Thunder Road, the noir mystery by Colin Holmes
Guest Post + Book & Author Info + Excerpt!
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In this gamble, more than a few poker chips are at stake.
When an Army Air Force Major vanishes from his Top Secret job at the Fort Worth airbase in the summer of 1947, down-on-his-luck former Ranger Jefferson Sharp is hired to find him, because the Major owes a sizable gambling debt to a local mobster. The search takes Sharp from the hideaway poker rooms of Fort Worth’s Thunder Road, to the barren ranch lands of New Mexico, to secret facilities under construction in the Nevada desert. Lethal operatives and an opaque military bureaucracy stand in his way, but when he finds an otherworldly clue and learns President Truman is creating a new Central Intelligence Agency and splitting the Air Force from the Army, Sharp begins to connect dots. And those dots draw a straight line to a conspiracy aiming to cover up a secret that is out of this world—literally so.
Praise for Thunder Road:
“[In this] intriguing debut . . . clear crisp prose . . . morphs from a western into a detective story with an overlay of conspiracy theories.” ~ Publishers Weekly “This genre-defying and enormously entertaining romp is Mickey Spillane meets Whitley Strieber meets Woody Allen. I can’t remember when I’ve had so much plain old fun reading a book and just didn’t want it to end.” ~ Historical Novel Society, Editor’s Choice
Genre: Noir Mystery
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: February 15, 2022
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 9780744304978 (ISBN10: 0744304970)
To purchase Thunder Road, click on any of the following links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | CamCat Books
Guest Post: Detective Sharp Finds a MacGuffin
by Colin Holmes
Most good mysteries have a MacGuffin. An item or a plot device that is the object of desire everyone in the story is trying to lay hands on. It can be a treasure map, a secret decoder ring, or even a Maltese Falcon. It just needs to be valuable enough to keep everyone looking for it. On its surface, the MacGuffin in Thunder Road is just a simple piece of tinfoil. Our hero, Jefferson Sharp has it, mobsters and CIA operatives want it, and Army Air Force scientists believe it could change the world.
A good MacGuffin always is a little more than it seems. And in the summer of 1947 when Thunder Road takes place, almost nothing is as simple as it seems. For instance, that stately home on the hill on the Jacksboro Highway? Behind the hill is a secret entrance to an underground gambling hall that’s played host to everyone from movie stars to Bugsy Siegel.
Even Jeff Sharp’s army buddy, who gave him the tinfoil for safe keeping, Jerry Cartwright? Well, he turns out to work for some super-secret department of the Army and when he disappears, boy, is that a mess for Sharp.
Thunder Road is filled with people and situations that aren’t quite what they seem, and I hope that’s some of the fun of the story. The interaction between those characters and the situations they wind up in is based on real events that happened that long hot summer of 1947. Bugsy was murdered in Beverly Hills. Those CIA operatives? President Truman signed an executive order that summer setting up the spy agency. And in the same piece of legislation, he cut loose the Air Force from the Army and made it its own branch of the service.
So, what does all of that have to do with a piece of tinfoil that works as a MacGuffin? You may have heard of the mysterious crash of what some people believe was an alien spacecraft near Roswell. It happened that same summer. And the wreckage? It was brought to the Fort Worth Army Air Base. About five miles down the road from that stately home on Thunder Road. Eyewitnesses say that some of that wreckage was just tinfoil.
I wondered, what if all of this could be related? What if it all tied together and the most unlikely guy in the world pulled on the string? That’s where we meet Jefferson Sharp—down-on-his-luck former cop who couldn’t find a job after the war and wound-up chasing cattle rustlers. He’s camped out in the middle of empty ranchlands, guarding cows and waking up to what might be the worst day anybody ever had.
Colin Holmes, author of Thunder Road
Before the pandemic, Colin Holmes toiled in a beige cubical as a mid-level marketing and advertising manager for an international electronics firm. A recovering advertising creative director, he spent far too long at ad agencies and freelancing as a hired gun in the war for capitalism. As an adman, Holmes has written newspaper classifieds, TV commercials, radio spots, trade journal articles and tweets. His ads have sold cowboy boots and cheeseburgers, 72-ounce steaks, and hazardous waste site clean-up services. He’s encountered fascinating characters at every turn.
Now he writes novels, short stories and screenplays in an effort to stay out of the way and not drive his far too patient wife completely crazy.
He is an honors graduate of the UCLA Writers Program, a former board member of the DFW Writers Workshop and serves on the steering committee of the DFW Writers Conference. He’s a fan of baseball, barbeque, fine automobiles and unpretentious scotch.
To learn more about Colin, click on any of the following links: Website, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.
Read an Excerpt
A thin flicker of flame licked the blue enamel coffeepot as Jefferson Sharp stirred life into the embers of last night’s campfire. He broke his morning stare and cocked his head as a shiver brought him fully awake. The herd was moving, shuffling uneasily through the wooly ground fog. Somewhere off in the predawn darkness, a mechanical whine spooled up, echoing across the ranchlands of the Rafter B. He shot a glance at the small oak where he’d tied Dollar the night before. The buckskin quarter horse flicked his ears and danced at the end of the lead rope, pulling the branch with him.
“Easy, fella.” Sharp tried to calm them both, but Dollar pranced and threw his head. To the west, the whine increased in volume, and the morning mist glowed with enough purple light that Sharp could make out the terrain through the patchy fog. Whatever had the livestock spooked was just beyond a small rise.
Sharp buckled on his gun belt, and his hand found his Colt. Not the six-shooting cowboy revolver of Gentry Ferguson’s King of the West movies, but a well-used Army issue .45 automatic that had followed him home from the European theater.
All through that war, Sharp had explained that, yes, he was from Texas, but that didn’t make him a cowboy. He’d walked the beat as a cop before the war—didn’t own a horse, have a ranch, or ever slept out under the stars or tended cattle. So naturally, here he was two years later, camped out on a ranch with a borrowed horse, guarding cows.
He patted Dollar’s shoulder as if that would settle the horse, then hiked up the hill in the low crouch that had been driven into him on too many mornings in the infantry.
When he was two steps up the hill, the earth rumbled with the tremor of aggravated shorthorns thundering away from the noise and light. Sharp had been a special ranger for the Fort Worth and Western Stockmen’s Association since the war, but he’d yet to be involved in a stampede.
Of course, it had to happen now, he thought. Before sunup. In the fog.
He had no place to hide as dozens of terrified red cattle came bellowing over the rise. He scrambled back to the campsite. He could see the white faces on the lead pair of Herefords when he yanked the Colt off his hip and fired twice into the air. The startled cattle reeled and parted right and left at the gunfire, the herd splitting to flow past the campsite like a stream around a rock. Luck and the good Lord favored the ignorant.
Sharp shooed the last of the stragglers past as the adrenaline drained away. “That,” he said to the nickering quarter horse, “is enough excitement for today.”
The mysterious whine disagreed. Pulsing lights strobing red, purple, and golden orange rose from beyond the hill. The apparition moved over the ridgeline, and the fog glowed. Behind Sharp, Dollar screamed a whinny and reared, trying for all his might to pull the scrubby tree out of the ground. The branch cracked. Sharp dove for the lead rope and dug his heels into the damp earth before Dollar could bolt. Something was out there with the man and horse, and the smarter one of the pair wasn’t sticking around to find out what it was.
But the light show could move as well, and it did. The brilliant colors rotated in concert with the whine as it became a deafening howl. The hovering glow spun together into an intense white circle, levitated high over the hill, and disappeared into the morning fog. Instantly, the noise changed course and roared back over the camp. The lights flashed overhead, then vanished at incredible speed, leaving a dying echo and a breeze that moved the wisps of fog.
Sharp and Dollar stood frozen as whatever the hell it was blasted above them. They shared a look, and then the quarter horse went full rodeo, bucking, jumping, and twisting—anything to get out of this halter, off this rope, away from this tree, and back to the safety of the barn. Any barn.
It took five minutes of profanity and cajoling, but Sharp finally calmed down the panicked gelding. He took a good hold on the halter and led them back to the campsite. “Look, I don’t know what it is either, but I’m pretty damn sure it doesn’t eat horses for breakfast.”
Dollar’s wild eyes and flicking ears suggested that he was not convinced.
Sharp remembered that something else was out there. Sixtyfour head of cattle the Stockmen’s Association was paying him to keep track of. Now, they were scattered from here to Mingus, and he and Dollar would be all morning rounding them up.
Excerpt from Thunder Road by Colin Holmes. Copyright 2023 by Colin Holmes. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.
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This Post Has 2 Comments
Ha! Great guest post. Well this certainly sounds like a fun read! Another one for the TBR list. 🙂
Agreed! Great post. And yes … so many books on that TBR list!