Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Writers talk about the quality of writing. Sometimes that's hard to measure. Until I started reading Jeff Conine's book, LAST AUTUMN. All I can say is WOW! This is literary fiction, a different genre, still us romance writers can learn a thing or two from Jeff's amazing command and use of language. 

With his permission, I'm posting the opening of one of his books to inspire the rest of us. 

(Book cover from Amazon)

by Jeff Conine

      Jake jerked up from his deep, dreamless stupor with an urgent sadism.  Wide-­eyed, his sweat-matted head eased a slow retreat onto the pillow. He hoped the morning’s chill would soon clear the haze.  Minutes later the fog lifted: she was coming today.
This registered, he leapt from bed and scrambled for his alarm clock.  In his adrenaline-etched haste, he slipped, crack­ing his knee against the bedside table--an old crate bumpy with candle wax, overlaid with a cigarette-scarred cloth--sending a near-empty jug of wine ass over tit into some beer empties.  As the Dago Red fluid anointed the aluminum, he stared, his mind encumbered in vague memory of the night before--and all those before, leading a domino-lined blackness backwards, out of memory to some half-lit past where it must have been differ­ent.
He found the clock peering up at him from a heap of poetry chapbooks scattered on his steamer trunk next to his desk.  Ner­vously he checked the time.  Ten-thirty.  Christ, he cursed as he surveyed his cabin, crib's a mess--no way to clean this bastard up in time.
He sighed.  No surprise: the cabin hadn't had many thor­ough cleanings in the many moons he had come to call it home. In its present state, though never a garden club showplace, it looked worse than usual. He nodded knowingly at this recent development as he looked back at the clock.
The smell of musty cigarette smoke emanated from the walls and curtains and found visible source in brownish yellow tinted splotches on the ceiling and windows, eye-sored with lung poison. An even worse odor of stale alcohol--puke-provoking blends of wine, beer and whiskey--issued from throw rugs and favored parts of the hardwood floor.  Jake had the post-facto, guilt-inducing habit of drunkenly knocking over near-empties tactically placed upright across his knotty pine nursery--decoy ducks surrounding his kiddie pool blind. (Naturally, the brace of swallows inside did not merit the usual preternatural reflexes he mustered when preserving larger doses of his sacrament.) He would never wash out these royal spots--to do so would be treasonous to his mur­derous lifestyle.  Besides it took all the fun out of awakening to his latest floor mural.  

Jake had stumbled the night before.  The corners of his Persian rug nearest his mattress betrayed signs of a scuffle. The winner, he couldn't say, but his smile as he dabbed at a scab at his temple betrayed the loser.  Although he had lost, he had not gone down easily or willingly: he had fought the noble fight.  Looking closer he discovered drops of dried blood in the dust next to the clear area where his rug had been.
He continued to survey the room for other damage, his eyes alighting on his paint-spotted desk perpendicular from the wall. Untouched long many weeks, he mused?  He noticed the yellowish taint of the mass of wadded-up pages laying siege to the dusty typewriter.  His cavity-ridden bookshelves grim­aced over opened books overlapping and terracing outward, wave­like, also stained yellowish with tobacco and neglect.  Seeing the prevalent jaundice, Jake grieved at his seeming loss of respect--of them--and he supposed of himself.  Even his precious books, he shook his head.
Jake's clearing sense of smell shifted his eyes to the little kitchen recess off the far corner of the cabin--easily the worst section of his digs--sink and counters piled high with dishes--unrinsed, unwashed for days.  Pots encrusted with canned food crowned these heaps while paper sacks full of aluminum and tins mobbed the floor, adding superfluous testimony that Jake, a good cook, had been too lazy of late.
“Dinty Moore says,'This place recommended by Drunken Hines,'” John smiled without humor.
It all seemed so silent and unashamed and blatant.
He turned his gaze back to his books.  He got to his knees and crawled over on all fours to them.  He began to stuff his books back to their rightful places in the bookshelves.  Done, he tenderly aligned the rows, his fingers lingering here and there, his thoughts drifting.  Then, shaking himself to his feet, he decided it was too late to clean the kitchen, or much of anything.  As for himself, at least he had managed a bath the night before--before deciding to have a drink.  No need to dress since the 'drink' had put him to sleep in his clothes, also clean enough despite his late-night wrestling match with his unknown assailant.  He smoothed and straightened his uniform: dull, patched jeans; striped tee-shirt; loose flannel shirt.
“Move over Dinty and Mr. Hines and make room for the third stooge...the far side of thirty and I still can't tie a tie."

Check the book out on AMAZON
Brilliant writing, Jeff. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

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