Critics have called James W. Hall's previous bestsellers "electrifying,""innovative,"and "brilliantly suspenseful." Now Hall brings us his most haunting and relentlessly gripping novel yet--a work that proves why the San Francisco Chronicle has hailed him as one of the nation's "finest and most literate of thriller writers."
A Florida cruise ship under siege provides the spellbinding backdrop for Hall's latest novel. On board, a mad terrorist is threatening to blow up the ship--and a large part of the Florida coastline as well. The madman, an unforgettable character with a high-tech stun gun and a strange fascination with word etymologies, illustrates why James Ellroy calls Hall's villains "so well drawn and amusing they make you giddy."
Also on board is Thorn, the enigmatic, hard-bitten hero last seen in Gone Wild, who, along with his friend, Sugerman, must stop the bomber before he redesigns the Southeastern United States. As the novel races toward its explosive conclusion, Hall sets the scene for a nerve-shattering showdown--between the brutal and cunning terrorist and Thorn, who reveals a deeper, darker, more unpredictable side to his personality in this electrifying new novel.
A thriller filled with the author's signatures--vise-tightening suspense, steamy sexuality, hypnotic prose, and off-beat humor--Buzz Cut exposes the dark underbelly and colorful chaos of James W. Hall's native Florida, as it lays bare the tremendous talents of an American master writing at the peak of his storytelling powers.
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Thorn, a loner and gloomy sort of guy, is the hero of James W. Hall's thriller series. But in Buzz Cut, the real center of attention is Butler Jack, an erudite homicidal maniac with a brilliant and grandiose scheme. The plan is to hijack a $400 million cruise ship and hold its 2,000 passengers for ransom. Butler Jack has an obsession with etymology, and he is more than happy to lecture his hostages on the derivation of the word "hijack," which is descended from "Jack" which comes from the Middle English "Jakke," which meant "ordinary guy." Our Jack is an ordinary guy who just happens to have the mind of a genius and a passion for grisly killing.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
In his official Fiesta Cruise Lines shirt, Emilio Sanchez stood before the bathroom mirror squinting at his new tummy bulge. The blue rugby shirt was hugging him tight at the belly, showing off the extra couple of inches of flab.
What it was, was too much cruise line food for the last six months. First time in his life he'd had a chance to eat three meals a day. Here he was, only twenty-four years old, way too young to get a gut. He didn't watch out, soon he'd be looking like all those American passengers. Worse than that, with a big gringo belly he wasn't as likely to score with the ladies.
Emilio was sucking in his stomach, staring at his profile when the door to his cabin opened. Tindu, his Filipino roommate, probably ducking in from the first dinner seating for a quick smoke.
Emilio smoothed his hand over his stomach, flattened it briefly, and decided tomorrow he would begin a diet. Eliminate breakfast. That would be easiest. Eat two meals a day instead of three. Drop ten pounds by the time of the anniversary cruise. No problem. An easy decision. Sex was a hell of a lot more important to Emilio Sanchez than breakfast.
He ran a quick comb through his thick black hair and turned from the mirror and the first thing he saw was the glitter of the blade. It was not a large knife. He'd seen bigger. Four times in his life he'd faced knives. Taking cuts on both arms and one deep wound to his left shoulder. But in those Juarez street fights, he had always possessed his own knife.
The man in his doorway held the knife in a comfortable underhand grip, left hand. Nothing fancy. Clearly familiar with its use.
"The shirt," the man said.
The man stepped closer. "I want that shirt."
"You want my shirt?" Emilio plucked some fabric at his breast. "This shirt?"
"I want it. Give it to me."
He did something with the knife, a little Zorro waggle of his hand. Then he held up his right hand and Emilio blinked. Couldn't believe what he was seeing here in his own room. A guy with electricity coming out his fingers. Knife in one hand, sparks coming out the fingertips of the other.
"Hey, man, it's okay. You want the shirt, you got the shirt. You can put the goddamn knife away. I give you the shirt, it's yours, man. I never liked the fucking shirt in the first place."
Emilio stepped back, pulled the shirttail out of his pants, crossed his hands over his stomach ready to drag it off over his head, watching the man. "You want it, what, like for a souvenir or something?"
"I need the shirt." Saying it very calm. "Like right now."
The man wore a black Fiesta Cruise Lines T-shirt and a pair of new blue jeans. The T-shirt said he'd been a Jackpot winner. The man looked like a movie star, not the super handsome type, but one of those you've seen all your life, in this and in that, the star's brother or best friend. You've seen him a hundred times, but you never know his name. One of those.
Blond hair hanging loose down to his shoulders. A face that looked like the guy might've been playing with his girlfriend's makeup. Lips a little too red, skin a pasty, powdery white. Like you could take a fingernail and scrape some of it off, get down to the real flesh. But still handsome, and despite the knife, still somebody it looked like you could reason with.
"I got more shirts if you want them. In my drawer over there. I got three or four, man. Brand new practically. You go and take them all. Start your own collection. I don't give a shit. I never liked these fucking shirts."
Still gripping his shirttails, arms crossed, ready to strip off the shirt, but trying to talk his way past this, find some way to keep from ducking his head into that blue material, lose sight of the guy in his doorway for even a half second. That knife not moving, just hanging there in front of the guy's belly. The blond man very still, not blinking, nothing.
"Go on, take off the shirt." Voice getting quiet now.
Emilio shifted his feet, brought his right one back a half step, gonna kick the man in the groin if he came forward at all. Punt him up to the Promenade Deck if he tried anything.
Emilio tugged on the shirt, made a little feint to see if the guy moved. He didn't. So Emilio went ahead, stripped out of it. Losing sight of the guy for a half second was all it was, a half second, couldn't have been any longer than that.
The shirt came over his head and Emilio felt a cold jiggle in his belly, and something hot spilling out, running wet down his pants, and he heard the noise coming from his throat, like he was gargling, or puking, like he was out in the alley behind the Kentucky Club back in Juarez, too much cheap tequila, drinking in that bar he remembered now, a place where men stood and guzzled beer and opened their flies right there, a beer in their hand, and pissed into the ceramic trough that ran under the lip of the bar and through a pipe out into the street, a river of urine running down the gutters of Juarez. Thinking of that bar, of that border town, how much he'd wanted to escape that river of piss, go away, see the world, wear nice clothes, meet the blond women, only so he could wind up like this, in a tiny, pathetic fucking room on a ship, a man killing him for his shirt, for his stupid goddamn shirt.
And Emilio felt himself falling backward against the sink. Seeing the man in his doorway, holding the blue cruise lines shirt in one hand and the bloody knife in the other. No smile on his face, nothing at all. Same look Emilio felt on his own face at that exact moment. Nothing there at all. Never would be again either. Never. Just like the blond guy, a dead face.
From the Paperback edition.
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