Self Published Authors is proud to introduce you to Gary Showalter. Twisted Key is his third novel and is avaliable now. Thanks for joining us Gary!
Gary Showalter Introduction
I’m a writer, for better or worse. I’m not passionate about it, as some authors like to claim. Passion is great when it brings two people together or when you start a new project, but it’s nothing to be going on with when life turns into a long, slow slog down a muddy road. I’m a writer because it’s the only way I know to make a living any more.
And according to my readers, I’m pretty good at it. Lucky me, huh?
But I don’t claim to write my novels by myself. I have a good-sized cast of characters – Terry Rankin and Cathy Diamond, Cathy’s dad Matt, Terry’s office manager Cecelia, and his operations manager Tommy and a few others. I can’t not mention Spike, a six-toed Hemmingway cat from Key West who’s taken up residence on Terry’s trawler Nina R. And they all argue with me, constantly. Sometimes it gets very noisy in here.
Life is filled with confusion and lots and lots of good, bad and indifferent people. It’s chaos, actually, and our job is to make some sense and order out of it for ourselves and the people we care about. So that’s what I write about. Mystery, murder, greed, incompetence, corruption, romance, hope and optimism, reward and punishment and just enough light-hearted humor to keep us sane.
I’ve never had what anyone would call a stable life, so maybe my point of view is somewhat skewed. But you have to write about what you know, so that’s what I do.
I have been asked why and how I write. I’ve already answered why, so here’s the how:
I get that question a lot. Writing is not an easy job, and producing one of my novels requires around two years of steady (all right, mostly on-off, but kinda-sorta steady) thinking, researching, writing and re-writing. Lots of re-writing.
In all truth, my contribution to these stories is a very small part of the project. Important – at least I’m told it’s important, but for all that a very small part of the process of writing.
Writing is very much a solitary profession, but having said that, it is not a lonely one. In fact, sometimes it gets pretty crowded in here, and noisy.
Because I don’t write by myself. I don’t mean that I have a staff of hack writers. I wouldn’t know what to do with them, if I did. I do the creative thinking, at least at the beginning. And all of the typing. And deleting, and formatting and re-formatting of the text.
My characters write their parts. They decide on what has to be done. Sometimes they argue among themselves, but that’s usually quickly resolved.
The environment plays a big part in any story, or it should. The roads, the shopping centers, the design of Terry’s office, the layout of his hotel room, what kind of vehicle he’s driving, that sort of thing. The layout of the city he’s working in plays a big part in these stories.
I don’t make these things up, folks. Well, I don’t make most of these things up. It’s just too much trouble keeping track of them when I’ve got an entire world filled with stuff I can make use of.
The environment shapes the story. It provides the backdrop and the scope for the lives and actions of my characters.
The climate plays a big part in any story. Is it January in Tampa, and pouring rain, or summer in the Everglades? Are the roads slippery from the grease and rubber caked into the surface, and it’s starting to rain? Climate should play a big part in the decisions the characters make and how they react to their changing situation.
And, of course, there’s the ever-present plot. Or not. Frankly, I don’t care all that much about plotting in my stories. Don’t get me wrong; there is a plot, and the plot is a major part of the story, but it doesn’t drive the story. It stays in the background, where it belongs.
My stories deal with how my characters react to the situations they find themselves in, and the decisions they make and the prices they inevitably have to pay for having made those decisions. I don’t bother with a plot outline. I find it very restricting.
Besides, my characters wouldn’t stand for it.
“Hog Valley” is my second novel, and I am very pleased with how the story worked itself out. All of my novels take two years of research, writing and rewriting before they ever see an editor. I spent those two years in Marion County, Florida, while I worked on the novel. I was very fortunate in meeting people who volunteered their time and knowledge during the research for the book.
“Hog Valley” is about weakness and temptation, easy money and greed. It explores the limits to which people are willing to go to get what they want. And the inevitable penalty they have to pay when they come up short of our goals.
I write with more than a little tongue-in-cheek humor. Life is filled with irony, you see. And romance, which I deal with lightly and tenderly, as it should be. But since life also has its harsh and brutal side, I present that, as well. People can be cruel and bloody-minded and indifferent to the pain of others, and I write about that, as well.
All of my novels, including “Twisted Key”, my third novel, are available in digital format for both the Kindle and Nook eBook readers. “Twisted Key” should be available in paperback near the end of September.
“Twisted Key” is about a clash of cultures and what happens to family values when Love and money collide. It’s also about buried treasure, and one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the shores of Florida. And greed.
I’m working on my fourth novel, titled “Lonesome Cove”, now. It’s about half-way roughed out and should be in print near July of next year. August, for sure, or maybe some time in September.
My web site, www.garyshowalter.com, has a lot more information, including downloadable PDF files with the first three chapters of all of my novels and a large section with reader’s comments.
Twisted Key Description
Terry Rankin has a new client; Fatima al Natsche, a Muslim woman living under a sentence of death for her work on behalf of women suffering under Islamic law. Terry’s a businessman – he’ll protect just about anyone who can pay the freight. In fact, he admires Ms. Al Natsche and the sacrifices she’s made to get her message out.
But then her daughter flies over from Norway and gets snatched off the street in front of her mother’s home, and all of the masks come off and all of the dirty little secrets come out to play in the Florida sun.
Twisted Key Teaser:
Saturday, December 28
San Antonio, Texas
We left my dad’s ranch close to ten on Saturday morning, three days after the most wonderful Christmas of my life. The temperature was in the low twenties and snow lay on the ground, but the West Texas sky was a beautiful blue. My sister, Mary Catherine, was driving. She and Cathy were the first to get up from the kitchen table once we were done with all of the phone calls.
Cathy’s call was from her boss, Lieutenant Mike Banks, of the Major Crimes Squad of the Orlando Police Department.
“What’s up, Mike?” She said. Then she put him on speaker phone so I could listen to both sides of the conversation.
Banks said, “Got a shooting in College Park this morning. I need you on it.”
“What about Sparks and Moscowitz?” Cathy asked. “Why can’t one of them handle this?”
“They are both on this shooting now, but we’ve got a small gang war going on in west Orlando. That’s their field of expertise, and I’ve got to cut them loose from this so they can work it. Give my apologies to Terry and his family, but I really need you on the first flight back here.”
“We’ll be on the next flight to Tampa, if there’s room. I’ll let you know. Tell Sparks I’ll be in touch with him during the drive to San Antonio. I’ve got questions, and he’d better have answers for me.”
While Cathy was still talking with her boss, I got a call on my cell phone from my operations manager, Charley Weeks. My stomach dropped into the basement. “Sorry to ruin your vacation, Boss,” he said, “but we got a problem.” I took a seat beside Cathy at the massive old pine table in the kitchen. “What’s the matter, Charley?”
“You know that Arab lady we signed last month, Fatima al Natsche?”
“She was at the mall on Merritt Island doing a little post-Christmas shopping. A young girl was snatched off the sidewalk right in front of al Natsche’s home, so the team leader at the house called to alert the team with her. They got her out of the mall and into the vehicle. Then they called me to find out where they should take her. I gave them directions to my rental property in College Park.”
I ended the call at Cathy’s request before Charley could give me any more information, so she was the one who told me that one of my men had been shot in College Park.
My name is Terrance Charles Rankin, and I’m the majority owner of Rankin Protective Services in Orlando, Florida. Cathy and I met early last year during a very rough period for both of us. We wound up in a like/dislike relationship, but things change, and now we’re planning to get married. We don’t have a date, yet. Once my sister learned Cathy and I were getting married, our two-week holiday visit quickly become a flurry of engagement parties and get-to-know-you parties; each of which included a round of gift giving for the new bride-to-be.
Cathy’s dad and I had our bags packed in about fifteen minutes. My intended was going home with a lot more than she arrived with. We were sitting in the living room with my father, saying our good-byes, until one of the women would call us to carry down another bag. As far as I was concerned, all of it could go later.
Cathy and I sat in the back seat of the old station wagon. She spent much of the trip to San Antonio on the phone while she took notes in a yellow pad my dad gave her. Her dad Matt sat beside my sister Mary Catherine and spent the trip chatting and I listened to Cathy get on top of the investigation.
“Sparks, give me an update.” She wrote and listened to him.
“So what do you have?” Cathy brushed a strand of hair off her face as she leaned over the pad in her lap.
“Three shooters plus a driver?” she asked. “How many rounds did they fire?”
The reply didn’t please her. “Well, how many shells have you recovered?”
She waited while he broke away and asked someone.
Then she asked. “What’s the name of the bodyguard who caught the rounds? What’s his status? Well, why don’t you know these things?” She asked.
Whatever Sparks said in reply apparently did not satisfy her.
She snapped back at him, asking, “Are you the lead investigator or not?”
I could almost make out the man’s reply as she held the phone away from her ear. “I’m not going to do your paperwork for you. It’s your job now, so you do it. Listen to me, Sparks. You and Moscowitz stay on it until I debrief you in the office tonight. You have all of your paperwork current, complete and legible or by God you will stay until it is. Am I clear enough for you?” She ended the call while he was still screaming at her.
“What a wuss,” She said. Matt, Mary Catherine and I all broke into laughter. The grin on Cathy’s face spread from ear to ear.
We got to the airport in San Antonio around noon; forty minutes later, Cathy, Matt, and I waved good-bye to my sister. Twenty minutes more and we were clearing the security barrier, with our bags on their way to somewhere, while we headed for Tampa.
The flight left at two-thirty. After we were wheels up and had our seat belts off, Cathy took out her pad and pen. “I meant to tell you earlier; your man, Tommy Fuchs, caught two rounds, both non-life threatening. He’ll be okay. Now tell me about this client of yours.”
“Fatima al Natsche from Hebron in the Occupied Territories in Israel. She’s only been a client for a few months. She told me she was forced into marriage at a young age, and has one daughter. Her husband beat her and her daughter regularly. She converted to Christianity from Islam. She managed to escape with her daughter with the help of some kind of secret Christian organization.”
“That’s why these shooters were after her?”
“No idea. But she’s definitely a pain in someone’s butt. Once she was free, she started talking and writing about the abuse of women in Islam. She travels a lot on speaking engagements in the US and Europe, does television and radio interviews, holds seminars on women’s rights in Islam, stuff like that. She’s under a fatwa, a death sentence, for her public stance on the subject.”
“That young girl who was taken off the sidewalk in front of her home on Merritt Island, any chance that was her daughter?”
“It’s worth asking her. I have no idea. Don’t think she told any of my people she was expecting the girl to show up.”
We were back on the ground in Tampa at five that afternoon. We carried our bags to my Suburban in the long-term parking lot and headed for Matt’s place. Cathy and I stayed just long enough to see him settled in and fed. Then we showered, changed, and got on the road to Orlando.
I drove my tan Suburban and Cathy took her quarter-ton canary yellow pick up. She’d called Mike Banks from her dad’s home to say she would meet him at the Public Safety Building. I drove to my office on
to meet with Charley Weeks and one of the two teams that were assigned to the protective detail on Fatima al Natsche.
Cathy expected to work through the night on the investigation into the shooting. I needed to know what had gone down with my teams on Merritt Island and in College Park. I needed to know why one of my men had to catch a few bullets.
Charley Weeks and two people from the security team that escorted the client to the Mall on Merritt Island were waiting for me at the office on
. Tommy Fuchs, the third member of that team, was in the hospital. It was close to 9:30 at night.
I wanted to be aboard my converted trawler, Nina R, in her slip in Clearwater. But she was up on blocks in Rolf Craddock’s boatyard in Tampa, being rebuilt for the second time in a year. The woman I love was in the Public Safety Building in downtown Orlando going over the paperwork on the shooting in College Park.
So much for what I wanted. What I had to do was to catch up on what happened with my teams. Then I could drive to the apartment hotel in mid-town, and get some sleep. Cecelia, the office manager, had the place open and the coffee maker going. I grabbed a cup and spoke with her for a few minutes before the smell of takeout Chinese food drew me into the conference room. Charley and the security team that had been with the client during the shooting were taking advantage of the free meal.
It would be deceptive to build the image of a fancy oak paneled boardroom, and leather-covered seats around a large, oval, conference table with ornate inlay. My office is utilitarian, not fancy. In fact, it could use a coat of paint on the walls, and at least some cheap plastic frames around the photographs and maps instead of mismatched thumbtacks. New carpeting would be nice, too. Don’t get me wrong. The place is clean and organized; it’s just nowhere close to showy. It’s more like a cop shop in a low-rent part of town. Homey, if you like that sort of thing.
Charley reviewed the events that led up to the shooting in College Park. “Nick, Tommy and Alicia were with Ms. al Natsche at the mall on Merritt Island,” he began. Nick Thomas, Tommy Fuchs, and Alicia Benning all had prior military or police experience. They’d worked for several years on bodyguard details, mostly for corporate executives on Central and South American jaunts, where things can get hairy in a heartbeat.
“It was around three, maybe three-fifteen in the afternoon when Nick took the call from the house about a girl getting snatched off the sidewalk,” Charley continued. “We didn’t know if this represented a threat to the client, but we weren’t going to take any chances. So he, Alicia and Tommy hustled the client out of the mall and drove off the island, headed for Orlando.” Charley’s voice sounded unsure. I got the picture –They didn’t know what else to do. Nothing like this had happened before, so they had to improvise.
“Nick was driving and Tommy was riding shotgun. Alicia called me and asked where they should bring the client. I told her to get Ms. al Natsche up to a rental home I own in College Park and give me an estimated time of arrival, that I’d meet them with the key.” Charley paused and said, “We just never thought we’d need a safe house, Terry. But maybe we should have.”
He was right of course, but buying a place that might be used once in a blue moon and keeping it staffed was a lot more money than we could afford to spend, even to cover something like this. ‘Something like this’ didn’t come up very often. In fact, it shouldn’t have come up at all. I shook my head. “Go on, Charley. We can talk about what we should have done later.”
He nodded and continued, “Once the team leader at the al Natsche house knew the client was safe, he called the cops and reported what he saw happen to the girl. Nobody knew who she was, only that she had been snatched off the street in front of the house.” The other team wasn’t with us in the conference room. They were still on duty with the client.
“When I got off the phone with Alicia,” Charley continued, “I called the team at the house on Merritt Island and told them that once the cops released them they should lock up the house and drive back here to the office. Then I drove up to College Park.” Charley looked at Alicia and said, “You take it from there.”
Alicia, an olive-skinned, slender woman, took up the story. “We didn’t see any sign of a tail, Terry. Not once during the drive from Merritt Island. We went by the book. Tommy was shotgun, and he kept his eyes on the right side of the vehicle and on the side view mirror. Nick was driving, and I was sitting behind him with Ms. al Natsche. I kept my eyes on the left side traffic and out the rear window. If there was a tail, they were damn good at their job.” She brushed her short, dark hair off her forehead and said, “And there had to be one, Boss.”
I didn’t think there was, at least not the way she was thinking. I’d explain later.
She got back to the story. “We stayed in heavy traffic all the way. Nick drove south on I-95 to Highway 50. Then we went through Winter Park to
and then up to College Park.” She shook her head. “We did everything right. But just as soon as we pulled into the driveway to Charley’s place on
, those bastards were right behind us, blocking us in.”
Charley picked up the narrative from there. “I’d parked along the curb in front of the house to the right of my place, so my car wouldn’t block the view of the street. I got up to the house, unlocked the door, and was waiting inside. I saw Nick swing the car into the drive, and just the way Alicia said, a late-model, gunmetal grey mini-van pulled in right behind them.”
“Where did it come from, Charley?” I asked.
Alicia jumped in. “We were heading north on Edgewater Drive, and when we got to Rugby, Nick turned right, following Charley’s directions to the house.” Alicia’s dark eyes rose to look at me as she said, “I think it was an ‘07 Magnum – my dad used to have one. It was parked in a lot behind one of the stores on the corner of Edgewater and Rugby. I saw it pull in behind us as we headed for the house, about two blocks down. I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” She shook her head. “But those bastards were sitting right there in that parking lot, waiting for us.”
I spared a thought for the other team members. Neal, Tina and Richard had been at the al Natsche home when the young woman was taken. They spent the rest of the day tied up with the local cops. They knew Tommy Fuchs, of course; they worked with him every day. Now he was in the hospital and my teams had been made to look like amateurs. They were not happy campers. None of us were.
Quietly, I said, “They didn’t need to follow you, Alicia. They’d isolated the transmissions from your cell phones. They got the directions to that house on Rugby at the same time you did. When Charley gave them to you.”
Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making.
In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel.
During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites.
Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. “Twisted Key” is his third novel.
Mr. Showalter currently resides in Orange Park, Florida, where he is working on his fourth, titled “Lonesome Cove”.