Pigeon- Blood Red by Ed Duncan
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?
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your novel?
A) Regarding my background, I grew up in Gary Indiana, which is about 30 miles east of Chicago. At one time Gary was home to the largest steel mill in the country, and I worked there during some of the summers while I was in college. After graduation from high school, I went to Oberlin College, where I majored in Spanish. Following college, I entered North western University Law School. The main campus is in Evanston, Illinois but the law school and medical school are located in downtown Chicago just north and east of Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile.
.Upon graduation from law school I accepted an offer to become an associate at, by 1974 standards, a large Cleveland law firm. In due course I became a partner and practiced for 37 years before retiring in 2012. In 2008 I wrote a legal text entitled Ohio Insurance Coverage,, a reference work for lawyers and judges. I updated that book annually through 2012. I had thought about writing fiction for years but I could never find the time. Once I retired, I had the time, which I’ve devoted to writing and traveling.
The plot of my novel, Pigeon-Blood Red, may be summarized as follows: In this interracial tale an underworld enforcer in pursuit of a stolen pigeon-blood red ruby necklace worth millions trails the thief, a businessman, 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 accidentally become embroiled in the crime: the thief’s unsuspecting wife, who is a college professor, and an old flame, who is a partner in a big Chicago law firm. The enforcer, a “killer with a conscience,” must decide whether to follow orders and kill them or spare them and endanger the life of the woman he loves.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) Pigeon-Blood Red is my first novel. It was inspired by a trip I made to Honolulu about two decades ago. I was attending a legal seminar when, during an evening stroll around the hotel grounds, the idea for the novel came to me. At that point the premise was inchoate and barely an idea. I saw in my mind’s eye a mysterious, alluring woman in danger and on the run from someone or something, and I saw a stranger (a lawyer, of course) coming to her rescue (or trying to). That was it. Over the ensuing months and years the stranger I envisioned was transformed into an old college classmate of the woman who had a crush on her when both were students almost two decades earlier. The reason the woman was in danger became that, unwittingly, she had come into possession of the priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace stolen by her estranged husband.
As I mentioned, I didn’t find time to finish my novel until I retired, but I worked on it in spurts over many years. I initially tried the traditional route of sending out multiple query letters to agents. After numerous rejections, I found a small independent publisher. The experience was not a happy one. Within a few months following publication, the publisher went out of business. I then self-published and contracted with a very good publicist to generate reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and multiple blogger sites on the internet. Fortunately, most reviews have been positive.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) Some of my favorite authors are Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Somerset Maugham, Richard Wright, Ken Follett, Theodore Dreiser, Scott Turow, Dennis Lehane, Walter Mosley, Frederick Forsythe, and Le Child. My favorite genre is crime fiction. My favorite authors in that genre are Dashiell Hammett and Lee Child. Three crime novels I’d recommend are Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, and Killing Floor by Lee Child. As to literary novels, I’d recommend An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser and How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. Finally, nonfiction books I’d recommend are A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton and The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. (I’m a Civil War buff!)
Q) What are your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) My favorite childhood/teenage favorite reads are The Catcher in the Rye and Great Expectations.
Q) What has been your favorite moment of being a published author?
A) My favorite moment was a simple one. It was when I received my first hard copy in the mail and saw my name on the book. After all the years of thinking about the novel and working on it, at first sporadically and later intensely, this was concrete evidence that my novel was finished and was available for the world (or much of it!) to enjoy. It was a heady time.
I would have to give that honor to my three adult children who have been both first readers and proof readers. My son has been particularly supportive because he too is a writer. One day I hope to see his work published as well.
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/
Chapter 3 #Extract:
Robert sat back and felt something lodged in the crack between the cushions. He reached behind him and pulled it out. It was the pouch Litvak had entrusted to Rico. He slowly removed its contents. The snippets of conversation he’d heard now made sense. Litvak had removed this from his safe. It looked expensive. But how valuable was it? He looked up. Rico was heading back to the car. He returned the necklace to the pouch and slipped it into his sock.
When Rico opened the door, Jerry was still laughing. “You told him?” Rico asked.
Jerry cleared his throat and managed to restrain his laughter. “He said it sounded sick to him.”
“Nobody’s ever said that before,” Rico said.
His tone was a little too serious for Robert. He quickly explained, “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Life’s too short,” Rico said. “She has a nice body, doesn’t she?”
“I guess so,” Robert said.
“You guess?” Jerry said.
“Then, yes,” Robert said.
“She works hard to keep it that way,” Rico said. “No reason to hide it.” He turned to look at Robert. “Right?”
“No. No reason.”
Rico turned back around and gave Jerry a wink. “Glad we straightened that out.”
Robert was glad Rico was facing forward again. He couldn’t concentrate with Rico looking at him. His mind raced. Was he being a complete idiot to even consider what he was contemplating? He knew he couldn’t come up with the money he owed Litvak in two short weeks. He didn’t want to think about what Litvak would do then. But he knew what Litvak would do if he actually stole the necklace.
Then there was the whole idea of taking something that didn’t belong to him. He was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a thief—yet. But was he really a thief if he stole from an unsavory character like Litvak, a loan shark and probably worse? He convinced himself that he was not.
Still, it was a gamble. But he was a gambler.
He had time to pack and make it to the airport. If Evelyn’s plane wasn’t full…How long would he be gone? He had no idea. Nor any idea what he would do with the contents of the pouch. But now wasn’t the time to worry about it. He’d have time to think after the plane took off—assuming Rico and Jerry didn’t kill him before he got to the airport. Until now he hadn’t entertained that possibility, but suddenly he could focus on nothing else.
He stared at the bulge in his sock. It wasn’t too late to put it back where he’d found it. They’d never know. He perspired heavily. The resolve he’d felt an instant earlier had melted away, and in its place was indecision rapidly morphing into panic. He froze and as he did, the car stopped in front of the racetrack. He didn’t move.
“Get out of the car,” Jerry said without looking back. Still Robert didn’t budge. Jerry and Rico both turned around and stared at him. “Hey, you going deaf or something?” Jerry asked. “Get out of the car already.”
The decision had been made for him. They looked right at him, close enough to touch him. He couldn’t return the necklace now even if he wanted to. He could explain finding it in the back seat, but he couldn’t explain how it got in his sock.
“I’m sorry,” Robert said. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” He got out of the car and stood transfixed at it as it sped away. Robotically, he drove home and made his way to his apartment, locked the door behind him, and sank to the floor in a sitting position, his legs stretched outward and his back against the door. Staring at the ceiling like it wasn’t there and clutching his chest with both hands, he inhaled deeply and tried in vain to slow the pace of his galloping heart.