Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Excerpt & Giveaway: Smoke City by Keith Rosson


Smoke City
Keith Rosson
Published by: Meerkat Press
Publication date: January 23rd 2018
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism
Marvin Deitz has some serious problems. His mob-connected landlord is strong-arming him out of his storefront. His therapist has concerns about his stability. He’s compelled to volunteer at the local Children’s Hospital even though it breaks his heart every week.
Oh, and he’s also the guilt-ridden reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, the French executioner who lit Joan of Arc’s pyre in 1431. He’s just seen a woman on a Los Angeles talk show claiming to be Joan, and absolution seems closer than it’s ever been . . . but how will he find her?
When Marvin heads to Los Angeles to locate the woman who may or may not be Joan, he’s picked up hitchhiking by Mike Vale, a self-destructive alcoholic painter traveling to his ex-wife’s funeral. As they move through a California landscape populated with “smokes” (ghostly apparitions that’ve inexplicably begun appearing throughout the southwestern US), each seeks absolution in his own way.


EXCERPT:
From the journals of Marvin Deitz:

There’s a grace inherent here. In writing things down. Like a confession signed, maybe. An admission. Nothing so lofty as a salve of the spirit, but at the very least it makes one feel a little better.
My earliest memory is of being in the marketplace in Rouen with my parents. I was probably three or four years old. I was walking with my parents amongst the stalls as fast as I could manage, amazed not at the flood of people, but at how the mass of them, the tide of them, parted for us. Because I’d thought at the time that it was me, right? My mother holding my hand, I thought it was me that made the people part ways for us.
I thought I was magic.
I did not notice at the time (but can imagine now, all too well) my mother’s downcast gaze, the way we stepped hurriedly through the leering crowd. How we did not stop to look at the untold riches of food, the bolts of fabric, the tools for sale. Things we never saw in our own village. I didn’t notice how my father gripped my mother’s arm, nearly dragging her along, her belly huge and rounded as she was pregnant with my sister at the time.
Three, four years old. I noticed the people parting for us, I remember that, but not the revulsion in their eyes, the contempt.
I would realize later, of course, just what it was the townspeople had shied away from, had leered at: my father’s coat, and the stitched image of the sword on the back.
The executioner’s mark.
And as for Joan, those decades later?
She was not loved unequivocally. She just wasn’t. At least not out loud. To do so was dangerous. But her victories, it was true, allowed some of us a rekindling of faith, a brief respite against death’s constant stutter of war and plague and occupation. The hope that God was watching over us all. The idea of it, that He believed in France’s sovereignty. That He might lift His face toward us again.
And thusly the order of her execution may as well have been passed down from the very day of her capture. The moment she was seized there outside the walls of Compiègne, it should have been clear to all that she would be put to death.
When Bishop Cauchon, toady of the English, bought her from the Burgundians after her capture, I knew the trial itself would be a hoax. A mockery. Yet I heard murmurings from serfs and landowners alike—from my darkened corner of the barroom, or on my way down the road to extract another bloody, weeping confession—and some of them hoped, prayed, that such a girl, who had served so obviously as the arm of God in the name of France, would not be allowed to die such a death. That God in His mercy would surely not allow such a thing. They prayed that Charles, their blessed King—after all Joan had done for him—would surely involve himself in the matter. That Burgundy would suddenly bend its allegiance like an arrow in the wind.
But I knew, there in the dim hallways of the heart, that men simply do what they want to do. Men do their darkness and misdeeds and later claim guidance under the banner of God’s will.
Shouldn’t I know that more than anyone? Didn’t I traffic in such matters?
She would die and they would call it divinity, because that’s what people do.
The trial was orchestrated by dozens of assessors and friars and clergymen, an ever-evolving assembly of men. The lot of them little more than castrated politicians hiding behind the guise of theology. English stormtroopers practically leaning over the benches with swords drawn throughout the entire sorry thing.
And Cauchon, ah, you should have seen him. Christ, that man. So puffed up with wine and his own righteousness and the quaking fear of an English blade suddenly tickling his balls in bed some night. Terrified, but paid well for his work, too. He would later die inexplicably in his barber’s chair, and the vengeful part of me still hopes the barber was paid to bleed him. And that it hurt terribly.
I dream of Cauchon nearly as often as I dream of Joan.
But Joan. Every avenue circles back. Everything returns to the mysterious and martyred Joan of Orléans. The young peasant girl who for a brief heartbeat of time was believed to have felt God’s lips pressed to her ear.
What of Joan of Arc?
For all of my grief and heartache and guilt, the truth is I only met her once, and that was the day I burned her alive.



Author Bio:
Keith Rosson is the author of the novels The Mercy of the Tide (2017, Meerkat Press) and Smoke City (2018, Meerkat Press). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.




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15 comments:

  1. Congrats on the tour and thanks so much for the great excerpt and giveaway as well.

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  2. Judging by the excerpt, book sounds very intriguing, looking forward to reading it!

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  3. Thanks for hosting today, Darcus! :)

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  4. Sounds great. Love the colourful cover!

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  5. This sounds like a great read.

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  6. This story sounds quite unique and I'm really interested.

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  7. That's a very interesting and striking cover, and from the excerpt, I think it really goes with the book (the narration style is very peculiar, not what I often see at least)

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  8. Enjoyed the excerpt.

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  9. I love the excerpt. This story is very unique from anything I've ever read.

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  10. "Magical Realism" sounds like a genre I need to read.

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  11. I think reincarnation is an interesting topic, I'm glad this book has it in it's plot line.

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