Book Jacket

 

rank 5911
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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8

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8: Exit

Just over an hour later, the hotel was shrouded in a graveyard-like silence. At first I was surprised by how absolute the quiet was, but then I reminded myself that there was only one other room rented and the manager was probably the only staff member who remained overnight. I had volunteered to look for any other entrances that Travis’s killer might have used, which was why I was quietly walking down the dimly lit corridor on the second floor. The floorboards under the ancient red carpet creaked every two or three steps I took, so I was attempting to balance out my weight. There were thirty rooms in the hotel and I didn’t know where the other guests were, so I didn’t want to take the chance of disturbing them and adding yet another complication.

    As it turned out, finding an alternative entrance didn’t prove too difficult. At intervals along the corridor, there were more of the quaint hand-lettered signs like the one I had seen in the foyer. On each of these signs was printed ‘FIRE EXIT’, above a neat arrow pointing in the direction of the end of the corridor. With a minimum of creaking, I reached the end of the corridor, which tailed off in an L-shape heading to the left. Another sign prompted me to go round the corner, where I found a roughly-painted steel door, which was identified as the fire exit by another hand-lettered sign. On the right of the door was a key in a glass case, which read ‘Break glass in case of fire’. In common with the rest of the hotel, the door was showing its age. There were traces of rust around the edges, and a few years’ worth of cobwebs had accumulated around the handle. Clearly they hadn’t had too many fires at the Halfway Hotel. I guessed that nobody had been round this corner in years, and that evidently included the maid.

    I was just pondering whether someone could have got through the door without disturbing the cobwebs when the lights around me went out, and I was left alone in the darkness with only the soft desert winds whistling through the rust at the bottom of the fire-door for company.

    I fumbled around in my pockets for my lighter, a chrome-plated Zippo that I had acquired some years before. I don’t smoke, but it’s sometimes useful to have the ability to create heat or, in this case, light. Whenever anyone asks why I would carry a lighter when I don’t smoke, I always reply ‘because I like to burn stuff.’ That usually gets a laugh; or a worried expression, depending on your sense of humor; but in fact I’m only half-joking. When I’m waiting around for something or somebody, I actually do like to burn things - beer labels in an ashtray at a bar, dry grass by the road - it helps me think. Hey, I never said I was normal.

    I located the Zippo and flicked the gas on. The flame cast slightly threatening shadows and made the corner I was in feel much smaller. Like a coffin. Feeling a shiver down my spine, I turned around and was relieved to see there was nobody lurking behind me. I started back towards the corridor and the others. I’d have to tell them I’d been unsuccessful - no one had been through that fire door in years, maybe decades. I stopped in mid-stride as, my sense of hearing enhanced by the darkness, I picked up a sound from beyond the fire door. I turned around again, flicked the lid shut on the Zippo and listened.

    Footsteps.

    I heard slow, cautious footsteps, ascending what, by the sound of it, was an exterior metal stairway. I reached to my belt for Frank’s gun. I looked up at the door key in its glass case, which I could just make out now that my eyes were adjusting to the dark. I thought about getting the key, using it to open the door, maybe getting the drop on whoever it was, but quickly rejected the idea. The breaking glass would alert them, and if that didn’t, I was betting that using the key to unlock a door that had been sealed since the dawn of time certainly would. It was too late now anyway. I could hear someone right outside the door, breathing heavily. I held my own breath as I heard fumbling sounds followed by a tinny scraping coming from the lock. I squeezed the butt of Frank’s gun. Its dead metal weight was comforting.

    A few seconds of scraping. Then I heard the lock catch, followed by a loud creak as the door was pushed open an inch, and a curse from whoever was doing the pushing. There was a pause, and I took my chance, grabbing the edge of the door with my left hand and yanking it open, startling the figure outside so badly that he fell back against the railing and almost toppled over.

    “Sorry, we’re closed,” I said, before realizing that the face I was about to put a bullet in looked strangely familiar. “Stan?”

    Stan brought his arms down from shielding his face, and his expression of panic lingered a second before he was able to compose his features. “Johnny? What the hell?”

    Our mutual surprise was raised another notch when, without warning, the lights came back on.

 

Chapters

8

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JoeTheAuthor wrote 1498 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 1745 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 1190 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 1170 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 1135 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 1136 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 1168 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 1170 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 1171 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 1190 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 1430 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 1498 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 1745 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 1874 days ago

Thanks!

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

Gavin

Freddie Omm wrote 1906 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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