Sunday, September 23, 2018
Books

Festival of Reading: An excerpt from 'Beachhead' by Jeffery Hess

The Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading presents more than 50 authors, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 12 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Jeffery Hess will speak at 2:15 p.m. in USFSP Davis 105. Find more information here

Beachhead is the first novel by Jeffery Hess. He lives in Tampa, where he leads the DD-214 Writers' Workshop for military veterans, and has edited two anthologies of stories by veterans. Beachhead is set on Florida's Gulf Coast in 1980, where Scotland Ross, recently paroled from a Navy prison, is trying to put his life back together and help his floundering sister. A gambling debt entangles Ross with Allan Kinsey, a corrupt developer whose ambition is to become Florida's governor, despite his tendency to mangle the language with phrases like "Don't put the car before the whores."

Colette Bancroft, Times book editor

Scotland's second trip to Kinsey's apartment complex office had him on edge. The last time he'd driven there had been five weeks ago, when he went for the card game that landed him in Kinsey's crosshairs. He drove the same route he had that night.

The apartment complex was in Brandon, a bedroom community of Tampa where pine trees and palmetto scrub dotted cow pastures. It seemed hotter in the country than it did along the beaches or even in the city. The air blowing through the car's open windows kept the sweat away from his face, but his back was drenched in his seat. He passed the quiet time by squeezing his brain to come up with options. That was all he'd done since Dana left his place the other night, like a broken bird back into the wind. But as hard as he thought, he couldn't come up with a better way. He slapped the heel of his hand on the wheel and shouted "F---!" and drove on.

Overconfidence in his card skills had proved costly, but Scotland's biggest mistake the night of the card game had been showing up drunk. The game started at seven, and in the days since losing his job he'd been downing at least a couple of vodkas by the hour McDonald's stopped serving Egg McMuffins.

His plan had been to win a few hands and ding the room out of as much as he could, then fake some s--- about having to get up early, and split. Playing aboard ship in his Navy days had meant concealing his tells if he wanted to win anything. He'd made some decent money most nights at seas. Gambling was forbidden at Leavenworth, and the only time he'd played since was when he'd won the Pinto — all because he remembered to conceal his confidence.

The free bourbon had fueled him that night with Kinsey. By the end of the night, he'd racked up ten thousand in debt and Kinsey cut him off. "That's it," he'd said.

But as he drove back this second time, he tried to wipe that from his mind. His stomach wouldn't unclench because he was sober this time. He stopped at a couple of stop lights on Highway 60, in that part of the unincorporated county that had little more than a McDonald's and a few convenience stores. The sun hung low and beat down on his Pinto, cooked his arm where it hung out the open window as he drove.

Comments
Review: Robert Olen Butler’s Paris in the Dark packed with action

Review: Robert Olen Butler’s Paris in the Dark packed with action

On a fall night in 1915, an American reporter sips Chartreuse at a sidewalk table as German Zeppelins patrol the perimeter of Paris. As he plans how to finagle his way to the front lines of World War I, a bomb explodes at another cafe nearby, and he ...
Published: 09/21/18
Novelist, USF professor Karen Brown drawn by the voices of stories of loss

Novelist, USF professor Karen Brown drawn by the voices of stories of loss

Karen BrownBrown teaches creative writing at the University of South Florida and is the author of several books, including The Longing of Wayward Girls and the short story collection Pins and Needles. On Nov. 17, Brown will be a featured author at th...
Published: 09/21/18
Joyce Maynard looks back at life with Salinger at the #MeToo moment

Joyce Maynard looks back at life with Salinger at the #MeToo moment

In 1972, Joyce Maynard wrote an essay for the New York Times Magazine called "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back at Life." It won her instant fame — and a letter from J.D. Salinger, renowned author of Catcher in the Rye and other fiction, who was then 53 year...
Published: 09/14/18
Review: Ben Montgomery’s ‘Man Who Walked Backward’ lets readers step into history

Review: Ben Montgomery’s ‘Man Who Walked Backward’ lets readers step into history

Did Plennie Wingo make any progress going backward?That’s the question at the heart of The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer’s Search for Meaning in the Great Depression, an engaging new book by former Tampa Bay Times staff writer Ben Mont...
Published: 09/13/18
Updated: 09/14/18
It’s no mystery why fans, authors gathered for Bouchercon in St. Petersburg

It’s no mystery why fans, authors gathered for Bouchercon in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURGLast Wednesday through Sunday, the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel teemed with people who write and read about bloody murder. It was a remarkably friendly and cheerful crowd. Detroit novelist Stephen Mack Jones had an explanation: "Writing abou...
Published: 09/11/18
Times Festival of Reading 2018: Get the full lineup of authors here

Times Festival of Reading 2018: Get the full lineup of authors here

A novelist whose book won raves from Oprah and Obama, the scholar who brought Zora Neale Hurston’s long-lost interview with a former slave to print, two Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction writers, a bestselling satirical novelist, a beloved memoirist ...
Updated one month ago
Welcome to Florida, a land of mysteries – including why mullet jump

Welcome to Florida, a land of mysteries – including why mullet jump

Florida is a land full of mysteries. Why do we call it "the Sunshine State" when every major city gets more rain than Seattle? Why, after a hurricane destroys our homes with flooding and storm surge, do we rebuild in exactly the same spot? Perhaps th...
Updated one month ago
Review: Gary Shteyngart’s ‘Lake Success’ a comic tale of a 1-percenter

Review: Gary Shteyngart’s ‘Lake Success’ a comic tale of a 1-percenter

One night young lawyer Seema Cohen went to a Vogue party hosted by billionaire Michael Bloomberg and there met the man who would become her husband. At first, she wasn’t sure she liked the glad-handing middle-aged hedge fund guy who was clearly...
Updated one month ago
Retired journalist David Lawrence Jr.’s reading still centers on news

Retired journalist David Lawrence Jr.’s reading still centers on news

David Lawrence Jr.In 1999, at the age of 56, Lawrence decided to retire from his post as publisher of the Miami Herald after decades in journalism. Since then, he has focused on a life’s passion, advocating for children by leading the Children’s Move...
Updated one month ago