Thursday Sampler: Bad Side of a Wicked Moon

It’s a hard life in a dying town until oil brings riches, greed, jealousy, and murder. Read an excerpt from my newest historical mystery, Bad Side of a Wicked Moon.

The discovery of oil has broken the stranglehold the Great Depression had on a dying East Texas town. Strangers are pouring into Ashland. Where there is oil, there are jobs, as well as con artists, thieves, scalawags, and at least one murderer.

One stranger drives a hearse. But who is he, and why is he found hanging from the crown block of an oil derrick.

The Sheriff might solve the mystery. It’s his job. But he’s discovered shot to death on his own drilling rig.

No one in town is above suspicion. But who has a deadly motive?

Eudora Durant is the most beautiful widow in town. She’s also the richest. With the charming con man Doc Bannister at her side, she risks everything to bring law and justice to a struggling boom town even if she has to personally keep an innocent man from being sentenced to the electric chair.


EUDORA DURANT THOUGHT the sky was a little bluer, the morning a little brighter, the voice of God a little more comforting when Johnny B. Goodnight sat down on a stool beside the counter of the Dinner Bell Café to play. He held the Gretsch guitar against his chest as gently as a father holding his newborn. He closed his eyes, reaching deep inside his own soul to find the right notes, his fingers dancing from string to string as they ran wildly up and down the fretboard. She could hear the bumble bees buzzing on the flowers outside, the rain falling like a lover’s secret or a rusting tin roof.

He sawed the key of G in half, shuffled the emotions of C and A minor together as if he were a gambler dealing from the bottom of the deck and touching on haunting melodies known only to Johnny B. and a few brush arbor evangelists who could sing a man out of his last dollar, loan him a ten spot, and steal it back before pouring salvation like smooth

Kentucky bourbon down the throat of every sinner while dragging them in the nick of time away from the gates of hellfire and damnation.

Johnny B. had sung all seven verses of “Standing on the Promises” and was wading knee-deep in “Amazing Grace” when Jim Hamilton slid a plate of hog-lard biscuits and eggs fried with bacon grease in front of him. The man who served as the day cook, night cook, and proprietor of the cafe stepped back to wipe his hands on a long white apron heavily stained with whatever happened to splatter out of his skillet for the past three months and twelve days. The iron skillet had been working overtime ever since a few sticks of random dynamite tore into the earth and painted the night sky above Eudora’s farmstead a darker shade of black.

“I can remember the days,” Hamilton told Eudora, “when I only had to change aprons the first of every year. Now I’ve got Pauline Carter over at the sporting house working from can ‘til can’t to keep me in clean ones.” An honest sweat glistened atop his bald head, and his glass eye was always looking out the front window even when he wasn’t. A toothpick hung out of the corner of his mouth, and the sleeves of his wrinkled white shirt were casually rolled up to his elbows. A pair of frayed black suspenders held up his dark twill trousers. He pretty much wore the same clothes every day, washed them down by the river late Saturday night, and showed back up behind the counter early Sunday morning with a bucket of fresh eggs and a damp shirt hanging around his shoulders.

Hamilton glanced up when he heard feet shuffling through the doorway. A roustabout with big hands, long arms, and a gaunt face staggered into the café and slumped on a barstool at the far end of the counter. He looked as if he had a two-week growth of bristled whiskers. He brushed loose strands of long dark hair out of his eyes.

“Working all night, Early?” Hamilton said.

“Damn near lost the well.”

“What happened?” Eudora stood and walked to the end of the counter.

“Rock grabbed hold of the bit and wouldn’t let go.” The roustabout yawned. His face was stained with grit and mud. He looked up at Eudora, leaned back on the stool and laughed. “You know Doc and his dynamite.”

Eudora’s smile was gentle as she sat down beside him. “Doc likes to shake the ground up a little bit,” she said.

“Uses it like a sane man uses a hammer.”

“Did it break the bit loose?”

“Broke it loose and shot it damn near to the far side of Slidell.”

“Anybody get hurt?”

“Mostly, we just got wore out.” He shrugged. “Doc don’t ever give up without a fight. He says we saved the well. Waskom says we ought to move over about twenty feet and start over.”

“What did Doc say about that?”

He kicked a few rocks in the slush pit and threw a few rocks in the river. Along about midnight, he decided we’d move over about twenty-one feet and start over.”

“He hates to be wrong.”

“He just knows that Waskom is generally right when it comes to whipping up oil out of the ground.” Early Bodine waited until Hamilton had finished pouring a cup of hot coffee. “We cleaned the pipe out of the old well. Got through about an hour ago. I figured if I hurried, I’d get here while the eggs were still fresh. Jim, if you have a dozen of the brown ones, I’ll take a mess of them fried, scrambled, or baked. But don’t poach any of the damn things.”

“Over easy?” Hamilton asked.

“Ain’t nothing ever over easy.”

“I was talking about the eggs.”

Please click HERE to find Bad Side of a Wicked Moon on Amazon.

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