The Darwin Subprimacy–Sample Chapter

Happy New Year!

I’ve got a present for you. Given the punny and parodic nature of my titles and my love of self-promotion…I present the first chapter of THE DARWIN SUBPRIMACY. It’s to be novella length, and worse than horrible. This is a draft and may differ from the final product, but I’m having entirely too much fun.

Enjoy.
The Darwin Subprimacy

Chapter 1: Sociology

©2015 Ian McLeod, All Rights Reserved

William F. Finance, Jr. proprietor of the unfortunately-named Bill Finance Auto Cars Sales, Inc. of Soddy-Daisy, TN, sat on a park-bench by an old cemetery reading a book by a world-famous author and musician. It was a satire about the un-discovery of America.

Finance’s unusual name originated in a clerical error at Ellis Island, when his great-grandfather, Guido Firenze, had his surname misspelled by a drunken immigration clerk right off the boat from Italy. Guido Firenze became Guido Finance and moved to Bristol Tennessee, where he did not at all fit in as a local dago. His son, Guido Finance, Jr. ran moonshine to Chicago from Bristol for Al Capone and drove a fantastic race-car in the nascent days of stock-car racing, until being shot in the face over an unpaid bar tab. His own son, William Forrestal Finance, our protagonist’s father, owned three or four Italian restaurants and briefly considered changing his name back to Firenze, but died of a stroke at 43 before he could do so. And now, our protagonist, William F. Finance, Jr., himself in his forties, recently purchased an automobile sales lot in Soddy-Daisy as a way to escape the hustle and bustle of what he deemed “big-city-life” in Bristol.

Unfortunately, the clerk in the Office of the Secretary of State of Tennessee was receiving a blowjob by a secretary (whist also completely hammered on fine Tennessee Whiskey) while processing the paperwork for Will Finance Auto Sales, Inc. Thus, this clerk mistyped the business name and left William F. Finance up the proverbial creek of fecal matter. It would take years for the Secretary of State to admit a mistake was made, and thus, Bill Finance Auto Cars Sales, Inc., was only the latest in a long line of problems caused by government regulation and alcohol for the unfortunate but resilient Finance family. 

He was, despite the ridiculous name of his business, marginally successful thus far, for Finance was an intelligent man—for an Italian hick in Tennessee. He enjoyed avant-garde literature, fine wine, cigars, and had a particular interest in black-velvet nude portraits of Marilyn Monroe–of which he had a substantial collection. His wife, Billie Sol Finance–named for Billie Sol Estes–a criminal of some renown in the ‘60s and part of the JFK Conspiracy Theory, tolerated his love of Marilyn, as she herself closely resembled Norma-Jean, only prettier and with bigger tits. Finance’s psychiatrist insisted that due to an early exposure to a photoshoot of Marilyn in a magazine brought by another boy to his school in 3rd grade, he had permanently sexually imprinted upon her, like so many children of his generation.

So, William and Billie lived a happy life together, but as he read this unusual book, he found himself displeased with the course his own life had taken. Rather than do what other men in their forties do, like stab a world-famous author or buy a sports car and run off with a younger, prettier woman (as if that were possible), William shrugged, closed the book, smiled a little at the inscription on the back cover, and whistled his way through the cemetery while imagining himself and Billie in a threesome with Marilyn–no…not that kind of threesome–just playing golf and then that might lead to something else–but down that road led sin and he explored it no further. That was his favorite fantasy.

“Hey William,” shouted groundskeeper Bart Hill, who always greeted William during his cemetery reading rituals. “Y’all readin’ another book?”

“I reckon I’m done with the readin’ for the day,” William called back.  “I’ll holler at y’all.”

“Alright, William. See you Sunday.”

William continued down his usual route to the Catholic parking lot where he always left his mint-condition 1975 Flint Motors Thundercrash each Saturday as he went on his reading-expedition in the cemetery.

Despite his active lifestyle, William was quite fat, weighing in about three-hundred pounds. Between that and his greased back, balding hair, he’d earned some Mafia-related nicknames around town–The Don, The Godfather, things of that nature. Despite his ancestral affiliation to Al Capone, none of his nicknames were warranted–as aside from being a used-car salesman and husband to a Marilyn lookalike, he was also a deacon at the Church of Christ (he’d converted in order to marry Billie Sol), and a generally decent fellow–his mediocre and almost depressingly tame peccadilloes aside.

So he hopped into his car and went down to the Italian restaurant he frequented (they even set aside his own private table), just as he did every Saturday, and ordered their exquisite, bought-in ravioli.

“Think we’re going to win this year, Godfather?” asked Bob Crawford from another table where he was working on accounts. Bob was another pillar of the community, as he owned the Italian restaurant as well as a gas-station.

“No, ‘Bama just can’t be stopped,” said William, who heretically rolled with the tide.

“I think we’ve got a chance,” Bob felt firm in his conviction, but his voice betrayed his inner doubts.

Neither said anything else for several minutes, until the aged and cantankerous waitress, Dianne, emerged from the back with the ravioli and set it down with entirely too much force in front of William.

“What’s eatin’ you?” William asked.

“It’s that car you sold my boy. Valve cover gasket went out last night. We ain’t never buyin’ from you again.”

“Dianne, I told you not to bother him with that, you’ve been on a tear all morning,” said Bob.

“You know I ain’t gonna listen to you. It’s a free country–I say what I want. You gonna make it right, Mr. Finance?” The scorn with which she said his name burned through the restaurant like an M2 Flamethrower in a South Pacific Island cave.

“My mechanic went over that car with a fine-tooth comb,” said William, and it was true. “But y’all bring it down tomorrow, I’ll make it right.”

Dianne’s demeanor immediately changed: “well, thank you. Here’s your check, I’ll see you at church tomorrow.”

William smiled at Bob, who rolled his eyes. “You’ll never make it in cars if you keep that up,” Bob said. “Nobody listens to her, anyway.”

“Think she spat in my food?” asked William, while chewing a large mouthful.

“Naw, she’s more likely to spike your sweet tea with arsenic.”

William drank deeply of the sweet tea, finished eating after only a few more minutes, and dropped a $20 bill on the table. He rapped the table twice with his knuckles, “I’ll holler at y’all tomorrow,” said William.

“See you at services,” said Bob.

William got into his car and, as he did every Saturday, drove a roundabout route back to his home on Sneed Rd.

Billie was not home yet, as her own Saturday ritual involved going to Chattanooga, buying entirely too much from the mall, and watching a movie.

William turned on the TV, an old 27” CRT from the mid-90s, grabbed a gallon bottle of prosecco from the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and watched Andy Griffith on broadcast from the comfort of his torn and dilapidated easy-chair. He wasn’t a poor man, not by any means–the moonshine money had never completely run out, but he enjoyed his own comfortable life. The only new things he owned were books, and an eight year old laptop he’d bought at Gus Holt’s Gun and Pawn down in Chattanooga.

But halfway through one of Andy’s moralizing speeches to Opie, William had a dawning realization. Perhaps it was something from the book he’d been reading, about how dismal it was to live in America (he thanked God he wasn’t in South Carolina, like the protagonist of that book), or perhaps it was something deeper than that–an ancestral memory of the Old Country. Perhaps it was the ravioli. He let out a deep belch and a simultaneous fart, and took another drink from his cheap gallon of prosecco.

The feeling did not pass as expected.

With that, William stood up, clicked off the TV, and walked into what he called his “study.” It was a third bedroom with another easy chair, piles of books, and the aforementioned black-velvets of Marilyn. He began digging through his piles until he found a book he’d ordered from Yangtze some months back. One of his friends in Chicago had written him about it and he never got around to reading it, but as he held the book in his hand, the sense of unease turned to something else, as he let out another loud belch. That was better.

He turned the book over and read the blurbs about author John Darwin, and wondered, at first, why this man was so important (at least near as important as his friend Donovan had intimated.) He’d remembered the news stories about him being stabbed, but he didn’t really follow any of it as it was, admittedly, completely overshadowed by the tremendous civil unrest in the more urban areas of the country.

So instead of rounding out his Saturday in front of the TV, as he always did, he sat down in his study amid the hoarded books and old newspapers and black-velvet paintings of Marilyn Monroe, and read [redacted].

Review Roundup: QUANTUM FALL Episode 2; COMPOST EVERYTHING

The Quantum Fall of Thaddeus Archibald DuBois, Episode Two: Queen Anne’s Revenge
by Daniel Rodrigues-Martin
Indie, 2015

In this second installment of Daniel Rodrigues-Martin’s steampunk/alt-history/time-travel serial, we find the fictional Rodrigues-Martin traveling back in time to gank something of great value from one of the greatest ganksters ever to ply his trade on the seven seas: none other than the dread pirate Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. I had the opportunity to look over the manuscript before publication, as the author and I are personally acquainted. As you see, I liked it enough to make a verified purchase.

I had some misgivings about the first installment, but the second installment successfully nullified them (I simply have a strong aversion to time-travel stories: matter of taste.) Not since the Original Star Trek episode CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER have I enjoyed a time-travel story this much, and once again, Mr. Martin has left me champing at the bit for the next installment. He handled the paradox of paradoxes very simply and beautifully: it is something of an out but it is a good one. I would rather there be an “out” rather than an endless recursion of paradoxical problems (c.f., most time travel stories, especially later Trek); it allows the author a greater degree of freedom and has the convenient capability to cause unique problems for the characters in future installments: MacGuffins are valuable commodities.

The dialogue is witty and crisp, and Mr. Martin is of the rare authorial breed who can successfully write other accents and dialects without coming off as silly (while it is a comedic work, there are some kinds of silly that just don’t work.) But more importantly, Mr. Martin can write a damn fine fight: swordfighting is difficult to put down on paper, I approve of his having done so well and with exquisite vividness.

The story is increasingly complex and self-referential, both qualities I like, but some do not, and of course both Thaddeus and fictional Daniel Rodrigues-Martin are beginning to grow as characters as the reader gets to know them better, and both are thus of increasing interest. Blackbeard made for a worthy adversary, and I found myself wondering what Mr. Teach would think of his portrayal.

It is seldom that I have no complaints after having read something, as I am a malcontent and I genuinely despise writing glowing reviews. But there was nothing about the story I didn’t like. I laughed my *** off almost the entire time reading it, which is no mean feat.

I reserve the full constellation of stars for true excellence: this is an easy and enjoyable 5/5.

Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting
by David the Good 
Castalia House, 2015

As a hobby-gardener who wishes he had time for all that complicated composting stuff, I wish I’d had this book five years ago when I first bought my house. The last time I composted was about 3 years ago, and while I understood the science of composting…well, understanding the science of something can either lead you to enlightenment, or take you down the rabbit-hole of perfectionism and proportionality, and that always got me messed up one way or another. When your compost pile isn’t working quickly or properly, it’s enough to make you wish Cthulhu would rise from R’lyeh and do what he does best. I just quit composting in frustration, too much work for someone who works all the time.

However, David the Good has written what may well be the Necronomicon of composting (and thus, gardening). Now I feel like I can summon the Elder Gods and Old Ones to improve the quality of the vegetables and flowers I grow (when I’m not busy writing or being lazy.) It really is simple: just throw it on the ground. It doesn’t matter. I was especially fascinated by the effectiveness of “verboten” compostables like meat, roadkill, bodies, human waste…

So if you’re into gardening, agriculture, or just want to learn something that is freaking interesting in an incredibly amusing format, then buy this book. I’ll be referencing it for years to come, and will definitely acquire a dead tree version should one become available.

Darwin: A Brief Post-mortem

I can’t say I’m particularly surprised that the picture of Saint Murphy on my official Facebook page got so many views. Chelsea is the best.

Today I finished going through THE DARWIN DELUSION paperback and approved it. So…in a few days, that’ll be available for those who prefer dead trees to electrons. Signed copies will be available on this site soon.

I don’t like to call it “writer’s block” because that is a misnomer. When I have it, I’m not really blocked, I’m just writing the wrong thing. I have to move with the spirits (whether distilled or supernatural or some combination, I’m as yet uncertain.) I still have not found the right project.

I haven’t said much about the books, because I’ve always been of the philosophy that anything an author has to say about his books had better be in the damn books (except perhaps many years in retrospect; maybe in a decade I’ll feel like expounding or explicating.) Perhaps this is a flaw, but to me, books are what they are. I’m more interested in others’ interpretations of them than in my own intentions, but even then other than marketing, that interest is limited.

CURRENTLY UNTITLED is certainly the strongest of the Darwin stories (not just in context in the series, but as a story itself). THE DARWIN DELUSION is probably the weakest, but I ran up on deadline, had to change half of a major subplot due to world events, and had a snap decision to make: which ending to use. I had two. Both equally absurd, but I used the one I liked better.

Maybe if sales pick up sufficiently to justify a new edition, I’ll include the alternate ending. If I do an omnibus edition, I have sufficient material to make it worth paying for on top of the originals (there are at least two subplots I removed from DTV and TDD that might make for good short stories, or another novella.)

It’s contemporary pop-satire. It has a short shelf-life. But it’s funny.

But now that the paperbacks are finished, I’m glad that I’m done with the series. What started off as a rant became DEAD TREE VERSION. A single quote from Kafka launched CURRENTLY UNTITLED. THE DARWIN DELUSION is…well, it is what it is. It all had to end somehow.

Hey, I’ve written something. Go me.