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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10: Room 25

We stayed up a little longer, going over the day’s events and draining a few more beers.  Tony suggested another game of poker. Midnight squeezed my hand and then yawned theatrically.

     “Guys, I’m dead tired – today’s been… interesting. I think I need to lie down.” She looked at me briefly as she said this.

     Before Frank could object I broke in. “I’ll take her through to the other room, I get the feeling you guys will be staying up all night and I’m pretty beat too. It’s been a day.”

     Frank nodded, his mind on other things, but Tony gave me a knowing smile as I got up. Midnight unlocked the door and we crossed the corridor to room 23. As soon as I saw the ‘do not disturb’ sign I remembered about Travis. We’d stripped the sheets off the bed, and there was always the couch, but still… sleeping in the same room as a dead man didn’t exactly appeal. I looked back at Midnight, seeing the same realization on her face. But I didn’t want to go back in with Frank, Tony and Stan either. I moved over to the adjacent door, reaching into my back pocket for my wallet.

     “What, are you going to pay for another room?” said Midnight. “Because I don’t think the office is still open.”

     “Not exactly,” I said, pulling a MasterCard out of the leather wallet. As a rule I don’t like using plastic. Apart from anything else it’s too damn traceable, but in any case, hard cash just seems more honest to me: you always know how much you have, and I’ve never known it to be refused. However, credit cards are not without their uses. Taking a second to glance up the corridor, I leant against the door and slipped the card between the doorjamb and the lock. With a satisfying click, the door swung open and revealed a fresh, unspoiled room.

     “If they’re going to buy such cheap locks, I don’t feel too bad about cutting financial corners myself.” I smiled and held out my right hand in an ‘after you’ gesture.

     Once the door was closed behind us she took my hand again and gave me another of those great smiles. I thought of some pop song I’d heard on the car radio earlier in the day ‘she smiles and it’s a rainbow’. This time, instead of standing around appreciating it, I just leant forward and kissed her. Her lips, so adept at forming smiles, also lent themselves well to this function. After a few enjoyable moments, she broke away and turned on the bedside light. It was a novelty loveheart-shaped lamp, which bathed the room in a red glow, making the place look kind of like the final scenes in a submarine movie.

     “Classy,” I said.

     “I like it,” she said, in a tone of mock-indignation. In truth, I kind of liked it too.

     We kissed again, falling down on the bed together, running our hands over each other. I pulled her t-shirt over her head. She wasn’t wearing a bra. She slid out of her jeans, and stood in front of me, naked apart from her panties, as she unbuttoned my shirt. As I kissed her nipples she let out an agreeable sigh and pulled the shirt over my head, not bothering with the last few buttons.

     We lay down next to each other and kissed some more. Slowly, Midnight ran her finger down my chest, tracing a circle around my navel, and then exploring further down, where she found I was responding as expected. I gently guided her panties down and she moaned and pulled me closer, reaching down with her other hand to unbuckle my belt.

     “mmm… leave the light on honey,” she mumbled. I opened my eyes and was greeted by darkness. I sat up - the task at hand not forgotten, but certainly interrupted.

     “I didn’t turn it off,” I said, getting up and walking over to the door. I felt at the edge of the frame until I found the light switch and clicked it on and off a few times. No result.

     “Power cut?” Midnight said, pushing the hair out of her face and giving me a nice view of her breasts in the moonlight. “The lights went off earlier too.”

     “Yeah I know,” I said. “I don’t think this is good.”

     I heard a door open in the corridor, followed by a knock a few feet away. I opened the door. In the light from the window at the end of the hall I could see Stan waiting in front of 23. He started when he saw me leaning out of 25.

     “Weren’t you…?”

     “Never mind that,” I said. “What the hell’s going on?”

     “The power went out again - Frank sent me to get you two, I think he wants it checked out.”

     “Gimme a second,” I said, shutting the door. I tossed Midnight her jeans and shrugged. “To be continued?”

     She nodded and blew a stray curl of red hair out of her eyes impatiently. I could relate.

 

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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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