The debut of my new urban fantasy series about a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx who hunts monsters is now on sale from WordFire Press!
This is a series that’s been percolating in my head ever since I did Census work in 2009 and 2010 and was spending a lot of time exploring my home borough. So often when people write stories that purport to take place in New York City, they actually take place in Manhattan south of 125th Street. If they really want to be edgy, they go to Brooklyn. But that’s about it. Northern Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx are often ignored.
Here’s the back cover copy:
Bram Gold is a Courser, a hunter-for-hire who deals with supernatural creatures, mystical happenings, and things that go booga-booga in the night. Under the supervision of the Wardein — his childhood friend Miriam Zerelli, who is in charge of all magical activity in the Bronx, New York — he’s who you hire if you need someone to wrangle a crazed unicorn, or guard some werewolves while they gallivant around under a full moon, or stop an ill-advised attempt to bind a god.
The Bronx is the home to several immortals, who are notoriously hard to kill — so it comes as quite a surprise when one of them turns up murdered, seemingly by a vampire. In addition, binding spells all across town are either coming undone, failing to work, or are difficult to restore. As Bram investigates, more immortals turn up dead, and a strange woman keeps appearing long enough to give cryptic advice and then disappear. Soon, he uncovers a nasty sequence of events that could lead to the destruction of New York!
And here’s an excerpt from the novel:
I was already on my third mug of coffee—the first when I got up, the second after my shower, the third in a travel mug with me in the car—when I drove over to Jerome Avenue. The 4 train ran elevated over Jerome from Bainbridge Avenue all the way down to 170th Street, and that subway meant there were tons of shops all up and down the street. The one I wanted was one of about a billion little shops that sold newspapers, magazines, candy, cigarettes, and lottery tickets, located on the corner of 193rd. Like a lot of them, it catered mostly to people coming on and off the 4 at the Kingsbridge Road station a block away, or going into or out of St. James Park across the street.
Well, okay, they also catered to another clientele, but we weren’t interested in anything on or under the counter on the left as you came in the narrow shop. (That had bulletproof glass protecting the guy behind the counter, currently a Pakistani guy who nodded hi and waved me back—one of these days, I needed to get the guy’s name.) We didn’t want the magazines and papers that took up the entire right-hand-side wall, either. No, we went past those, and past the big rack of greeting cards that blocked the view of the back wall—including the door that led to the steep metal staircase that went down to the basement.
Downstairs was Ahondjon’s magick shop. The man himself wasn’t in—his nephew Medawe was, and he was talking on the cordless phone.
He waved at me as I came down the metal stairs. The place was dank, lit only by crummy fluorescent lights, since there weren’t any windows.
“Nah, he ain’t here,” Medawe was saying. Unlike his uncle, he was born in the Bronx, so he didn’t have Ahondjon’s thick West African accent. “It’s Sunday, he’s in church.… Nah, I ain’t telling you what church.… What, you telling me you found Jesus now? Bullshit. Just gimme the message, I’ll let him know when he gets back.… I don’t know when, I ain’t found no Jesus, neither. ’Sides, you know how he likes talking to folks. Could be hours.… Yeah, well, fuck you too.”
Shaking his head, Medawe pressed the END button on the phone.
“Another satisfied customer?”
Medawe snorted. “Yeah, somethin’ like that. What’cha need, Gold?”
“I need to talk to Ahondjon. He really in church?”
“Hell, no. Only time his ass goes into a church is to deliver their holy water.”
I blinked. “Wait, churches buy holy water from him?”
“They do if they want the shit that works.”
“Well, I hope his holy water smells better than his talisman to stop a unicorn.”
Medawe frowned. “What, it didn’t work?”
I smiled. “It worked fine.” Then I remembered how Siri described it. “When I activated it, it smelled like a moose fucking a dead octopus.”
“Yeah, well, you want shit that works, it’s gonna stink.”
I thought about reminding Medawe about what Velez had said, then decided it wasn’t worth it. Besides, Medawe was just the hired help—Ahondjon was the one who put the talismans together, so if I was gonna get them to not stink up the place, I’d need to talk to him.
“Still,” I finally said, “I’ve had some complaints. The first being from my hooter.” I pointed to my oversized schnozz.
Medawe chuckled. “Look, I’ll pass it on, but you know my uncle.”
“I do indeed.” I also noticed that Medawe hadn’t actually answered my question about when Ahondjon would be back, which led me to think he either didn’t know or couldn’t tell me.
Whatever, I had a binding spell to stop. “Hey, I wanna double check, what would the components be if you wanted to cast a binding spell on a loa?”
That got me another snort from Medawe. “A thing’a lipstick so you can kiss your ass goodbye. Who’d be stupid enough to do that?”
“Woman over in Seton Falls Park, apparently.”
Shaking his head, Medawe said, “Well, there’s lotsa binding spells, but if you want to bind a loa, you’re gonna need an Obsidian candle, thick rope, a red ribbon, and sandalwood.”
I winced. Except for the candle, that was stuff you could get over the counter anyplace. Hell, you could probably get all that at Target. “Does it have to be an Obsidian candle, or can any black candle do it?”
“If you want the binding to work or not.”
Ask a stupid question … “Yeah, okay, thanks, Medawe. And tell your uncle—”
“Moose fuckin’ a dead octopus, you got it.”
I grinned. “Thanks.”
I hopped back upstairs and went out through the newsstand, sliding past a stooped-over Latina woman who was buying one of every possible kind of lottery ticket, and walked out into the briskness. It was as chilly today as it had been Friday night in the dog run, and as I stepped out onto the Jerome Avenue sidewalk, a cold wind sliced through the air, and through the painkillers that were doing a mediocre job of keeping my ribs from throbbing.
At least now I knew for sure what components I needed to look for. It wouldn’t be enough to just stop Madame Vérité, I needed to catch her in possession of the spell components. The Obsidian candle was the key, since those could only be used in magickal rituals—combine them with the ribbon, rope, and sandalwood, and I’d have a case for Miriam to sanction her.
If not, she’d just try again on the summer solstice …
My car was blocked in by someone who had double-parked. I sighed. It was Sunday, the parking meters on Jerome weren’t active today, why did people have to double-park? I saw three spots just down past 193rd, and they just had to double-park by me?
I sighed again and got into the Corolla, hoping the driver would rematerialize soon. It was already 11:30 and I had to get over to Seton Falls Park before Mrs. Truth did her mojo.