For today’s post, author Ed Duncan will be sharing his favorite quotes/excepts from his book Pigeon-Blood Red
Duncan says, “It’s always been said that you should write what you know. I am a lawyer – as is a pivotal character in the novel who is being pursued by a hit man – and I’m excited to be able to use my legal training creatively as well as professionally.”
For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.
As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?
Praise for Pigeon-Blood Red
“Pigeon Blood Red has a dramatic and satisfying conclusion, leaving the reader nodding his head with approval.” – Readers’ Favorite
“In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfill the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.” – Red City Review
“This charming, classically-told crime thriller is a must for noir fans…refreshingly old-school pulp, inhabited by a familiar cast of gamblers, con men and hustlers found in Dennis Lehane and Elmore Leonard novels” – Best Thrillers
Pigeon-Blood Red tells the story of an underworld enforcer on the hunt for a stolen “pigeon-blood red” ruby necklace worth millions. He trails the thief from Chicago to Honolulu, but the chase goes sideways after the hardened hit man develops a grudging respect for a couple of innocent bystanders who become embroiled in the crime: the thief’s unsuspecting wife and an old flame who comes to her rescue as the enforcer closes in. The hit man faces a difficult decision: follow orders and kill them or spare them and endanger the life of the woman he loves.
Rico, the enforcer/hit man, is the driving force behind the novel. I originally envisioned him sharing the spotlight equally with Paul, the lawyer/old flame who comes to the rescue of Evelyn, the unsuspecting wife of Robert, the small businessman and thief. However, Rico fought to become the main character and while I fought back, he ultimately prevailed. I’ve selected several passages from the novel that demonstrate his character, his relationship with his girlfriend Jean, and his relationship with his boss, Frank Litvak. I’ve also selected two brief excerpts that show a bit of interaction between Paul and Evelyn. These excerpts begin to suggest that Paul and Rico have more in common than either cares to admit, a developing theme in this and the next two installments in the trilogy. Finally, I’ve chosen a few passages that I hope evoke the tone and style of the novel.
1. RICO’S CHARACTER
A. Rico explains why he had to kill a man.
Jean was still shaken. “Why did you have to kill him?”
…He explained in a measured cadence the way a teacher might to a class having difficulty with a concept he’d explained a dozen times before. “He tried to cap me a minute ago because he was in a hurry. No way did he deserve to leave here in one piece. But I gave him a shot. He didn’t take it.”
“I don’t care. You didn’t have to —
“Yes, I did, sweetheart…. I didn’t need to be looking over my shoulder every day, waiting for him to show up and take another crack. I already have enough reasons to watch my back because of shit I can’t control. Him I could control.”
B. Rico shows his indifference to what other people think.
“Why should we believe you?” Evelyn asked unsteadily.
“Believe what you want,” Rico said with utter indifference. Then he walked to the table where Paul had left his gun and returned it to him. “You forgot this.” He started for the door.
“What about Honolulu?” Paul said to the retreating back.
“I hear it’s a nice place to visit,” Rico said, without looking back or slowing his pace.
“I think you should wait for the police.”
When he reached the door, Paul pointed his weapon at his back. “Wait!” But Rico didn’t wait. He kept walking.”
2. RICO’S RELATIONSHIP WITH JEAN
A. Thoughts of Jean while on the hunt in Honolulu
He left his .45 in the room safe and went down to the beach. He took off his shoes and socks and rolled up his pant legs. And when his bare feet started to burn, he trotted, then loped toward the lapping waves until his feet met the cool, wet sand. Again, thoughts of Jean intruded. I must be getting old.
B. Rico discusses his credo with Jean.
“How could you say it was just business?”
“Because it was.”
Tired of banging her head against the wall, Jean stood and joined him at the window. “I give up.”
“It’s who I am, Jean. From day one I never tried to hide that from you.”
“I know, but there’s more to you than what you do. You said so yourself. If there wasn’t, do you think I could be with you now after what you did? I see something in you that you don’t see in yourself.”
“You see what you want to see, but I am who I am.”
“And why are you here with me?”
“Because we understand each other.”
“Sometimes I think you do understand me, Rico, maybe even more than I understand myself. But I don’t think I’ll ever understand you. I don’t think anybody does.”
“One out of two ain’t bad.”
3. RICO’S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS BOSS, LITVAK
A. Litvak’s insecurity
Rico and Jerry had been standing at the door patiently waiting for Litvak’s lecture to end. Being the good soldier, Jerry looked at Robert and said, “You can take that to the bank.”
Rico, meanwhile, made eye contact with Litvak and started out the door.
Jerry had felt obliged to deliver the affirmation Litvak’s insecurity demanded, but Litvak still needed Rico’s endorsement. He repeated, in a tone that didn’t so much demand as plead, “Right, Rico?”
Rico paused and produced a smile that was barely there. “Anything you say.”
Litvak frowned but the comment would have to do.
B. Litvak threatens Jean.
“And one more thing. That job gets done even if something happens to me. I don’t think you have the balls but why take chances? Enough said?”
“That would be a mistake.”
“I don’t think so. See, I threaten you, you don’t give a shit, because you’re Mr. Tough Guy. You think nobody can take you out. But I say she gets it, it’s a different story because you don’t know when and you don’t know how.”
“I was you, I wouldn’t bring her into this.”
“You ain’t me and I just did.”
4. PAUL’S RELATIONSHIP WITH EVELYN
A. Evelyn discovers that Paul is always in control (not unlike Rico).
“You surprised me,” Evelyn said after a few blocks. You’re always so …”
“Exactly. How did you know what I was thinking?”
“I’m a good guesser.”
“In all the years we’ve known each other I’ve never seen you lose your temper.”
“You found me out.”
“No, seriously, Paul. Even back there with Litvak I’m not sure you really lost it. Your reaction was – I don’t know – calculated.”
“Mostly it was reflexes.”
“Then you admit there was some calculation involved.”
“You’re a strange guy, Paul. Nice, but strange.”
B. Paul admires Rico
Evelyn sensed that he hadn’t fully acquiesced. “Paul, you really shouldn’t.”
“Admire him – even a little.”
“Believe me, Evelyn, I don’t.”
But he did – a little. And she knew it.
5. DESCRIPTIVE PASSAGES
A. Luau floor show
It began with a chorus of enchanting hula dancers with undulating bellies and gyrating hips, that enthralled the men in the audience and impressed the women, and culminated in an intricate routine performed by a man whose sole prop was a baton that sprouted flames at both ends. He twirled it nimbly between the fingers of both hands before tossing it impossibly high in the air again and again and catching it each time behind his back with one hand.
B. Murder at the luau
[His] head snapped to one side and his body, as though launched by a slingshot, flew out of his chair and hit the ground. All music and motion abruptly halted as scores of eyes searched the night, trying to understand the crackle that had pierced the air. Then someone yelled “a gunshot” and there was pandemonium….
… She gasped once, twice, three times, but no sound escaped her. Then the same awful sound rang out again and her head flew backward, leading the rest of her body to the ground.
Rico rose quickly and donned his sunglasses. After years of wearing them at night, his eyes adjusted quickly. He reached under his jacket, unholstered his .45 and unscrewed the silencer so that the next shots he fired would create maximum panic….
Rico thrust both arms out and up in front of him, his left hand joining his right around the butt of the gun. As his arms came level with his shoulders, they snapped to a stop, the abruptness of which caused Evelyn to flinch. As she came into focus, staring anxiously into the barrel of the Sig Sauer, the slightest smile creased his face and the muscles in his arms relaxed. As swiftly as he’d hoisted it, he holstered the .45, turned on his heel, and disappeared once more into the darkness ….
C. Attempted pickup
She also wore a ring on her left ring finger, but no husband was in sight. Ray leered at her from the moment she walked in, and as she glanced around the room, her eye caught his. She smiled demurely and he lifted his beer in a silent toast. Without acknowledging the gesture she turned away, crossed her legs seductively, and trained her eyes on the door. That was all Ray needed. He took another swig, winked at Archie, and sidled over to her table. She was still looking at the door when he got there, but she sensed his presence and he knew it.
“You alone?” he asked.
Without looking up she placed her left hand palm down on the table in front of him so that her wedding ring was plainly visible.
“I already saw that,” he said.
Still not turning to face him she said, with less urgency than circumstances warranted, “My husband is parking the car. He should be here any minute.”
“Maybe later then.”
“No, that’s not possible.” Her words said no but her eyes said maybe. Ray flashed a smile she pretended not to see and returned to the bar.
Thank you to Ed for sharing these excerpts! Be sure to check out the series Pigeon-Blood Red!!
About Ed Duncan
Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. To learn more, go to http://eduncan.net/