Book Jacket

 

rank 5906
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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3: Room 22

Half an hour later, Tony, Travis and I were safely ensconced in a second floor room. Getting Travis and his bloody shoulder through reception hadn’t been as problematic as I had anticipated, although he had looked a little out of place wearing Tony’s long leather coat in this heat. 

    The room wasn’t exactly five-star, but it did have its own bathroom and a TV. Once we’d cleaned and bandaged Travis’s wound, we looked for ways to kill time while we waited for Frank to show up.

    I lay on the bed and watched Star Trek while Travis and Tony played poker with a deck Tony had brought with him. I had declined the offer of a place at the table, figuring that anyone who carries a deck of cards even when he’s robbing a bank must know his way around a full house.

    After a couple of hours, I was proved right - Travis was down three hundred dollars and Tony had run out of room on the table for his winnings and was now putting them on the bed after each hand. Every so often he would dip into this ‘bank’ in order to beef up one of his bets, but he always seemed to put more back in than he took out.

    At once, Travis’s mood changed. A smug, triumphant look coated his face as he displayed a diamond flush. Tony indifferently spread a full house on the table and began to scoop his winnings up. If the knock on the door hadn’t interrupted, I have no doubt that Travis would have dived over the table and attempted to make Tony eat the cards.

    I opened the door and received my second nasty shock since arriving in Halfway. I was confronted by a tall man in his fifties wearing an untidy mustache and a Chief of Police badge. He patted the buttoned holster on his belt and leaned against the doorframe. Behind him stood a much younger cop.

    “Halfway Police Department,” he said. “Mind if I ask you boys a couple of questions?”

    It wasn’t a request. I stepped away from the door and told them to come in. The older man introduced himself as Hardaway and eyed the room suspiciously.

    “As you might have heard, we had a little incident here earlier on.”

    “Yeah, I heard some guy got shot or something?” I responded, trying to balance impassive with concerned.

    “Stabbed through the heart, actually,” the Chief smiled. I have never seen, nor do I hope to ever again, a more humorless smile than that one.

    “Although the victim did manage to squeeze off a few rounds,” he continued. “From an unregistered gun.” He looked around the room suspiciously again, paying particular attention to Tony’s pile of bills on the bed. You like that? I thought. Try looking under the bed - there’s a black sports bag stuffed with money under there.

    I glanced over at the young deputy, who remained silent, also scanning the room like a good little faux-boss. I turned back to Hardaway, looking him in the eye.

    “Well, I’m sorry to hear about that, but my friends and I are just here for the night. We’ve got a long drive tomorrow, so if you don’t mind...”

    I put my hand on the door handle. Hardaway stayed right where he was. The deputy glanced at my hand and then returned to quietly staring at each of us.

    “We noticed your car parked across from the crime scene earlier and just wondered if you... or your friends,” he nodded at Tony and Travis, “had seen anything.”

    Each of us confirmed that we hadn’t seen anything. Which, as it happened, was the truth. I smiled regretfully at the Chief and opened the door.

    “Sorry we couldn’t be any more help...”

    “This boy wasn’t a local,” he said, ignoring me once again. It was like holding a conversation with an ATM - Please enter information. “His drivers license says he’s a Mitch Webber from Miami. You wouldn’t happen to know him, would you?”

    Shit, I thought, Mitch the fence. I think I managed to avoid looking as startled as I was, keeping my voice level.

    “I’m afraid not.”

    “Well thank you for your time, gentlemen,” said Hardaway, moving toward the door. He looked over at Travis, eying the clean white fabric of the bandage that protruded down from the right sleeve of his T-shirt. “You had that checked out, son?”

    Travis rubbed the shoulder and smiled, then responded with a calm assurance that surprised me.

    “Took a spill on my motorcycle a couple of days ago, it’s okay now, thanks.”

    The chief and his deputy left and I closed the door behind them, putting my ear against it until I could no longer hear retreating footsteps. Then I turned to the others, both of whom had evidently realized the severity of the situation. We just looked at each other for a few seconds before Travis quietly broke the silence.

    “What the fuck do we do now?”

    “We sit here and wait for Frank,” I answered. “Then we work out what the hell happened.”

    Travis was sounding more than a little frantic now, in sharp contrast to the way he had spoken to the chief a moment before: “Yeah, if Frank bothers to show, that is. Where the hell is he? He was supposed to...”

    Travis started as the door banged open, this time without a knock. My head snapped round and I was greeted by the sight of Frank standing in the doorway, face reddened and sweat standing out on his knotted brow. Given that Frank stood about six four, was built like a tank, and looked mean at the best of times, this was a mildly intimidating sight. Frank once told me that he had boxed in Chicago when he was younger. Looking at him now, I felt sorry for his opponents. Stan followed him into the room, a fair-haired, wholesome-looking guy in his early twenties, looking somewhat less intimidating. Stan looked like he’d be more at home handing out the shoes at a bowling alley.

    “Frank,” I said evenly. “Where you been?”

    “Where the hell have you been, Johnny?” he countered. “We were supposed to meet at the bar.”

    “What bar? The one downstairs?”

    “The one down the road,” he said as if explaining something painfully obvious. “Al’s Place.”

    I flashed an enquiring glance over at Tony, who was busy counting his winnings.

    “Sorry man,” he shrugged. “Must’a heard it wrong.”

    I turned back to Frank. “Anyway, forget that - we’ve got bigger problems.”

    “Like what?”

    “You hear about that thing at the barbers?” I asked

    “Frank looked puzzled. “Some guy got shot or something?”

    “No, not some guy,” I responded, “Mitch.”

    He looked blank for a moment, then: “Mitch the...”

    “Yeah. Mitch the Fence - Our Mitch.”

    “Aw, shit.”

    Stan shook his head and looked at the carpet. “I always figured Mitch would get a blade between his ribs someday. He pissed a lot of people off.”  Stan spoke as if he’d been in this line of work for years. When did he start, I wondered, when he was eight?

    “But why here? Why now?” Tony voiced what we were all thinking, concisely as always.

    “I don’t know,” I looked at him, shaking my head. “But what I do know is that somebody decided to do it here, on the same day the five of us blow into town. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. And I get the feeling Chief Hardaway might agree with me.”

 

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JoeTheAuthor wrote 1496 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 1744 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 1188 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 1168 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 1133 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 1134 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 1166 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 1168 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 1169 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 1188 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 1428 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 1496 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 1744 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 1873 days ago

Thanks!

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

Gavin

Freddie Omm wrote 1904 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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