The Katrina Williams Series by Robert E Dunn Book Tour and Giveaway :)
A DARK PATH
Katrina Williams Book 3
by Robert E. Dunn
Pub Date: 8/7/2018
Sheriff's detective Katrina “Hurricane” Williams confronts deep-rooted hate and greed in the Missouri Ozarks in this riveting police procedural…
What at first appears to be a brush fire in some undeveloped bottom land yields the charred remains of a young African-American man. As sheriff’s Katrina Williams conducts her in-spection of the crime scene, she discovers broken headstones and disturbed open graves in a forgotten cemetery.
As Katrina attempts to sort out a complex backwoods criminal network involving the Aryan Brotherhood, meth dealers, and the Ozarks Nightriders motorcycle gang, she is confronted by the sudden appearance of a person out of her own past who may be involved. And what seems like a clear-cut case of racially motivated murder is further complicated by rumors of hidden silver and dark family histories. To uncover the ugly truth, Katrina will need to dig up past crimes and shameful secrets that certain people would kill to keep buried . . .
Burning is not the best way to dispose of a body. It’s hard to get a fire hot enough, long enough, to burn through the layers of fat, muscle, and bone to destroy all the evidence you need gone. It doesn’t smell very good either.
Before it ever got to me, the situation had worked through a few preliminary steps. First, the pair of teens who discovered the fire debated calling it in. They had been parking and fooling around in a secluded spot off a rutted dirt track—usually used by fishermen going to the lake. I imagine it was a tough debate among hormones, responsibility, and fear of angry parents. They told me later they would have let the blaze go if the boy’s father hadn’t been a volunteer fireman.
After a brutally stormy spring, the summer had been hot and dry. Over recent weeks, the Ozarks had fallen into a deep drought. Lake levels were way down, crops were withering, and small fires were whipped into big ones by even the smallest breeze. The boy had been lectured about it so many times, it was impossible for him to pretend ignorance.
After the kids called 911 to report what they believed was a trash fire, deputies and the fire department were dispatched. The boy’s father showed up on the pumper. I understand there was a parenting opportunity that involved a little tough love.
That opportunity was probably lost when the embers were raked out and doused. In the center of the smoking pile was a charred lump everyone assumed was a log. When it was hit with direct pressure, the log split open. Under the black surface was pink meat and steaming flesh. That was when they called me.
My phone rang a few minutes shy of two a.m. Late Saturday night—or early Sunday morning—depending on how pedantic you are about that sort of thing. I’m not at all, at least not at that hour. I was in bed, and not yet sleeping because it wasn’t my bed.
Every call to my phone rings the same tone except one, the Taney County Sheriff’s Department. I knew it was a work call even without the tone. Real life always intrudes whenever I find a bit of peace in my life.
“This is Katrina,” I said softly into the phone.
“Who’re you whisperin’ for?” our jailer asked. He laughed like he actually knew something. It was a thick, rheumy cackle that made me picture the soggy cigar in his jowled face.
I was actually relieved. If he was calling, I might be able to stay in bed. “What do you want, Duck?” His name was Donald Duques, earning him the permanent sobriquet, Donald Duck—always shortened to simply Duck. He laughed again and I became unpleasantly aware of being naked.
“Got a body,” he interjected between wet hacks of laughter.
“What?” Given who he was and the old school Ozarks diction, I can be forgiven for thinking he was commenting about my appearance.
I was about to give him some choice thoughts on his manners when he said again, “We got a body. Out on the west side shore of Bull Shoals by Kissee Mills.”
Detective Billy Blevins shifted in the sheets behind me. His arm moved against my bare thigh and hip. I was distracted by the warm contact. “What?”
Duck laughed again. “What’d I catch you doin’? Work can’t hold your attention?”
“Why are you calling me?”
“I told you—”
“Why you, Duck?”
“Oh,” he swallowed the laugh. “Gettin’ a little overtime. Workin’ weekend overnights on dispatch.”
“Then stick to the job at hand, would you? What’s the call?”
“Couple ‘a kids called in a fire. Calvin called for a detective when the fire department found a body in the brush heap.”
“Where?” I stood and broke contact with Billy’s arm. My skin immediately regretted the loss.
“That undeveloped bottom land, down the fishing trail that goes off of Hole Road.”
Duck told me the names of deputies on scene and I started searching for my underthings. They were close by on the floor. Finding them made me think of losing them. I smiled.
“I’ll be half an hour,” I informed Duck.
“From your place?” He sounded surprised.
“Half an hour,” I repeated and broke the connection.
Moonlight through a high window illuminated Billy lying in the sheets. It was a nice sight. I was amazed—and alternately delighted and terrified—by that development in my life. Not as amazed; however, as I was that he’d never woken while I talked on the phone and dressed. Maybe I was projecting. My own sleep was fragile and filled with ghosts. Billy seemed to have the ability to sleep without demons.
He and I had circled each other for years. We were deployed to Iraq at the same time. In the worst moment of my life, Billy appeared for the first time. I don’t even know if the memory is real. Everything else about that time is solid and undeniable. I was brutalized by two superior officers. They left me for dead in the blowing brown dust that eddied behind a mud wall. Grain by grain, the dun-colored wind piled a grave on top of me. I pulled myself from the dirt, staggered then crawled to a road. Insurgents found me first. They would have shot me like a rabid dog in a ditch if an Army patrol hadn’t shown up. All of that is true. And it’s true that a young medic, a corporal, cleaned and stabilized me in the back of a rushing Humvee. There’s a little piece of that, the piece I believe but don’t know: Billy Blevins was that medic. He’s never said and I’m afraid to ask. But I believe.
There were so many reasons why we never should have gotten to this point. I hated giving up any moment of lying naked with him.
Still. . . I’m a cop and the real world was calling.
A PARTICULAR DARKNESS
Katrina Williams Book 2
Pub Date: 9/12/2017
From the author of A Living Grave comes a gripping police procedural featuring sheriff's detective Katrina Williams as she exposes the dark underbelly of Appalachia . . .
Dredging up the Truth
Still recovering from tragedy and grieving a devastating loss, Iraq war veteran and sheriff's detective Katrina Williams copes the only way she knows how—by immersing herself in work. A body's just been pulled from the lake with a fish haul, but what seems like a straight-forward murder case over the poaching of paddlefish for domestic caviar quickly becomes murkier than the depths of the lake.
Soon a second body is found—an illegal Peruvian refugee woman linked to a charismatic tent revival preacher. But as Katrina tries to investigate the enigmatic evangelist, she is blocked by antagonistic FBI agents and Army CID personnel. When more young female refu-gees disappear, she must partner with deputy Billy Blevins, who stirs mixed feelings in her, to connect the lake murder to the refugees. Katrina is no stranger to darkness, but cold-blooded conspirators plan to make sure she'll never again see the light of day . . .
We had lights on our helmets and a flashlight each, but our progress was really because of Billy’s familiarity with the path. Three turns and one crawl-through and we came out into a chamber. At one end water dripped and trickled, seeming to bleed right out of the stone and filled a small basin. At the other end, the basin emptied into a silent steam that disappeared into a fissure the size of my fist. In between was a flat space on which we sat. Billy pointed out shapes and features in the walls and ceiling.
“Are there bats?” I asked.
“Not all caves have bats,” he answered without laughing or making me feel bad for asking. “But this one has something better. Something special.”
He slipped down to his knees and put his face low. For a second I thought he was going to put his head under the pool of water. Instead, he shined his flashlight around until he found what he wanted.
“Come look at this.” His voice had become a whisper.
I joined him staring into the light beam within the water. What, at first, I thought were reflections, moved away from the light. Fish. They were tiny, like minnows, but the color of bleached bone. Their eyes were small and dead looking. It was as if I was looking into a ghost world.
“Down here.” Billy pointed with the flashlight then poked a finger into the beam.
There, along the line of his finger was a white rock.
“A pebble?” I asked.
The rock moved and the strange shape resolved into what appeared to be a tiny lobster.
“Crayfish,” I said excited. It was so colorless it was practically transparent at the edges. “So pale.”
“They don’t need color in the darkness. They don’t need eyes either.”
I sat up, stunned and elated by the place I was in. “Thank you,” I said looking around. “For sharing this with me.”
“This isn’t what I wanted to share,” Billy said.
He reached to the lamp on my hard hat and killed the light. After a moment, he turned off my flashlight. Again he waited a few seconds to turn off his flashlight. Finally, after a longer pause, he turned off his own headlamp.
We were in the kind of complete darkness I don’t think I’d ever experienced. It was thrilling and jarring at the same time. I reached and took his hand without even thinking. The black we were in was like distance and I wanted to be close.
“Why?” I asked.
“Look around,” he answered, softly.
“It’s dark,” I said. “Nothing but black.”
“There’s no light. But absence isn’t exactly black.”
“I don’t understand.” I shook my head then wondered why.
“Some of the guys I know . . .” Billy said then stopped.
I knew he was talking about something different then, but still the same. A change in subject not in meaning. I waited, like waiting for a suspect. He had to be the one to fill the silence.
“Veterans,” he continued. “Guys who were over there. We talk sometimes. They talk a lot about the things they see when they close their eyes. It’s always personal. No one ever has the same experience or the same . . . vision on events. Look around. Do you still see nothing?”
I did as he asked and noticed for the first time that blackness wasn’t exactly, only blackness. There were patterns of light, vague shimmers, not entirely seen, but not simply imagined, I was sure.
“Something . . .” I admitted.
“Our eyes don’t like complete darkness. When there’s no light to be seen, the optic nerves still fire, populating the void with specters. The thing is, your eyes won’t see what mine do and I won’t see what you experience. Darkness is singular. What you see, is your particular darkness, no one else’s. No matter how well you describe it, no one will see it the way you do.”
“You’re not talking about darkness.” I actually thought I heard fear in my voice.
“You’re holding my hand.”
“Yes,” I answered, squeezing.
“Is it real?”
“What do you mean?”
“My hand. Me. Am I real”
“Of course,” I said. “Why would you not be?”
“That’s what I tell the other guys. We all have our own darkness within us and sometimes it gets out, it shadows our lives, the entire world we see. Those times we get so wrapped up in seeing our own thing, our own darkness, we forget the real out there beyond it.”
He let go of my hand and I was suddenly untethered. I was adrift in my own darkness. It was a familiar feeling. In a way, comforting. The same way what is familiar and expected is always somehow a comfort. But I didn’t want the darkness anymore. I realized I wanted his hand.
“Billy . . .”
He touched my face. Then the touch became a hold as he placed his hands to each side with his fingers in my hair. His thumb rested on the scar that framed my eye and I didn’t mind.
“I don’t want to live in the dark anymore,” I confessed.
Then Billy Blevins kissed me.
When we walked out of the crevasse and entered the cave’s mouth, the world was a circle of light to be walked into. It spread and opened as we approached. When I stepped through, I understood what Billy had said about breathing sunshine.
A LIVING GRAVE
Katrina Williams Book 1
The first in a gritty new series featuring sheriff’s detective Katrina Williams, as she investigates moonshine, murder, and the ghosts of her own past…
BODY OF PROOF
BODY OF PROOF
Katrina Williams left the Army ten years ago disillusioned and damaged. Now a sheriff’s detective at home in the Missouri Ozarks, Katrina is living her life one case at a time—between mandated therapy sessions—until she learns that she’s a suspect in a military investigation with ties to her painful past.
The disappearance of a local girl is far from the routine distraction, however. Brutally murdered, the girl’s corpse is found by a bottlegger whose information leads Katrina into a tangled web of teenagers, moonshiners, motorcycle clubs, and a fellow veteran battling illness and his own personal demons. Unraveling each thread will take time Katrina might not have as the Army investigator turns his searchlight on the devastating incident that ended her military career. Now Katrina will need to dig deep for the truth—before she’s found buried…
I felt like it was the end of summer. Not that there was a hint of green or the creeping red-oranges of leaves turning. In Iraq, everything was brownish. Not even a good, earthy brown. Instead, everything within my view was a uniform, wasted, dun color. It was easy to imagine the creator ending up here on the seventh day, out of energy and out of ideas after spending his palate in the joy of painting the rest of the world. This spit of earth, the dirty asshole of creation we called the Triangle of Death, didn’t even rate a decent brown.
I had been in country for eight months. I had been First Lieutenant Katrina Williams, Military Police, attached to the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division for a little over a year. Pride and love had brought me here. Proud to be American and just as proud to have come from a military family, I was in love with what the ROTC at Southwest Missouri State University had shown me about my country’s military. I fell in love with the thought of the woman I would become serving my nation. I wanted to echo the men my father and my uncle were and add my own tone to the family history. Iraq bled that all out of me. Just like it was bleeding my color out into the dust. Bright red draining into shit brown.
It was the impending weight of change that made me feel like the end of summer. As a girl, back home in the Ozarks, the summers seemed to last forever. It wasn’t until the final days, carried over even into a new school year, when the air cooled and the oaks rusted, that I could feel them ending. Their endings were like the descent of ice ages, the shifting of epochs. That was exactly how I felt bleeding into the dirt. The difference was that I felt an impending death rather than transition. The terminus of an epoch. In Iraq though, nothing was as clear as that. It was death; but it wasn’t.
Lying on my back, I wished I could see blue sky, but not here. The air was hazed with dust so used up it became a part of the atmosphere. There was no more of the earth in it. Grit, like bad memories and regret, hanging over an entire nation. I coughed hard and it hurt. A bubbly thickness slithered up my throat. Using my tongue and what breath I had, I got the slimy mass up to my lips. I just didn’t have it in me to spit. Instead, I turned my head to the side and let the bloody phlegm slide down my cheek.
Dying is hard.
Wind, hot and cradling the homeland sand so many factions were willing to kill for, ran over the wall I was hidden behind. It eddied there, slowing and swirling and then dumping the dirt on my naked skin. A slow-motion burial. Even the land here hated naked women.
I stayed there without moving, but slipping in and out of consciousness for a long time. It seemed long, anyway. I dreamed. Dreamed or remembered so well they seemed like perfect dreams of—everything.
We played baseball. Just like in old movies with kids turning a lot into a diamond. No one does that anymore, but we did. My grandfather played minor league ball years ago and I had a cousin who was a Cardinals fan. Everyone was a Cardinals fan, so I loved the Royals. When the games were over and it was hotter than the batter’s box when I was pitching—I had a wild arm—my father would take me to the river. Later when we had cars, I was drawn there every summer to swim and swing from the ropes. We floated on old, patched inner tubes and teased boys. That was where I learned to drink beer. My father would take me fishing on the river. My grandfather would take me on the lakes. I used the same cane pole my father had when Granddad taught him about fishing. Both of the men used to say to the girl who complained about not catching anything, “It’s not about the catching, it’s about the fishing.” I don’t think I ever understood until a good portion of my blood was spilled on the dirt of a world that hated me.
My head spun back to the moment and back to Iraq. If I was going to die, I would have done it already, I figured. At least my body. That physical part of me would live on. That other part of me, the girl who loved summer… I think she was already dead. Death and transition.
Robert E. Dunn was born an Army brat and grew up in the Missouri Ozarks. He wrote his first book at age eleven turning a series of Jack Kirby comic books into a hand written novel.
Over many years in the, mostly, honest work of video and film production he produced everything from documentaries, to training films and his favorite, travelogues. He returned to writing mystery, horror, and fantasy fiction for publication after the turn of the century. It seemed like a good time for change even if the changes were not always his choice.
Mr. Dunn is the author of the horror novels, THE RED HIGHWAY, MOTORMAN, and THE HARROWING, as well as the Katrina Williams mystery/thriller series, A LIVING GRAVE, A PARTICULAR DARKNESS, and the upcoming A DARK PATH.
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Guest Post – Robert E. Dunn
Expectations for writers. Expectations for characters. It’s something I’ve touched on a few times when writing about writing. The first assumption that I break, is choosing to write books with women as main characters. The odd thing about that is my tendency to write books filled with adventure, physical hardship, and sometimes, violence. That’s to say, I’ve become a crime writer. I’m not saying that I’m a first. There have obviously been many great mystery/thrillers with women running the show. But the books I love, and that I read the most, are a bit grittier. Noir is not the most obvious place to look for women in the lead role.
Something else. The kind of noir I and my characters are drawn to, tends to the rural, outdoorsy, modern western kind of stories. In those books, the strong, self-reliant-to-a-fault, usually with a checkered or damaging past, man overcomes impossible odds. We’ve seen it a million times before. No one reads it because it hasn’t been done. They read, and write it, because it is a rich mine of conflict and character. I had an idea brewing in my head after years of reading the Dave Robicheaux novels of James Lee Burke, the Longmire books by Craig Johnson. By the way, you should try the border noir thrillers by my friend, J. Todd Scott. The thing is, I sometimes thought the women in the books were underplayed. Strike that. I often think it. Let’s face it, the tough guys usually make the women, not much more than a frame. The female characters are a way to see the men or to stand for the sane world. They are often no more than the person who needs saving or protecting. Expectations.
So I wondered what would happen if that strong character with issues, a past, and the drive to protect, was a woman. If you’re writing the character who plays by their own rules why not break the rules to do it?
Now there is a funny thing about expectations. People tend to like them satisfied. Predictability is comforting and, well, predictable.
Writing is one of the few artistic or business areas truly dominated by women. Even the genres traditionally dominated by men, horror, adventure, science fiction, etc. are changing. For the better you better believe. Aside from writing the books, most agents and editors are women. I think, part of the reason that the book world is so open to women is that you can’t hide behind gender or bluster or tradition when you literally have your words doing the talking for you.
You would think that helps me and my books, right? Maybe it does. My main characters are women, judged by women gatekeepers and readers. I hope I do a good job. The response had been overwhelmingly positive. But…
There have been times that the main female characters in my books, the ones who are carrying the load of the story—the heroes—have been described to me as, not feminine. The really strange thing about it is that those same characters also get a lot of attention, from readers and reviewers, as true people. Readers respond well to the characters aside from gender.
When I really took a look at the criticism my characters were getting I noticed something. It was not about the women. It was about their role. All of my female main characters defy gender expectations. In my Katrina (Hurricane) Williams series, the main character is a female sheriff’s detective, a former military police officer, who has issues with PTSD, drinking, and violence. Yeah, I don’t write damsels in distress. I took a traditional male literary trope and put a woman in the same situations. And what I encounter are two general criticisms. That my women are not feminine. Or that they are too feminine.
You’re right, there is no way to please everyone.
Defying expectations. That’s what the criticisms are really about. Don’t think I’m saying my writing or my characters deserve no criticism. No writer can support that. But it is important, for the writer, to recognize the difference between criticizing the art and criticizing the expectation. It’s not just for writers. We see it every day, and hear it played out on the TV news almost every night now. People who like things—just so—like to define things as normal. They like to say things like, smile more, no sleeveless tops on the house floor, if it was true she would have said something years ago…
I’m an old guy. Simply by writing women characters I have seen a bit of what it means to be a women—that someone is always willing to tell you what it means and how to do it. Well I’m an old guy with daughters. I don’t want anyone telling them how to be feminine. I want them to be able to define it for themselves. They are doing great at it by the way.
So, if you read my books, or meet my daughters, remember, they may not be your kind of feminine. But let them be their own kind. You will enjoy the story more and maybe, in small gestures, make the world better for the women you know.
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Thanks for sharing -Janet @ Silver Dagger Book ToursReplyDelete