Book Jacket

 

rank 5918
word count 14234
date submitted 19.08.2008
date updated 08.05.2012
genres: Fiction, Thriller, Crime
classification: moderate
complete

Halfway to Hell (original novella)

Gavin Bell

Johnny Park is 100 miles from Phoenix... and halfway to Hell.

 

This is the original novella of Halfway to Hell. You can buy the full-length novel version from Amazon.

Johnny Park is a capricorn, a Brit in America, and a damn good bank robber. Following a botched heist, Johnny and a small crew of mismatched miscreants rendezvous in the small desert town of Halfway, Arizona. Things go from bad to worse when their fence is found murdered, and it soon becomes clear someone has followed them to this dusty speck on the map with the intention of killing each member of this disparate group.

Unable to cut his losses and run, Johnny must deal with a suspicious sheriff, a knockout redhead, and a gang where the only person he trusts is himself. Are the murders related to the heist, or has a phantom from the past come to Halfway to enact a bloody reckoning?

Hard boiled violence and mystery collide with desert noir as Johnny realises he's stuck in the desert with a killer and he's out of bullets... and friends.

This fast-paced novella will appeal to anyone who likes their thrillers straight up, with no skimping on violence, gunfights and car chases.

View the trailer for Halfway to Hell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-pUqN-a7hs

 
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tags

arizona, bad language, bullets, car chase, car chases, commercial, crime, death, desert, exploitation, guns, hotel, killer, love, mystery, noir, novel...

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2: Check In

‘Bing!’

    The little bell on the Halfway Hotel’s reception desk was louder than it looked. When there was no response after a few seconds, I leaned over the desk and peered through the open door beyond that led into the office. There didn’t seem to be anyone in there, so I turned around and leant back on the desk to have a look around. The reception area was quite roomy. The Art Deco style gave the place a preserved 1930s feeling. Judging by the yellowing wallpaper and well-worn carpeting, that was the last time it had been decorated. There was another doorway to the side with a neatly hand-lettered sign that read ‘To All Rooms’.

     Across the room, adjacent to the main entrance, was a small bar. A redhead in a light blue sundress was perched on a stool, looking right at me. I looked away instinctively, the way people do when they’re gazing around aimlessly and happen to make eye contact, but when I glanced back again, she was still looking. The redhead took a sip from whatever she was drinking and her eyes smiled.

     I heard an impatient cough from behind me. Turning around, I found myself facing a heavy set man in his late forties. What was left of his hair was graying, and he sported a creased Hawaiian shirt tucked into too-tight khakis. A grimy name tag was pinned to his breast pocket. It said Bill, Manager, but going by his expression, it might as well have said Don’t Ask.

    He snapped open his reservation book, and I noticed that there was only one other entry on the page, even though it had space to take bookings for the whole week. It looked as though there wouldn’t be too many other guests to witness our stay, which suited me fine. “You want a room?” he enquired bluntly

    “Good guess.” I smiled amiably. No reaction. “Yeah, I want a room - one with a bathroom.”

    The manager began to write in his reservation book and then paused: “You’re English, right?”

    “Something like that.”

    He nodded, as if this explained everything and looked back down at his book: “Name?”

    “Morricone”

    “How long’ll you be staying?”

    “Just tonight.”

    “That’ll be forty five dollars,” said the manager, turning to take a key from the board on the wall. “Upfront.”

    I slid my wallet out of my back pocket and paid him. He took the money and handed over the key, eyeing me with an equal mix of suspicion and distaste. I asked him if he knew anything about the cops down the road, trying to sound like I was just making conversation.

    “Don’t know nothin’ about that.”

    Immediately, a lighter and more pleasant voice piped in:

    “I heard somebody got killed.”

    I turned around to check that the girl at the bar was addressing me.

    “Yeah? You’re kidding,” I said, walking over to the bar and pocketing my room key.

    “I was just talking to someone who said somebody got shot at Jake’s... that’s the barbers.”

    “What happened?” I asked, marveling at the speed information can travel through a small-town grapevine.

    The girl finished her drink before answering: “I don’t know, Steve - the guy I heard it from - just ran like hell and called the Sheriff when he heard the shots.”

    “Maybe somebody didn’t like their haircut,” I shrugged. “Hey, can I get you another drink?”

    “Sure,” she said, “but just a grape juice, I’m working in an hour. I’m Midnight, by the way.”

    “Midnight?”

    The girl made a good-natured grimace. “Yeah I know. If I ever meet my mom we’re gonna have words about that. I sound like I should be a porn star.”

    “I was going to say superhero,” I said, reaching a hand out. “John. John Park.” I don’t know why I gave her my real name. I suppose I just thought it was safe enough, since she wasn’t going to be writing it down in a logbook. Maybe it was more than just that.

     I nodded at the bartender, who had sauntered over at the sound of a fresh customer.

    “Another of these and a beer?”

    He gave me a bottle of a brand I’d never heard of. ‘Simarro’ or something. It wasn’t the best beer I’d ever had, but it was cold at least, and in this heat I wasn’t complaining.

    “This guy bothering you, Middy?” the bartender said with a mock-suspicious look at me.

    Midnight kept a straight face “I’ll let you know when you can toss him out, Tom.”

    “Just gimme a shout then.” he winked at her and disappeared into the back.

    The fresh drink didn’t have a straw, so Midnight shook off the old one and deposited it in the new glass. She took a quarter-glass sip right away. “Nice accent. Where you from?”

    “Scotland,” I replied, getting ready to elaborate.

    Midnight giggled. “I know that. I meant which part?”

    “I’m sorry,” I said, grinning sheepishly. “Glasgow.”

    “I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland. It looks like a beautiful country... so green.”

    “It’s green for a reason; you’d get pretty tired of the rain after a couple of weeks. That’s why I came over here.”

    She asked me what had really brought me to the States and I told her about how I’d come over a couple of years ago to visit a friend, and ended up finding a lucrative line of work and staying. I neglected to mention certain details, such as the highly illegal nature of the work, the fact that my friend was currently doing a twenty stretch, and the fact that I was still extremely wanted in Boston. I decided that the conversation was getting a little too focused on me and steered it back towards her.

    “How about you? You live around here?”

    “Just on the outskirts of town,” she answered, gazing out of the door and to the south. “It’s a pretty quiet place. A little boring, actually, if you want the truth.”

    “Yeah, I can see that, I mean it’s nearly five o’ clock and you’ve only had the one homicide.”

    Midnight laughed guiltily, giving me a mild punch on the arm as I finished my beer. I thought about getting another one. The sound of somebody leaning on the horn outside reminded me that Tony and Travis were still waiting in the car. Regretfully, I got up from my stool.

    “Anyway, I better go get my friends. They’re not too patient,” I said, envisioning Travis kneecapping me for keeping him waiting.

    “Nice talking to you,” she smiled. “Maybe I’ll see you around town.”

    “That’d be nice. Well, good afternoon Midnight.”

    I turned and walked over to the revolving door, wishing wholeheartedly that I had left Travis in Phoenix.

 

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JoeTheAuthor wrote 1501 days ago

Bravo! Well done. Great pacing, with enough detail to keep me interested, and enough left unsaid to make me want more. Backed with pleasure!
Joe Perrone Jr.
As The Twig Is Bent
Opening Day

Isabelle Adams wrote 1749 days ago

I love the name of the town. I just love it. It's so appropriate. Bank robbers don't usually interest me, but this is good enough to have caught my interest.

Rivallino wrote 1193 days ago

Brilliant! Love it! Right up my street. Straight onto my bookshelf. Hope you can keep up the standard. I had intended downloading something onto my Sony Reader later on tonight, but, no thank you, this'll do fine. Really trying hard to find a fault, but...

Debbie wrote 1173 days ago

Ariom recommended this to me and I value her opinion. Haven't read much so far - but a great opening dropping us straight into the car and the action. But 14k is barely out of short story status and I'm not sure where your market is for this. Have you thought of shortening it for the long-short story market (crimewave springs to mind) or lengthening it into a novel (which is what I thought it was to start off with). This is great writing with strong 3 dimensional characters and I enjoyed reading it.

Citizen Gav wrote 1138 days ago

Bikerjob - thanks for the comments.

First of all, towns can absolutely have identities. Try comparing Manchester to London, or Sydney to San Francisco - those towns all have strong, unique identites. Most towns do.

I think you're broadly right, some of the writing in this version could be tightened up. Having said that, I'm not convinced the examples of improvements you've given are noticably better.

I think basically my writing style is not to your taste, which is fine! Interestingly though, this was the story that got me signed up with an agent, so I guess the good aspects must have outweighed the bad...

bikerjob wrote 1139 days ago

This rolls along – I sometimes had to stop and think what you meant - a tad wordy here and there... eg’s

A town with a name like that had no identity – Nowhere or Halfway ? - anyway – what is a town’s identity ?

You over use ‘just – still – such - seem’ – a word used to force the reader to get it.

...which we had just left ina hurry
...which we’d left in a hurry
Might as well just call it Nowhere.
Might as well call it Nowhere

Still, that’s what made it such a good place for a quiet rendezvous.
That’s what made it a good place for a quiet rendezvous.
or
A good place for a rendezvous.

A better place for a ‘quiet’ rendezvous – a big city – strangers stand out in a small place

Wiping a small waterfall.... – you start this para in ‘real time’ – then tell the reader what the future is... – doesn’t work for me.

Tony was a tall black guy, built like a bad dream. He seemed to avoid speaking when at all possible.
Tony, a tall black guy built like a bad dream, didn’t say much.
Travis, a skinny white prick, never shut up.


My intention here to highlight the opening... – it’s what an Agent/Publisher sees first – this is full of holes which can be filled by cutting the word count – make the point then get out – cut the clutter – stop using 12 words when 6 will do – cut ‘just – still – such – seem – that - had’.

There is a good story hidden here somewhere.

I hope this helps, best of luck.

(The Strathbungo Cellists)

Citizen Gav wrote 1172 days ago

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Debbie - I actually did flesh this out into a full novel which I keep meaning to post on here. It was picked up by an agent based on this version, but unfortunately I didn't get a bite from any of the big publishers.

Debbie wrote 1173 days ago

Ariom recommended this to me and I value her opinion. Haven't read much so far - but a great opening dropping us straight into the car and the action. But 14k is barely out of short story status and I'm not sure where your market is for this. Have you thought of shortening it for the long-short story market (crimewave springs to mind) or lengthening it into a novel (which is what I thought it was to start off with). This is great writing with strong 3 dimensional characters and I enjoyed reading it.

Ariom Dahl wrote 1175 days ago

Hi Gavin,
I read all of Halfway to Hell and was impressed. This struck me as an excellent example of the crime genre. Good characterisation and snappy writing. Well done.

Rivallino wrote 1193 days ago

Brilliant! Love it! Right up my street. Straight onto my bookshelf. Hope you can keep up the standard. I had intended downloading something onto my Sony Reader later on tonight, but, no thank you, this'll do fine. Really trying hard to find a fault, but...

meemers wrote 1434 days ago

Good. Fast. Suspense, drama, panorama, everything it takes for your MC and a great read. It's a gut gripper that's for sure. It reads so well that it's hard to keep up. The gang, Midnight, all well portrayed characters that give the story it's essence.

well done
Fate's Chastening

JoeTheAuthor wrote 1501 days ago

Bravo! Well done. Great pacing, with enough detail to keep me interested, and enough left unsaid to make me want more. Backed with pleasure!
Joe Perrone Jr.
As The Twig Is Bent
Opening Day

Isabelle Adams wrote 1749 days ago

I love the name of the town. I just love it. It's so appropriate. Bank robbers don't usually interest me, but this is good enough to have caught my interest.

Citizen Gav wrote 1878 days ago

Thanks!

Sorry, need to check in here more often. Yeah this one or Cut Short, really!

Gavin

Freddie Omm wrote 1909 days ago

hey

looks like a good start, i'm wling you - is this the book you want input on the most by the way?

best,

freddie

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