Danger, Falling Rocks!
I'm delighted that Val de Grace Books has published the first in my series of mystery novels set in the Sierra.
Here is a link to a podcast with a Napa Bookmine Author's night about the mystery. Available from: Amazon.com, Target.com, and other online retailers, as well as Napa Bookmine and
Copperfields in Napa, Readers Books in Sonoma, and Mountain Home Gifts and The Mountain Bookshop in Sonora.
The second book in the series, Bones of the Earth, hit the market early 2022, You an buy it at Amazon, Napa Book Mine, etc. too.
And the third book: Holes in the Ground, will be out in July of 2022
Holes in the Ground
First Chapter: a teaser for my next Dan Courtwright mystery
This was not the way Dan had wanted to spend the morning. A meeting with “all of the regulatory agencies” was absolutely as dreary as it sounds. There had been endless presentations about traffic calming practices, inter-agency cooperation, and management policies from the California Highway Patrol, the sheriff’s offices of three different counties, plus local police departments and Dan’s own responsibility, representing the Stanislaus National Forest. Permits, processes, and public information had all been discussed in depth.
He checked his watch and was surprised to see that it had only lasted just under two hours. If he left right now, he could be back up at the Summit Ranger Station by 11 o’clock, easy.
That’s when Tuolumne County Sheriff Cal Healey caught Dan’s eye, and then contorted his face into a grimace.
Dan grinned back, and Cal walked over. Twenty years ago Cal had been a pretty good college defensive back. But over the years he had added some weight to his five-foot-eleven frame, and a bad knee had added that limp. Cal always looked as if he were carrying a burden slightly heavier than anyone else’s. It didn’t help that he was carrying the usual paraphernalia of his office, complete with revolver, radio, and handcuffs. Dan knew how much all that weighed, and felt a twinge of pity for the Sheriff.
“Sure glad we got that all ironed out,” Cal said, and then rolled his eyes in sarcasm. “There’s nothing better than a bunch of government employees all trying to manage a meeting to make sure that whatever we’re talking about is somebody else’s problem.”
Dan chuckled. “Just under two hours,” he said, “Record time.”
“I am going to enjoy all the overtime I’ll put in up there at the pass,” Cal said. “Maggie always likes it when I am gone for our Fourth of July barbecue.”
“Yeah, that was pretty slick how they handed that part over to you guys,” Dan agreed.
Cal snorted. “Well, they couldn’t very well give it to you. Rangers managing traffic? Hell, no. Why, you boys wouldn’t know what to do if you ran into two cars at a stop sign.”
“We don’t,” Dan said with a straight face. “That’s why we always just stand around and wait for you. And since you’re mentioning it, I’d like to point out that it takes you a helluva long time to get there in most cases.”
“Yeah, well, we have most of the county to cover,” Cal said. “The CHP only gets a few roads. But, by God, they really don’t want that much help on 108.”
“Hey, it’s the only thing they have to do,” Dan replied with a nod. “They want to make sure that everybody knows they’ll give out tickets in the name of safety to anyone—and everyone.”
“Hell, yes. Now they’ve even got me to the point that I’m afraid to drive around Sonora Pass that weekend,” Cal admitted, then paused. “So you think it’s going to be every bit as bad as last year?”
Dan nodded. “Ever since ‘Wild’ came out, the numbers are higher. And with this year’s lighter snowpack, a lot of people have decided this year is the year to go.”
“I don’t get it, really,” Cal said. “A couple of thousand miles in a summer? Have you ever thought about hiking it? The whole enchilada, from Mexico to Canada?”
“Thought about it? Yes,” Dan answered. “But not really. To do it in one year you have to pretty much hike straight through without stopping. That’s not my style. I want to stop and check things out. But I have thought about doing it in sections, and taking my time, and exploring each section as I go.”
“How long would that take you?” Cal asked.
Dan laughed. “The rest of my life.”
His phone vibrated in his pocket and reminded him that he had promised Doris he would head back to the ranger station right after the meeting.
“I better get going,” he said to Cal. “Doris keeps texting me about stuff.”
“Sure,” Cal replied. And then, paying no attention to what he had just said, he added, “Hey, how are things with Kristen?”
Dan paused. “Great! Good. I mean, it’s going fine. We had dinner the other night.” The dinner had ended somewhat awkwardly after a few kisses in the car in front of Kristen’s house. She hadn’t invited him in. Dan saw no reason to go into more detail with Cal. If there was one mystery Dan never believed he would solve, it was fully understanding the love of his life, Kristen Gallagher. But he didn’t want to talk about that with Cal.
“Okay, good. That’s what I can tell Maggie.” Cal said. “Because you know she is going to ask me.”
Dan chuckled and shook his head. “Tell her things are fine.” He started walking out to his truck, thinking that “fine” wasn’t really how things were. Things were confusing and complicated. But somehow Kristen continued to talk to him, and occasionally accept his invitations to dinner when she had time. At least, that’s what she said.
Cal considered Dan’s answer. He wasn’t going to let Dan leave with that. “Fine isn’t good enough for her. She wants details. And she wants it to be better than fine.”
Dan stopped by the door and said, over his shoulder: “Good, tell here things are good. And that we had dinner.” That was true, at any rate. And he hoped they would have many more. That was up to Kristen.
And then he hurried out the door before Cal had a chance to ask any follow-up questions.