I admit I saw the movie first. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil hit the theaters in 1997 and I don’t think I watched it until at least 2000. My wife and I read the book in 2002 and made the journey from our home in Virginia to visit Savannah for a few days. We were enchanted by city’s history, architecture… and humidity. Neither of us had any clue we would end up moving to the area by the end of 2017.
A lot had transpired throughout that fifteen-year journey that led us to the Georgia coast, one unforeseen change was my becoming a novelist. Having spent a decade establishing a bit of readership in the northeast, I am completely aware I’m lesser known in Savannah. And by “lesser known”, I mean not at all. Thus, is one reason I set up a table at this year’s Local Author Day, right in the heart of the city. Now, here’s a little secret about local author days: if they aren’t run well, they can be AWFUL. It ends up being a bunch of writers staring at each other, eventually talking to each other, then taking each other’s cards for no reason whatsoever. I was afraid this might be the case with the event in Savannah. But… IT… WAS… AWESOME.
Not only was there lots of foot traffic from tourists, but plenty of locals stopped by. And when I say “locals”… well, remember Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil?
Savannah has some local flavor. There were men who may or may not have been bellhops. Women wearing enormous fur coats on a very warm day.
At least one poodle who wasn’t having ANY of this walking stuff.
There was a kid with a Minotaur mask. A bishop staring at the kid with the Minotaur mask.
Oh… and readers too. I got to speak to lots of wonderful people who had a real interest in books. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there was the occasional lull in the action, but there were soooo many dogs around and I’m a huge dog person. One of my favorites was THIS guy.
You may be asking why I’ve expertly disguised his face. This is because I am a firm believer in the principal of innocent until proven guilty. Which obviously leads us to the story of Chicken BINGO. Obviously.
This entire event was part of a birthday celebration for esteemed writer Flannery O’Connor, who was born in Savannah. As part of this celebration, something called Chicken BINGO was occurring on the other side of the square from where I was set up. From what I’m told, Chicken BINGO involves a large board of numbers and when a real live chicken defecates on that number, some lucky ticket holder wins… something. Anyway, I don’t know if it was before, during, or after the BINGO session, but I guess the chicken got away from the owner and strayed away from the fecal game card and away from its cage. And… well, did I mention there were lots of dogs around?
I couldn’t see it, but I heard plenty. A woof. Screams. Gags. Someone yelled, “Oh, my God!” Some people turned away and started crying. Through the pedestrians and shrubs I saw my large, white furry friend being escorted away. It was a shameful perp walk if there ever was one. That poultry never stood a chance.
But, THIS IS SPARTA… I mean, Savannah. Five minutes later, after the carcass had been scooped up, a band – complete with an accordion player – formed up, and led a line of children in a parade around the square. It was as if nobody remembered the chicken.
But I remember you, nameless chicken. I remember.
Now, all of this may seem a bit surreal to some of you. But, here is the best part. Throughout the afternoon, I watched all of this unfold and observed the faces of the writers who have lived here for many years. What I saw in their faces was – nothing. Other than the few moments surrounding the poultry homicide, nobody seemed to find any of this activity the least bit extravagant. It reminded me of a scene in the movie version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil when John Cusack’s character tells someone, “This place is fantastic; it’s like ‘Gone With the Wind’ on mescaline.”
I’ve never tried mescaline. But, Savannah is certainly fantastic.
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, Bolt Action Remedy, Record Scratch, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
“There are two types of men you must fear in this world: Men who have everything to lose—and men like me.”
It’s a case Trevor Galloway doesn’t want. It’s certainly a case he doesn’t need. The client—the sister of a murdered musician—seems a bit off. She expects Galloway to not only solve her brother’s homicide, but recover a vinyl record she believes could ruin his reputation. Galloway knows he should walk away. He should simply reach over the desk, give back the envelope of cash that he admittedly needs, and walk away. However, when the client closes the meeting by putting a gun under her chin and pulling the trigger, his sense of obligation drags him down a path he may not be ready to travel.
A story divided into twelve songs from Jimmy Spartan’s final album.
Praise for RECORD SCRATCH:
“Record Scratch shocks you out of your ordinary groove. Sometimes witty, other times haunting, but when the needle jumps the track, the body count screams.” —Marc E. Fitch, author of Paradise Burns and Dirty Water
“In Record Scratch, Hensley, a former secret service agent, gifts us with a bounty of goods: a solid mystery, a damaged but relatable main character—one you root for, and swift plotting that weaves a compelling, compulsive tale of music and death and the demons carried by those in law enforcement. Bring me more Trevor!” —Shannon Kirk, international bestselling author of Method 15/33
“J.J. Hensley’s Record Scratch is a tersely written and tightly plotted gem, featuring one of the most unique protagonists around, Trevor Galloway, a man who has a way of getting himself into and out of trouble at an alarming rate. The book is action-packed with a dash of mordant wit, and I can’t wait to read more in this intense, engaging series.” —David Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter
“J.J. Hensley’s tale of a stoic PI investigating the murder of a has-been rock star is equal parts classic whodunnit and gritty noir, peppered with high-octane action scenes that will leave you breathless. Record Scratch is like a throat punch: powerful, shocking, and unapologetic, but the surprising poignant ending will stay with you a long after you’ve finished the book. This is a thriller that crackles from the first page to the last.” —Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts
BOLT ACTION REMEDY
Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.
Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.
In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.
An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.
And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology