by Charles Salzberg
on Tour May 1 – June 30, 2019
When Henry Swann is asked by his quirky partner, Goldblatt, to find a missing psychic who’s swindled his ex-wife out of a small fortune, he just can’t say no. Although he doesn’t actually expect to get paid, he figures it might give him a chance to finally learn more about his partner’s mysterious past. His search takes him into the controversial, arcane world of psychics, fortune tellers, and charlatans, while raising questions in his own mind about whether or not there is an after-life.
While working his partner’s case, he’s approached by a former employer, attorney Paul Rudder, to track down a missing witness who might be able to provide an alibi for his client, Nicky Diamond, a notorious mob hitman who’s scheduled to go on trial for murder he claims he didn’t commit in a week. Swann’s search for the missing witness, who happens to be the defendant’s girlfriend, takes him from Brooklyn to a small beach town across the Bay from Mobile, Ala. But what does she really know and will she even come back with him to testify for her boyfriend?
Book Details:Genre: Detective/Noir/Mystery
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Number of Pages: 300
Series: Henry Swann
Purchase Links: Amazon | BN.com | Goodreads
Read an excerpt:
1“We’re partners, right?”
The Age of Aquarius
Nothing good can come from that question when it comes from the mouth of Goldblatt.
“I mean, all for one and one for all, am I right?” he quickly added in an attempt, I was sure, to seal the deal.
“I think you’re confusing us with the three musketeers. May I point out there are only two of us, and I’m afraid that’s not the only fallacy in your declaration. But you might as well finish what you’ve started.”
We were having our weekly Friday lunchtime sit-down to discuss what Goldblatt likes to refer to as “business.” I have another name for it: waste of time.
Our venue changes from week to week but the concept is always pretty much the same: a cheap diner-slash-coffee shop somewhere on the island of Manhattan. Today’s eatery of choice (Goldblatt’s choice, my destiny) is the Utopia Diner, on Amsterdam, near 72nd Street. And as for the business we’d just finished discussing, well, to be honest, there never is very much actual business to discuss and today was no exception.
At this particular moment in time, we were going through a bit of a dry spell, which always makes me a little nervous because no matter how much I banish it from my mind, the rent is due the first of every month and at least three times a day I seem to develop a hunger that must be quenched. Still, a good fifteen, twenty years away from Social Security, and with precious little dough in the bank–okay, let’s be honest, no dough in the bank–and no 401-K to fall back on, I need to keep working. And, as much as I don’t like to admit it, lately it’s been my “partner,” as he likes to refer to himself, as opposed to my preferred albatross, who’s brought in the bulk of our clients.
We’d already finished eating–though technically, Goldblatt never actually finishes eating which means a meal can easily turn into an all-day affair, if I don’t apply the brakes–and we were just waiting for the check to arrive. This is a crucial point of any meal with Goldblatt because it is the opening gambit in what has become our weekly routine of watching the check sit there in no-man’s land somewhere between us until I inevitably give in, pick it up, and pay. Otherwise, I risk one of two things: either we’d be there all afternoon or, worst case scenario, Goldblatt will decide he’s still hungry and threaten to order something else. Neither one of these options is the least bit appealing.
“I’ll get right to the point,” he said.
Just then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the waiter, like a white knight, approaching with our check in hand. If I acted quick enough I might be able to get out of there before I can be sucked into something I don’t want to have anything to do with.
“That would be nice,” I said, reaching for my wallet. “What is your point?”
“I need to hire you.”
I was stopped in my tracks before I got my wallet halfway out of my back pocket.
“Really? To do what?”
“I want you to find someone for me. Well, to be more precise it’s not really for me. It’s for my ex-wife.”
Wait a minute! Goldblatt married? Goldblatt with a wife? Goldblatt a husband? This was a new one on me, something I’d never even considered.
“You…you’ve been married?” I stammered.
Truth is, I never pictured Goldblatt being in any relationship other than with, yes, as irritating as it might be, me. I mean the guy isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of Don Juan, although I suppose in theory there are women who might find him if not attractive in the conventional way at least interesting in a specimen-under-glass way. Or maybe as a project. Women love a project. They love a challenge. They love the idea that they have the opportunity to remake a man in their image. Maybe that was it. But whatever it was, my world was shaken to the core. And what would shake it even more would be to find that he was actually a father, too. But one shock per meal is more than enough, so there was no chance I was going to pursue that line of questioning.
“Unfortunately, the answer is yes. More than once, in fact.”
“Holy Cow,” I blurted out, channeling the Scooter. “You’re kidding me?”
At this point the same bald, squat waiter who seems to serve us in every diner we patronize, reached our table and dropped the check right in front of me.
“This is not something a man usually kids about.”
“How many times?”
He held up three fingers.
“Three times! You’ve been married three times?”
“Are you married now?”
He shook his head. “Nah. I’m kinda between wives. Giving it a rest, if you know what I mean.
But chances are I’ll be back in the saddle again soon enough.”
“Okay, so let me get this straight. You’ve been married three times and now you’re single but you would consider getting married again?”
“Man is not meant to be alone, Swannie. You might consider the possibility that your life would be enriched if you found your soulmate.”
You’re fortunate if you find one soul mate in life and I’d already had mine. She was yanked from my life as a result of a freak accident, a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn’t know if Goldblatt knew the circumstances of her bizarre accidental death, but I wouldn’t have been surprised because he seems to know a lot of things he has no business knowing.
“Some men are meant to be alone, Goldblatt. I’m one of them and after three failed marriages maybe you should consider the possibility you are, too.”
He smiled and puffed out his chest. “What can I say, Swann? I’m a friggin’ babe magnet.”
I would have laughed, should have laughed, but I was still processing the scary fact that he’d been married three times. That meant there were three women in the world who not only were willing to marry him but did marry him. I wanted to know more. Much more. Everything, in fact. But this was not the time and certainly not the place to delve into Goldblatt’s mysterious, sordid past. Nevertheless, I promised myself I would revisit this topic in the not too distant future.
Still in shock, I avoided our weekly “who’s paying for this meal” tango, grabbed the check and reached for my wallet…again.
“So, wanna know the story?” he asked.
“Which story would that be?”
“The story of why I want to hire you?”
Excerpt from Swann’s Down by Charles Salzberg. Copyright 2019 by Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Charles Salzberg. All rights reserved.
Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in New York magazine, Esquire, GQ, Redbook, The New York Times Book Review and other periodicals. He has written over 20 non-fiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times. He is author of the Shamus Award nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair, nominated for two Silver Falchions, Swann’s Way Out, Devil in the Hole, named one of the best crime novels of the year by Suspense Magazine. He was a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and he teaches writing the New York Writers Workshop where he is a Founding Member. He is a member of the MWA-NY Board.
In this Henry Swann mystery, Henry is asked to look into two cases. He is asked to find a killer’s alibi and to find a charalatan with a penchant for scamming the vulnerable out of a lot of money.
It’s curious that Henry Swann doesn’t describe himself as a private investigator per se. He just finds people and things, that’s all. He doesn’t solve crimes and he isn’t responsible for anyone involved in anything considered a crime. He finds things – do you understand the difference? Yeh, I’m not sure he does either, although he makes a valiant attempt to convince himself and others of the distinction. It’s probably part of his charm.
His charm, albeit a ‘doesn’t give a toss’ and ‘take it or leave it’ kind of charm is what makes him such a compelling character. Swann really doesn’t give two monkeys, and don’t we know it. The paradox is of course is that he is drawn into the crime, mystery or case, despite said attitude.
Another fascinating aspect is the relationship or rather reluctant partnership between Swann and the disbarred lawyer Goldblatt. Goldblatt is a little bit like the greasy oddball you have to hire because you can’t afford a decent legal representative. He often walks both sides of the line.
I was pleasantly surprised by this read. I can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another book by Salzberg. He has this way of combining a Sam Spadey feel with a noirish vibe to create an engaging read. What’s even more interesting is the way the author doesn’t deliver or rather doesn’t facilitate an ending the reader might expect. Not a happy one, a sad one nor a cliffhanger. Instead it’s an ending with a sense of realism. In life there is no perfect storyline, so why should there be one in fiction, right?
It’s mystery crime fiction that nods in the direction of the devil may care attitude of 1940s private eyes with a noirish vibe and to boot is dunked in realism.
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