Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent Calendar - Day 15 - EXCERPT

Today we have an excerpt from one of my personal favorites, Snowball in Hell. I'm not sure if it really qualifies as a "holiday" story, but the holidays are certainly an important part of the novella. Anyway, here's a bit of bittersweet vintage mystery from the 1940s.


It's Christmas 1943 and the world is at war. Journalist Nathan Doyle has just returned home from North Africa--still recovering from wounds received in the Western Desert Campaign--when he's asked to cover the murder of a society blackmailer.

Lt. Matthew Spain of the LAPD homicide squad hates the holidays since the death of his beloved wife a few months earlier, and this year isn’t looking much cheerier what with the threat of attack by the Japanese and a high-profile homicide investigation. Matt likes Nathan; maybe too much.

If only he didn’t suspect that Nathan had every reason to commit murder.


Spain proffered a pack of Camels. Nathan took one, and Spain leaned forward to light it for him. Spain’s hands were large and well-shaped. His lashes made dark crescents against his cheekbones. As though he felt Nathan’s stare, he raised his eyes -- and Nathan couldn’t look away.

He stared into Mathew Spain’s long-lashed hazel eyes, and he realized with sudden terrible clarity that Spain knew all about him. Knew exactly what he was. Knew it as surely as though Nathan’s ugly history were an open file on his Spain’s tidy desk. In fact…Nathan glanced at Spain’s desktop as though somehow the explanation could be found there, because how did Spain know? How? Had it become that obvious? Like a scarlet letter branded into his skin -- or the mark of Cain?

Hot blood flushed Nathan’s face, and just as quickly drained away, leaving him feeling light-headed. He drew back, drawing sharply on his cigarette. He sat very straight.

Spain flicked his lighter closed, put it away. He seemed to be in no hurry.

“Why am I here?” Nathan asked, blowing out a stream of blue smoke. His voice was just about steady.

Spain watched him, eyes very direct between his straight, black eyebrows.

“Why didn’t you mention you were with the Arlen kid on Saturday night?”

“I wasn’t with him,” Nathan said. “I ran into him at the Las Palmas Club. We had a drink together.” He shrugged.

Spain leaned back in his swivel chair and rubbed his chin. “Listen, Sir Galahad, it might interest you to know that the lady in question didn’t mind throwing you to the wolves. She said it looked to her like you were pretty angry with Philip yourself. Like you were mad enough to kill.”

“She doesn’t know me very well.” Nathan studied the ashes on his cigarette.

“Did she threaten to kill her husband and Pearl Jarvis?”

“She might have.” Nathan smiled wryly. “I wasn’t listening that carefully to tell you the truth.”

“Why’s that?”

 Nathan said slowly, “I went there for a few drinks and some laughs, but after I got there…I realized that really wasn’t what I needed.”

“What did you need?” Spain asked -- and Nathan, for the life of him, couldn’t think of how to answer.

Neither of them spoke. Neither of them looked away.

* * **

Christmas coda here.


  1. "Lt. Spain". What a great name. And everything about that book is so noir. Will there be a sequel?

    1. Oh yes. There will definitely be a sequel. :-)

  2. I loved,loved this novel :)! I still hope for sequel. And their Coda is so loving and desperate. I heard sample of it's audiobook and I must say, that's my next goal. The narrator's voice is perfect, just how I love my noir movies and mysteries :),


    1. Alexander is one of my favorite narrators. He does an especially great job with this one. :-)

  3. I think this might be my next listen. It's been too long since I've read it. It's nice that you're giving us these reminders of the gifts you've given us.

  4. I reread this in the Fall. One of your truly great ones, Josh. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you.

  5. This one was one of your most heartbreaking reads I loved the audio book, how these guys get to have a life together in that time and place had me very sad...because I couldnt figure out how but I had faith in Spain that he could hold onto Nathan. Grin...he seemed a pretty determined guy.

  6. I've just started re-reading Snowball in Hell. The first time I read it I loved it so much... I am really looking forward to reading more about Doyle and Spain. Do you have any approximate date for the sequel?

  7. I loved this book, so many emotions - glad to read there will be a sequel!

  8. SNOWBALL!!!!!!

    Loved this tight, moody book!!!! Sequels are appreciated!!!!!!
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!!


  9. I loved the audible book. Nathan's voice was wonderful. This is one of my favorite books of yours. Of course, I say that about all of them. :)

  10. Didn't read that one...but I LOVED that excerpt!!

  11. This is one of my favorites of yours... possibly my most favorite. I just recently listened to it in Audiobook. I am looking forward to more of them.

  12. I listened to the audiobook just a couple of days ago, and it was just perfect! - the story, the narration, the atmosphere - i love the atmosphere - and there's a scene towards the end *sigh* i'd forgotten how moving that scene was. Looking forward to the sequel :-)

  13. This is one of my favorites. I haven't heard it on audio, though. Maybe I'll try it. And I really can't wait for the sequel.

  14. I just read this recently and LOVED it. Felt so much for each of the MCs.

  15. It is a wonderful book! Interwoven sadness and joy! I am very happy, that you will write a second book.