of intense realism pervaded by sorrow, mercy, hope—and ultimately, transcendence.”—Washington Times
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
ANDREW KLAVAN is the author of the best-selling novels True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say a Word, a film starring Michael Douglas. His work has been nominated for the Edgar Award five times and has won twice. He is a contributing editor at City Journal and his articles have appeared, among other places, in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Southern California with his wife Ellen. They have a daughter, Faith, and a son, Spencer.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A PAGE OF A NEWSPAPER lay sodden on the sidewalk. MINISTER JAILED IN SEX SCANDAL, the headline read. Peter Patterson made out the words before the gusting wind caught the paper up and carried it, wet and heavy as it was, tumbling away through the mist of slashing rain. Patterson watched the paper gray and dim and vanish in the darkness. He kept walking, the wind and water whipping at his face.
The things of the flesh, he thought with an inward sigh. The things of the spirit. The things of the flesh.
He was already nervous—already afraid—and now the headline made him melancholy, too. The minister’s conviction had been a great disappointment to him, a stomach-twisting glitch in his moral universe. And yet Peter Patterson was grimly determined not to judge. The Reverend Jesse Skyles was a good man, he told himself, a true man of God. He had just fallen to temptation, that’s all. Peter Patterson had plenty of experience with temptation, not to mention falling. True, he’d never tapped anything underage, but the object of Skyles’s indiscretion had been fourteen. That was no child; they were juicy then . . . In any case, he could say this and that, make this excuse for himself and that one, but the simple truth was he had left his own trail of tears, a trail of misused women and abandoned sons. He was in no position to condemn anyone.
The things of the spirit, the things of the flesh.
It was so easy to fall. Easy to choose the life of the moment over the long consequences. A couple of drinks and a woman’s perfume began to seem like a thing worth dying for. And to leave her smile sitting there on her face like that, unkissed? Well, it just felt wrong. You’d have to be a corpse or a fool and no kind of man at all . . .
So the next thing you knew it was some ungodly hour of the morning and there you were, standing over the sprawled and sleeping wreckage of her, looking around the floor for your boxers and your self-respect. Because who were you when you were bare-assed, as it turned out? Surprise: you were that guy who’d looked his son in the eye that very afternoon and said, Do what’s right. Hand on his shoulder, expression stern, finger wagging in his face. Do what’s right, son. Treat the women with respect. Don’t be making no babies you can’t take care of. And then that selfsame night after four bourbons and a perfumed smile it was Aw, fuck it. Another mother betrayed, another son ushered into the funhouse of his father’s hypocrisy, another relationship shot to hell . . .
All part of the journey that had led him to this night.
Man, he thought, suddenly coming back into the moment, back into the full awareness of his corrosive anxiety. Man, look at this place.
It was a sight to see, all right, the city in the rain. The night city, empty everywhere, with only the wind moving in it. Without people, without traffic, the avenue was reduced to the shadowy shapes of things. The rectangles of office buildings to the left and right of him, the smaller rectangles of newspaper boxes on the sidewalk, the shepherd’s crook of a lamp pole in the light of its lamp . . . Everything seemed two-dimensional like that. Even the depth of the receding street seemed a trick of perspective.
People had taken the evacuation order seriously this time. There was not a body moving anywhere, not a footfall on the street but his. The rain spat and whispered against the macadam as if it were falling in an empty field. At moments, when the wind subsided, you could hear the stoplights changing color. You could see them swaying there above the intersections, one gleaming circle of red after another in the storm-streaked dark. Then there was a double metallic gulp, like a robot swallowing, and all the red circles turned gleaming green. There was something lonesome and almost poetic about it. The city was practically beautiful, he thought, once you got rid of the people.
Hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched, Peter Patterson trudged the final half block to the corner and ducked under the overhang of the skyscraper there. The moment he stopped walking, he became aware of how wet and miserable he was. His raincoat and his hat had protected him for a while, but now they were both soaked. His socks and cuffs were sodden from wading through the sluicing gutters. The cold was seeping into his core.
It was a hell of a night for a meeting—with the storm going and the river about to blow. A hell of a night to finally do what he had convinced himself to do.
Lieutenant Brick Ramsey saw Patterson reach the meeting point, but he lingered where he was, watching the man through the windshield of his unmarked Charger. Watching the wavering shape of the man anyway. He couldn’t see much more of him than that. He didn’t want to turn his wipers on. He was afraid the movement might draw attention to him sitting there. Uninterrupted, the rain spilled down over the glass in gusting sheets, then broken streams and droplets. Through the water, the pink glare of the downtown halogen lamps seemed to melt and run in fluid streaks of illumination. The stoplights ran in fluid streaks of red, then green. And beyond the light, in the blur and shadows, there was the wavering shape of Peter Patterson, an average-sized man in a hat and overcoat, hunched and waiting. Ramsey knew he ought to go to him, but he lingered, watched.
Ramsey figured himself for a hard man, but he didn’t like thinking about what he was about to do. Peter Patterson was nobody in the big scheme of things. He was nothing in the city hierarchy. Just a bookkeeper. Just a middle-aged drunk who’d come to Jesus and now fancied himself incorruptible. There should have been a dozen easy ways to shut him up or shut him down. They could’ve just waited him out probably. The mood would probably have passed.
But they couldn’t wait. They couldn’t risk it. Peter Patterson had crossed the line. It was one thing to come to Jesus. It was another to go to the feds.
“He wants a meet?” Augie Lancaster had murmured smoothly over the phone. “Arrange a meet. Tell him you’re the feds and arrange a meet, that’s all.”
It made Ramsey sick inside. But what else could he do? You got into these things step by step, day by day, and then there you were and you didn’t really have a choice when you came down to it. There were people who depended on you, expected things from you. Not just Augie Lancaster but the Chief of Ds and the councilmen and all the rest. You couldn’t just turn righteous on them, overnight become another man than the one they knew. Anyway, your fate was tied to theirs by this time. If they went down, you went down with them. Even if Ramsey wanted to turn righteous, that was way more righteous than he was prepared to be. No, whichever way you turned, the exit was closed and a hundred strings were pulling at you. You had to go on with it, that’s all. Just as Augie said: That’s all.
The rain drummed hard on the Charger’s roof, then crashed on it like thunder, blown by the wind. The calls for backup hissed and whispered from the radio. Looting had started half an hour ago, almost as soon as the city emptied out. The brothers, Ramsey thought with a stab of shame and distaste. The brothers were busting up the Northern District, two miles away.
The City of Hope. The City of Equality. The City of Justice.
All those high words. All those fine Augie Lancaster speeches came back to him.
“Where they have taken away your voice, I will speak for you. Where they have robbed you of your dignity, I will make them repay you. Where they have built their wealth on your exploitation, I will bring that wealth back from Washington to your neighborhoods and your families.”
Ramsey could remember the thrill of hearing him. The thrill of the crowd and the roar of the brothers cheering. Those were the same crowds, the same brothers, who were out there smashing the storefronts of the slant-owned groceries and the chain pharmacies and the Stereo World and the old furniture emporium they had shopped at for ages. Flood sale. Everything must go.
He had the radio turned down low to dim the distraction of it. The soft cries for help seemed like the voices of ghosts in the storm, distant and mournful and lost.
Well, they aren’t the only ones to take whatever they can get their hands on, Ramsey told himself. When it comes to that, all men are brothers.
He glanced at the clock on the dashboard. He knew it was time. He knew he ought to go and get this over with.
But he lingered, watching.
The things of the spirit, the things of the flesh.
That was Peter Patterson, meanwhile, his restless mind returning to the Reverend Skyles as he stood under the skyscraper’s overhang, all shrugged up in his wet overcoat; as the wind-whipped water sluiced down and spattered the shins of his trousers where he stood; as he waited anxiously for the feds to come.
He shivered. He bounced on his toes. He thought: Where are they already?
He thought: How could he do it? His restless mind returning to Skyles, returning to himself and the things he’d done in his life, the journey that had brought him here, the booze, the women. Because he knew how Skyles could do it. He knew exactly how he could do it, and do it again. You weren’t even sorry afterward. Not really. You were ashamed, for sure. When you were sober, when you were satisfied and bare-assed, looking for your shorts, looking for some way to dull the contrast between what you knew full well you ought to be and what in fact you were, you were plenty ashamed then. You hated the consequences, the women screaming at you in their hurt and betrayal, the three sons by two mothers that you never saw, the one boy in jail. But how could you say you were sorry for what you remembered with a dreamy smile? How could you say you regretted what you’d do again in a city minute? Oh yes, you would. If the opportunity arose—and you arose—back you’d be in the Country of King Penis, loyal subject of His Majesty, flying to do his bidding at his least command . . .
Where the hell were they?
He turned his head to the right and the left, searching the rain for his contact. No one. He lifted his gaze to the intersecting street.
That was when he saw the red-white glow above the building tops.
His breath caught. Fire. He knew what it was right away. With the city empty and the high water coming, looters must have swarmed the shops uptown, and now they’d torched the place and had it burning. The glow pulsed into the sky’s deep blackness. The slashing rain glimmered silver against it.
And suddenly, for no reason he could put into words, Peter Patterson knew that everything was wrong. This meeting made no sense. This place made no sense. Why here? Why tonight? Why the sudden phone call after all the patient, reassuring overtures back and forth? Why the strange voice, the mysterious ¬instructions . . . ?
He hardly asked himself these questions. He was simply gripped by the urgent conviction that he had to get the hell out of here. Now.
Lieutenant Ramsey was startled to see Patterson break from his shelter. The bookkeeper moved quickly, nearly jogging, with his hands still in his overcoat pockets and his head lowered as if to butt his way through the wind and rain back to his car. Every few steps, he would look over his shoulder and then tumble on even faster as if he’d seen demons chasing him.
Ramsey cursed. In the first moment of surprise, he grabbed the door handle, ready to go after the guy. But then he thought better of it. He had been in situations like this before, plenty of times. Blown meets, blown stakeouts. Things changed, you had to change your plan. You botched things up if you failed to adapt. He decided to follow Patterson and see what was what. He would find the moment. He would bide his time.
One hand left the door and the other went to the keys in the ignition. At the same time, he caught a glimpse of his own eyes in the rearview mirror. He quickly looked away.
Lieutenant Brick Ramsey had—had always had, since his childhood—an appearance of dignity, of restraint, self-control, and moral authority. His mother had instilled these qualities in him. One hand on her hip, the other waggling a finger in his face or sometimes a Bible. Don’t you be like them. The brothers, she meant. The street-corner gangsters who held up the walls of his neighborhood with their slouching backs. You gonna do right. You gonna make something of yourself. You gonna be somebody. It don’t profit you nothing to gain the whole world if you lose your soul. Hammering at him with that finger, with that Bible, like a sculptor hammering at marble until she made the shape of him, the dignified set of his broad shoulders, the dignified stillness of his oval face with its pencil moustache over a serious mouth, with its intelligent, watchful, soulful brown eyes. Four years in the marines had added to the pride of his carriage. And five years patrolling the streets had reminded him daily of the degraded neighborhood life he had risen above. But it was his mother’s work he saw when he looked in the mirror—and he quickly looked away.
The pounding of the rain on the roof intensified, drowning out the dim calls for assistance from the radio. A fresh sheet of water washed down over the windshield. When it passed, Ramsey saw Patterson reach the line of cars in the parking zone down the street. He saw Patterson reach his own car, a battered blue Chrysler New Yorker, had to be fifteen years old at least. The car’s top light went on as Patterson opened the door and lowered himself into the driver’s seat. Then he pulled the door shut after him and the car went dark. A moment later, Lieutenant Ramsey saw the New Yorker’s headlights, blurry through the water on the windshield. The car pulled out and took off down the street, illuminating the silver streaks of the rain before it.
Ramsey waited a few seconds and then followed in the unmarked Charger, holding back a block, sunk in the darkness, counting on the storm to obscure him.
Up ahead, the New Yorker turned the corner. The Charger reached the intersection a few seconds afterward. It was only then, only when he turned to look down the street, that Ramsey understood what had spooked Patterson.
The throbbing red-white glow gave sudden depth to the strangely flat skyline. The City of Hope. The City of Equality. The City of Justice. It was burning.
The brothers, Ramsey thought, with another gout of disgust and self-disgust.
He brought the Charger around the corner and kept after his man.
Peter Patterson felt strangely safe once he was inside his car. His sudden surge of fear subsided. He felt as if no one could touch him there.
He drove north through the empty city. He drove slowly, careful of the storm. The pavement was slick where it was level and there were troughs and hollows where deep puddles gathered, where the water thundered against the undercarriage and gripped the tires of the old car as they passed through.
As he got away from downtown, the streets grew even darker around him. It took him a while to notice it: the electricity here was out. He looked past the laboring wipers. He saw rain-swept boulevards empty as alleyways, storefronts boarded against the tempest. He was glad to be inside and warm with the heater on. The unreasoning urgency in him—the anxious conviction that he had just been in some kind of danger—was already beginning to recede. Maybe he’d just spoo...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Mariner Books 2011-11-08, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 1. 0547597193. Bookseller Inventory # Z0547597193ZN
Book Description Mariner Books. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0547597193. Bookseller Inventory # Z0547597193ZN
Book Description Mariner Books. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0547597193. Bookseller Inventory # Z0547597193ZN
Book Description Book Condition: New. Depending on your location, this item may ship from the US or UK. Bookseller Inventory # 97805475971950000000
Book Description Mariner Books, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 203 x 132 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. A compelling moral fable in the shape of a gritty, twist-filled thriller. Wall Street Journal John Shannon is a petty thief on the run. A three-time loser framed for murder, he knows that he s facing life in prison or death by lethal injection. Then, a bizarre text message draws him to a meeting in the dark of night. A foreigner who calls himself the Identity Man offers Shannon an incredible chance to start again: a new face, a new home, a new beginning. In a ruined city trying to rebuild, he gets work as a carpenter, and falls in love. It seems too good to be true and it is. It turns out this city is crawling with crooked politicians, gangsters, and dirty cops all of whom seem to want Shannon dead. Moving through the shambles of a town, he s got to ferret out the secret of his new life and fast if he wants to be left with any life at all. A gripping thriller. Entertainment Weekly A work of intense realism pervaded by sorrow, mercy, hope and ultimately, transcendence. Washington Times. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780547597195
Book Description Mariner Books, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 203 x 132 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.A compelling moral fable in the shape of a gritty, twist-filled thriller. Wall Street Journal John Shannon is a petty thief on the run. A three-time loser framed for murder, he knows that he s facing life in prison or death by lethal injection. Then, a bizarre text message draws him to a meeting in the dark of night. A foreigner who calls himself the Identity Man offers Shannon an incredible chance to start again: a new face, a new home, a new beginning. In a ruined city trying to rebuild, he gets work as a carpenter, and falls in love. It seems too good to be true and it is. It turns out this city is crawling with crooked politicians, gangsters, and dirty cops all of whom seem to want Shannon dead. Moving through the shambles of a town, he s got to ferret out the secret of his new life and fast if he wants to be left with any life at all. A gripping thriller. Entertainment Weekly A work of intense realism pervaded by sorrow, mercy, hope and ultimately, transcendence. Washington Times. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780547597195
Book Description MARINER BOOKS, 2011. PAP. Book Condition: New. New Book.Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days.THIS BOOK IS PRINTED ON DEMAND. Established seller since 2000. Bookseller Inventory # IP-9780547597195
Book Description Mariner Books, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # INGM9780547597195
Book Description Mariner Books 2011-11-08, 2011. Book Condition: New. Brand new book, sourced directly from publisher. Dispatched within 2 working days from our warehouse. Book will be sent in robust, secure packaging to ensure it reaches you securely. Bookseller Inventory # NU-ING-00857652
Book Description Mariner Books. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 288 pages. Dimensions: 7.9in. x 5.2in. x 0.8in.A compelling moral fable in the shape of a gritty, twist-filled thriller. Wall Street JournalJohn Shannon is a petty thief on the run. A three-time loser framed for murder, he knows that hes facing life in prisonor death by lethal injection. Then, a bizarre text message draws him to a meeting in the dark of night. A foreigner who calls himself the Identity Man offers Shannon an incredible chance to start again: a new face, a new home, a new beginning. In a ruined city trying to rebuild, he gets work as a carpenter, and falls in love. It seems too good to be trueand it is. It turns out this city is crawling with crooked politicians, gangsters, and dirty copsall of whom seem to want Shannon dead. Moving through the shambles of a town, hes got to ferret out the secret of his new lifeand fastif he wants to be left with any life at all. A gripping thriller. Entertainment WeeklyA work of intense realism pervaded by sorrow, mercy, hopeand ultimately, transcendence. Washington Times This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780547597195