By: Randall Silvis
A Ryan DeMarco Mystery
Publisher: SOURCEBOOKS Landmark
Publication Date: 1/10/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars +
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A literary page-turner about a beloved college professor accused of murdering his entire family, and one small-town cop’s dangerous search for answers.
Thomas Huston, a beloved professor and bestselling author, is something of a local hero in the small Pennsylvania college town where he lives and teaches. So when Huston’s wife and children are found brutally murdered in their home, the community reacts with shock and anger. Huston has also mysteriously disappeared, and suddenly, the town celebrity is suspect number one.
Sergeant Ryan DeMarco has secrets of his own, but he can’t believe that a man he admired, a man he had considered a friend, could be capable of such a crime. Hoping to glean clues about Huston’s mind-set, DeMarco delves into the professor’s notes on his novel-in-progress. Soon, DeMarco doesn’t know who to trust—and the more he uncovers about Huston’s secret life, the more treacherous his search becomes.
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Readers who take their novels strong and dark will savor Randall Silvia’s skillfully-written latest literary thriller-contemporary crime noir: TWO DAYS GONE with the introduction of his new series and intriguing character (Ryan DeMarco Mystery).
The best part is the connection and relationship between writer and reader. The Author’s Acknowledgement "Writer/Reader relationship" earns a 5 Star +. An added bonus following the book. For every author and reader.
If you’re seduced by the darker, deeper, grittier side of literature, with vivid descriptions, you will be drawn to the grisly, moody, atmospheric, graphic, disturbing, and unsettling tale, with a clever thought-provoking literary twist. A book within a book. Not for the faint hearted.
A bold powerhouse novel and author. The cover, copy and book description: A "bullseye." Right On. Gripping, taut, sensitive, and astute. Even the inner musings of the characters have a poetic power. A haunting character-driven study of two deeply flawed and troubled men protagonists (alternating narratives). Both solitary men in their own way.
DeMarco lived alone and of course Huston did not. Both had complicated relationships with others. DeMarco had no center. He ventured out to relationships from emptiness and to emptiness he returned. One case of tragedy after another, puzzle after morbid puzzle to solve. What if he had made better choices twelve years ago on that rainy night?
Sergeant Ryan DeMarco of the Pennsylvania State Police has seen his share of despair, violence, and malicious acts. From college students to strip clubs, the woods, the streets- there lies a murderer. Hiding. A man, gone mad in the blink of an eye. A man turned into a beast.
A murderer is in their midst. A community. One of their own. Someone they all trusted. a bestselling author. The education of sons and daughters. They had seen his smiling face in local bookstores and watched him with Katie on Good Morning America.
Claire Huston, one of the prettiest women in town is dead with a slash across her throat. Thomas, Jr, twelve, a sixth grader also dead, same way. Sister, Alyssa, fourth grade, also murdered. Little David Ryan Huston, asleep on his back in his crib. A blade thrust in his heart. A second one. A chef’s knife.
The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone. Snap your fingers five times, that’s how long it took. Five steel-edged scrapes across the tender flesh of night. Why was the baby killed differently than the others in the family? Stabbed in the heart twice.
The bodies of the Huston family had been discovered. From family, neighbors, and friends. All stunned and grief-stricken. All eyes turned toward the husband, the father, the accomplished writer, the professor. He had fled.
DeMarco had met Thomas Huston previously. He had read all his books. A reader. He was a friend. He reminded him of a young Jack Kerouac. Thomas Huston was a professor. A writer. He loved his students. He was working on a new book. A trooper was one of the main characters. They had met on several occasions and connected on several levels.
There was Huston’s tragic past. The bungled robbery of the family hardware store. The blast that tore out his mother’s throat. His father’s suicide two weeks later from an overdose. The horrific images still haunted Thomas. The memories overwhelmed him. Now, his own family. Was he the murderer? Or someone else?
DeMarco had his own demons. A ruined marriage, his son’s death, his anger, his aggressive behavior, and the subsequent demotion. His drinking. The accident that took his son’s life. He and Huston had connected.
How could this man have killed his entire family? He loved them. He was a good and decent man. He spoke so fondly of them. He was not a violent man. Did something set him off? Now Huston was out there. He had fled. Maybe he is amnesic?
Ryan begins researching Thomas Huston and his parents, his books, his reviews, articles and his latest novel, The Desperate Summer. A book released three and half years after his parent’s death. Other profiles from Poets and Writers. Interviews. Characters.
It was clear that Thomas Huston, like his character, suffered some very dark moments. But dark enough to cause him to slaughter his own family? The rage and grief. What would have gone through his mind for him to do this to his family?
Hutson was a writer, teacher, and student. It was his job to make order out of disorder. To find the meaning in metaphor.
DeMarco is on the hunt, digging for each piece of evidence. The woods, his students, and strip clubs (Whispers). Strippers, hookers, an abortion, dancers, bouncers. Research for his books. Did he have enemies? Were all the associations for his book, or personal?
Was Huston’s life idyllic as it had seemed? He was the primary suspect and DeMarco took no pleasure in that discovery. Marco could drink himself into a stupor, but he needed a clear head. He had to figure out who murdered this family. He liked this man. He owes him to find out what happened. He goes back and forth with his suspicions.
The more he learns, he wonders if the writer had become the characters in his book? Had the murder and suicide of Huston’s parents loosened something in him or spawned a rage he struggled with, and finally lost?
Who was Annabel? Bonnie? Tex? Were these relationships an integral part of the slaughter at the Huston home? After the murder, Huston had been spotted wandering through the dawn in a daze. Where else would he go? Could he have been cheating on his wife?
DeMarco had to find him. As he digs deeper, with the homicide investigation, time is of the essence. Four people are dead and three of them are children. If Thomas is running because he is innocent, who is the guilty party? DeMarco wanted Hutson to be better than this. Someone he could admire. Had the equation changed? Was it infidelity, madness, lust, weakness? He had to know!
Who could Thomas trust? Who can he turn to for help?
Complex characters. It’s the contradictions in a personality that make for conflict. Did he take the qualities for each of these women to build his characters or was it something else?
In the meantime, we hear from Thomas hiding out. Like some character out of a Flannery O’Conner story. Hiding in a shed. A misfit. Hunted. Hates. Will his life ever get better? The events leading up to the murder. The book is in his head. Is this all a dream? The lines are blurred.
From literary references to Poe, Hemingway, Steinback, Faulkner, MacBeth, Wolfe, O'Connor, Nabokov and Poe’s Annabels, Poe’s poetry. A trinity of troubled men. A kinship. Misery. What parts are made up and what is real?
“To the casual observer, Huston’s life would have appeared blessed. But this was the illusion Huston had created and maintained. A man patient and generous with his students, a picture-perfect wife and family, shirts and chinos always neatly pressed, fame and financial success; a man respected envied; a man with a life each of his students longed for.
Was it all a construction meant to conceal in himself the same dark urges that drove Huston’s characters? His life had seemed a sunlit lagoon, but what currents made the blue water shimmer. A lifetime of struggle and ambition. Parents, taken away by violence. Professional jealousies. The stresses of fame the loss of anonymity. The pressure to live up to the hype, to always be better, brighter, more successful, more worthy of praise.
Was it as simple as that? The façade as thin and brittle as all facades are, shattered? Had Huston snapped? Was he deliriously happy in his insanity? Weightless and free? No shame, no remorse, no obligations, no sin?"
Does the life of novelists show up in fiction, thinly disguised as somebody else’s life? Portions of the journal were totally fiction; others not? Discerning the difference would be the hard part. Were the character’s desires actually Huston’s desires brought to the surface?
Did Thomas dream of these events, or did they actually occur? The knife. How could he go home? All is gone.
“If a book is filled with love, it is because the writer longs for love? If the book drips of violence, it is because the writer burns to levy justice, to decimate his enemies? A means of survival. Otherwise, his psyche would unravel. Pitiful or disastrous.
Does a guilty man hide his deeds behind his words and hide his thoughts behind his smile? Others behind other deeds? Doesn’t the pedophile hide behind the Little League team he coaches or the school bus he drives or the Masses he conducts?
And doesn’t the wife beater hide behind the sidewalks he cleans for the old lady next door, and behind his punctuality and efficiency at work? The pornographer, the rapist, the serial killer; .the predatory stock broker, the ambulance chasers, the Medicare-bilking physician—the congressman, the senator, the president—don’t they all cloak their evil behind silk ties and thousand-dollar suits?
The man and woman he is referring to? DeMarco wonders as he is reading-desperate to solve this puzzle. Huston had reached out to him. Will he be so desperate to commit suicide or seek revenge, if, in fact, he was not the killer? He may have nothing to lose.
Between pressure at the station to find Huston and his need to help this man, the author keeps the suspense high, while readers slowly learn what went down that fatal tragic horrific night. His family had been butchered.
Did helping someone with a simple choice in life - set the stage; putting things in motion, for a string of deadly events to unfold, with devastating consequences?
TWO DAYS GONE is like no other book I have ever read and surely it will be at the top of the bestseller list. Silvis grabs you from the first page to the last, with the introduction of this new series, and anxiously awaiting the next!
Ferocious storytelling that makes you think, and feel with an array of emotions. From the dark and ugly pit of the human psyche. Sadness, pain, suffering, tragedy, love, and loss, sprinkled with a heavy literary flair. The relationship and narrative between the two men sealed the book. Both equally strong and powerful. The relationship between writer and reader, priceless.
Other readers have asked me about a similar author or book to compare. I can honestly say, this work is unique. In regards to the crime thriller genre, the one which comes to mind is possibly Paul Cleave (New Zealand), Of course, his Trust No One is a book within a book, as well. Cleave's crime writing is also gritty and dark, with twisted humor, and his cop leads, tend to become emotionally connected. Fans of David Bell and Dennis Lehane will also enjoy. With Silvis, you receive the crime + the literary fiction in one package, a rare find.
"The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past." -William Faulkner
This one will stay with you. Chilling. A murder mystery, both absorbing and entertaining, from an experienced author drawing from his own experience as a writer and academic.
Connecting with readers and writers: My favorite part: (Acknowledgements) this is only a small portion:
“A writer’s job is to love his readers and to want nothing more than to pilot them from experience to experience, emotion to emotion. The best fiction is a voyage of feeling, and the writer’s job is to generate sentipensante for his readers, those feelings that give rise, not to an intellectual kind of knowledge but an emotional knowledge, a deeper connection with what Faulkner called “the old verities and truths of the heart.” (love William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Speech Stockholm, Sweden 12/10/50).
“Another way of looking at this relationship between writer and readers is through its intimacy; the reader comes, to a story wanting to be wooed, desirous of seduction. If the writer’s inducements are successful, the voice sufficiently tempting, the promises sufficiently alluring, the reader gives herself over to the story not for minutes but hours, and for days at a time, melding her own imagination with the writer’s while falling into step with the characters, hoping for the best, giving them her heart. What greater gift can a writer receive than this?
A special thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Also purchased the audiobook, performed by Graham Winton for an engaging perrformance.
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Praise for Two Days Gone
A January Indie Next Great Read
“…a suspenseful, literary thriller that will resonate with readers long after the book is finished. A terrific choice for Dennis Lehane fans.”—Library Journal, STARRED review
“Beneath the momentum of the investigation lies a pervasive sadness that will stick with you long after you've turned the last page.”—Kirkus Reviews
“…skillfully written thriller.”—Publishers Weekly
“…impressive novel…an intriguing thriller.”—Booklist
“…this novel [will] linger in readers’ minds well after Two Days Gone.”—Shelf Awareness
“Two Days Gone is a quiet, intense, suspenseful mystery about a man who has lost everything. Rich with descriptions and atmosphere….Two Days Gone is relentless in its suspense, and the final twists in the novel are sure to not disappoint.”— Foreword Review
"An absolute gem of literary suspense, pitting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and told in a smooth, assured, and often haunting voice, Two Days Gone is a terrific read." - Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead
“Randall Silvis' Two Days Gone is a smart, twisting, vividly written thriller anchored by two deeply flawed yet fascinating protagonists. Yes, the novel provides cat-and-mouse suspense as a horrific murder in a college town is investigated, but it's also a deeply rewarding story about friendship, family, fame, and the complicated relationship between readers and writers. Anyone who wants to dismiss thrillers as mere genre fluff should read Two Days Gone.” - David Bell, author of Since She Went Away
Walking the Bones
Series: Ryan DeMarco Mystery #2
By: Randall Silvis
Publication Date: 1/23/2018
My Rating: TBR (ARC)
When long-buried secrets come back to the surface...
The bones of seven young girls, picked clean and carefully preserved, discovered years ago... that's all Sergeant Ryan DeMarco knows about the unsolved crime he has unwittingly been roped into investigating during what is supposed to be a healing road trip with his new love, Jayme. Read More
About The Author
photo: Maddison Hodg
Novelist, playwright, screenwriter and essayist..
Randall Silvis is the internationally acclaimed author of more than a dozen novels, one story collection, and one book of narrative nonfiction. His essays, articles, poems, and short stories have appeared in various online and print magazines. His work has been translated into ten languages. He lives in Pennsylvania.
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Praised by the New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist as “a masterful storyteller,”
Silvis is the author of fourteen critically acclaimed books of fiction and nonfiction. He is also a prize-winning playwright, a produced screenwriter, a prolific essayist, and an occasional poet. As a multi-genre author, his books have appeared on Best of the Year lists from The New York Times, the Toronto Globe & Mail, SfSite.com, and the International Association of Crime Writers. He also co-hosts the popular bi-weekly podcast, The Writers Hangout, at www.thewritershangout.com.
"Two Days Gone" Latest Book from Clarion County Native Gains
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Randall Silvis: Life Is Research
Q & A with Randall Silvis Read More
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First Chapter Excerpt
The waters of Lake Wilhelm are dark and chilled. In some places, the lake is deep enough to swallow a house. In others, a body could lie just beneath the surface, tangled in the morass of weeds and water plants, and remain unseen, just another shadowy form, a captive feast for the catfish and crappie and the monster bass that will nibble away at it until the bones fall asunder and bury themselves in the silty floor.
In late October, the Arctic Express begins to whisper south- eastward across the Canadian plains, driving the surface of Lake Erie into white-tipped breakers that pound the first cold breaths of winter into northwestern Pennsylvania. From now until April, sunny days are few and the spume-strewn beaches of Presque Isle empty but for misanthropic stragglers, summer shops boarded shut, golf courses as still as cemeteries, marinas stripped to their bonework of bare, splintered boards. For the next six months, the air will be gray and pricked with rain or blasted with wind-driven snow. A season of surliness prevails.
Sergeant Ryan DeMarco of the Pennsylvania State Police, Troop D, Mercer County headquarters, has seen this season come and go too many times. He has seen the surliness descend into despair, the despair to acts of desperation, or, worse yet, to deliberately malicious acts, to behavior that shows no regard for the fragility of flesh, a contempt for all consequences.
He knows that on the dozen or so campuses between Erie and Pittsburgh, college students still young enough to envision a happy future will bundle up against the biting chill, but even their youth-ful souls will suffer the effects of this season of gray. By November, they will have grown annoyed with their roommates, exasperated with professors, and will miss home for the first time since September.
Home is warm and bright and where the holidays are waiting. But here in Pennsylvania’s farthest northern reach, Lake Wilhelm stretches like a bony finger down a glacier-scoured valley, its waters dark with pine resin, its shores thick on all sides with two thousand acres of trees and brush and hanging vines, dense with damp shadows and nocturnal things, with bear and wildcat and coyote, with hawks that scream in the night.
In these woods too, or near them, a murderer now hides, a man gone mad in the blink of an eye.
The college students are anxious to go home now, home to Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukah, to warmth and love and light. Home to where men so respected and adored do not suddenly butcher their families and escape into the woods.
The knowledge that there is a murderer in one’s midst will stagger any community, large or small. But when that murderer is one of your own, when you have trusted the education of your sons and daughters to him, when you have seen his smiling face in every bookstore in town, watched him chatting with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, felt both pride and envy in his sudden acclaim, now your chest is always heavy and you cannot seem to catch your breath.
Maybe you claimed, last spring, that you played high school football with Tom Huston. Maybe you dated him half a lifetime ago, tasted his kiss, felt the heave and tremor of your bodies as you lay in the lush green of the end zone one steamy August night when love was raw and new. Last spring, you were quick to claim an old intimacy with him, so eager to catch some of his sudden, shimmering light. Now you want only to huddle indoors.
You sit and stare at the window, confused by your own pale reflection.
Now Claire O’Patchen Huston, one of the prettiest women in town, quietly elegant in a way no local woman could ever hope to be, lies on a table in a room at the Pennsylvania State Police forensics lab in Erie. There is the wide gape of a slash across her throat, an obscene slit that runs from the edge of her jawline to the opposite clavicle.
Thomas Jr., twelve years old, he with the quickest smile and the fastest feet in sixth grade, the boy who made all the high school coaches wet their lips in anticipation, shares the chilly room with his mother. The knife that took him in his sleep laid its path low across his throat, a quick, silencing sweep with an upward turn.
As for his sister, Alyssa, there are a few fourth grade girls who, a week ago, would have described her as a snob, but her best friends knew her as shy, uncertain yet of how to wear and carry and contain her burgeoning beauty.
She appears to have sat up at the last instant, for the blood that spurted from her throat sprayed not only across the pillow, but also well below it, spilled down over her chest before she fell back onto her side. Did she understand the message of that gurgling gush of breath in her final moments of consciousness?
Did she, as blood soaked into the faded pink flannel of her pajama shirt, lift her gaze to her father’s eyes as he leaned away from her bed?
And little David Ryan Huston, asleep on his back in his crib— what dreams danced through his toddler’s brain in its last quivers of sentience? Did his father first pause to listen to the susurrus breath? Did he calm himself with its sibilance? The blade on its initial thrust missed the toddler’s heart and slid along the still-soft sternum. The second thrust found the pulsing muscle and nearly sliced it in half.
The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone now. Snap your fingers five times, that’s how long it took. Five soft taps on the door. Five steel-edged scrapes across the tender flesh of night.
Furnished by the Publisher, Sourcebooks