Book of Nathanby Curt Weeden, Richard Marek
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Rick Bullock takes the road less traveled when he quits his job as an advertising executive to become director of a homeless shelter. Trading in a six-figure salary for paltry pay and even less respect? Costly. But helping one man get back on his feet? Priceless. When Zeus, a mentally challenged gentle giant and longtime shelter resident, is arrested for murdering evangelist Benjamin Kurios, Rick wants answers. Convinced Zeus is incapable of such a horrific act, Rick, along with a colorful cadre of characters,sets off on a journey to keep an innocent man off death row. The trip takes a disturbing detour when the bizarre group stumbles upon a transcript of the Book of Nathan and the discovery attracts the sinister attentions of a Jersey mobster, pro-life and pro-choice groups, and a billionaire used to getting his way. Rick knows how to save a life, but this time, his life may be the one at stake.
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Book of Nathan
By Curt Weeden, Richard Marek
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2010 Curt Weeden and Richard Marek
All rights reserved.
Dr. Douglas Kool's moniker fits perfectly with his buttoned-up personality, his thousand dollar suits and an impressive collection of Bruno Maglis. Doug lives and works in Manhattan where high fashion and a suave demeanor resonate like a mellow chord to those roosting at the top tier of society. Good thing. Because Doug's occupation is all about hustling money from the rich and the powerful.
"You can't be serious!" Doug gave me a hard look.
"Totally serious," I replied, at the same time doing a mental rundown on the long list of differences between Doug and me. He was manufactured slick from his hair transplants to his "Doctor" title, courtesy of an honorary degree from the State University of New York. I was a forty-something Joe with a plain vanilla bachelor's degree from Penn State and a retreating hairline. For all our dissimilarities, we had a weird kind of connection that had weathered a dozen years.
Doug adjusted his glasses the way he did when he was super serious. "Bullet, your boy murdered Benjamin Kurios!"
I shrugged. "Maybe."
"No, not maybe. Two witnesses saw Zeupeneltoth —"
"Whatever. The fact is, your guy used a two-by-four to punch a hole in Kurios's head."
"It wasn't a two-by-four. It was a cross."
"All right, all right," Doug moaned. "So it was a cross. Your boy banged together two two-by-fours and then whacked the crap out of the world's most famous Bible thumper."
"He's not my boy," I protested.
"The hell he's not!"
I could have argued, but it would have meant confronting the disconcerting fact that Doug was probably right. In many respects, Zeusenoerdorf did belong to me.
Doug glared at me over his nearly finished lunch. "What am I doing here?"
"Eating osso bucco — which I'm paying for."
"Yeah, right," Doug laughed. "If you're paying, then I'm being set up. What do you want?"
Doug Kool might be superficial, but he was far from dumb. He knew I was picking up his tab at Panico's, one of the city's better restaurants, because I needed a favor.
"A meeting with Zeusenoerdorf," I said bluntly. "Face-to-face."
Doug gave a little tug on his tie. "Mission impossible. The man's sitting in an Orlando jail cell."
"And even if you could work out a way to talk to him, the bigger question is why would you want to bother?"
"Because there's a chance the guy's innocent," I explained. "Zeus could be —"
"Zeus?" Doug interrupted.
"That's what he's called."
Doug puffed his cheeks, shook his head, and motioned for me to continue.
"Look, I know it's a stretch, but it's possible Zeus didn't kill anyone. Maybe he's in custody because he happens to be a little — strange."
"Strange?" Doug cut in. "I think it's safe to say that somebody who pounds the bejeezus out of an evangelist is a few notches beyond strange."
"Being odd doesn't necessarily make the man a murderer."
"Let me get this straight," Doug pressed. "If you can get eye-to-eye with this nutcase, you'll figure out whether he's innocent or guilty. Am I hearing you right?"
It wasn't the easiest case to make, but I was determined to give it my all. I leaned forward so Doug wouldn't lose what I was about to say in the noontime buzz of the busy restaurant.
"There are a couple of things you should know." I spoke with as much sincerity as I could muster. "First, Zeus is slow. Second, he's got a serious speech defect."
Doug grimaced. "I see. The man's not a killer — he's just got a communications defect, right?"
I shrugged. "Could be."
"Good God." Doug waved down a waiter and ordered a cannoli and cappuccino. My wallet groaned.
"I'm not saying he's innocent." I tried the you-may-be-right tactic. "But I'm not totally convinced he's guilty."
Doug took a deep breath. "Can't help yourself, can you?"
"Standing up for every loser who falls on his ass."
"Not every loser."
"Most. I gotta tell you, you've really found your calling."
"My calling was your lucky day," I reminded my pal. And for a few moments, both of us were spun into the past.
I first met Doug a couple of years after he started with Harris and Gilbarton. H&G was arguably the top fund-raising firm in the nation, and Doug had been hired because he was born and bred rich, which meant he was hardwired to big money. But it wasn't his connections that rocketed him to the top of his firm's talent pool. It was his I-won't-take-no-for-an-answer salesmanship. I figured his annual salary had to be about five times what the Gateway put in my pocket.
Granted, Doug had raw talent, and he might have climbed to the highest rung of his work world without me. But he wouldn't have gotten there so quickly if I hadn't given him a boost. What brought us together was the United Way of America — the charity goliath that H&G had been trying to land as a client for years. The notion that the fund-raising United Way needed help from another fund-raising consulting firm probably would have forever been written off as a bad idea if I hadn't opened the door for Doug.
It happened a few months after Anne died. That was twelve years ago and yet I could easily reconstruct every detail of the Morgan Stanley executive dining room where I was brought in as the dessert-and-coffee performer for ten United Way board members and an H&G representative named Dr. Douglas Kool. H&G, as I would later find out, had volunteered Doug as a pro bono consultant to review my agency's plan for a national United Way public service ad campaign.
I showed up at the Morgan Stanley lunch about the same time I decided to exit the advertising business. I was still on my agency's payroll, but after Anne's funeral, my heart wasn't in the game. That became painfully obvious to the United Way board members who found the crème brulee and cappuccino far more interesting than my story boards. Later that same day, I handed in my resignation.
After my poor Morgan Stanley performance, Doug was invited into the United Way's inner sanctum as a paid consultant. H&G had finally landed one of its most elusive prospects, which might never have happened if it weren't for me.
"It still amazes me that you dumped Madison Avenue," Doug said.
"Every so often, principles trump the pocketbook."
"Principles my ass. You bailed out of New York six months after your wife died. The reason you're running a homeless shelter is your crazy way of paying homage to Anne."
"There are crazier things I could do."
"You've been at this for twelve years, Bullet! You've turned your job into a kind of hair shirt memorial to your wife, for God sakes. You don't take vacations. You don't date. Your life is half about running a boardinghouse for lowlifes and half about begging for money to keep the Gateway's lights on."
Harsh and partially true. Granted — Anne had a lot to do with why I first took the job in New Brunswick. I needed to get out of Manhattan, which had become a constant reminder of how much I had lost when cancer killed my wife. I had planned to spend a year or two working with the homeless and then jump back into the business world. That didn't happen. Not solely because of Anne, but because I also became infected with the same convictions that had defined my wife's life until her final day at Sloan-Kettering.
"Speaking of keeping the lights on," I tried moving the conversation in another direction. "Paying the bills would be a lot easier if guys like you could arm-twist the upper crust into using their tax-deductible donations to help the sick, poor, and homeless instead of buying privilege and status."
"Don't start," Doug implored.
I couldn't help myself. It was an old ballad I loved to sing. "You know as well as I do that for every ten-cent donation made to the Gateway, ten dollars goes to some high-end nonprofit that promises to put a contributor in good company or good seats."
"Yeah, yeah," Doug groaned. "So get back to why I'm parked here in Central Jersey. What exactly do you want?"
"A free ride," I answered. "To and from Orlando. Plus room and board."
"What's the point? To spend five minutes with a man who's absolutely, positively guilty! You're in denial, for chrissakes. Two guys saw your man do the deed."
"They didn't actually see what happened. The two college kids who showed up on the scene got there a few minutes after Kurios was attacked."
Doug looked at me in disbelief. "Bullet, what they saw was your guy holding a homemade cross soaked with blood. And they saw Kurios on the street with his skull in pieces. Jesus! What more do you want?"
"To hear Zeus tell me what happened."
Doug leaned back. "You need to give this thing a rest."
"I can't do that — at least not yet."
"You do remember who your man, Zeus, exterminated, right?" Doug asked. "Benjamin Kurios. The prince of evangelists."
I didn't need to be reminded of the obvious. The media had been profiling Kurios since the day he died.
"Kurios wasn't just another Joel Osteen, Jim Bakker, or Benny Hinn," said Doug. "He was better than Billy Graham, for God sakes. People followed him like lemmings."
One of those lemmings was Miklos Zeusenoerdorf, who was infatuated with Kurios. He rarely missed a televised sermon and had a complete collection of the evangelist's books on tape. Twice, Zeus saw Kurios live at stadium-sized revival rallies, one at Madison Square Garden and another at the Meadowlands. It was a chance to see Kurios perform for a third time that had taken Zeus to Orlando.
I paused to give my coffee a counterclockwise swirl. Doug and I both looked at my cup like it was trying to tell us something. "Zeus is as gentle as they come."
"If I remember right, you also told me he's nuts."
"I said retarded."
"He's retarded and crazy."
"Even if you're right, he's not a crack-your-head-open kind of crazy."
Doug wasn't buying it. In fact, it seemed the entire country wasn't swallowing it except for me — and a few of the misfits who took up space at the Gateway.
"Here's another fact that may have slipped your mind," Doug said. "The man did a stretch in Rahway."
"Simple theft. He got caught loading a few TVs into a van. It wasn't like he was locked up for murder."
"So stealing televisions isn't a clue your guy has certain antisocial tendencies?"
"A couple of lowlifes paid him to do a half hour of heavy lifting. The cops show up, the bad boys disappear, and Zeus is left holding a forty-six-inch plasma."
"And you actually believe that's what happened."
That's exactly what I believe. "Zeus has, well, he's a man with the mind of a child. If someone tells him to shove a TV into the back of a van, that's what he does. If he gets caught, there's no way he can talk himself out of it."
"And if somebody tells him to whack one of the most magnetic characters to ever set foot on the planet, does he do that too?"
This all was going nowhere. It was time to close the deal — or at least try to. "Let's get back to what I want. Three round-trips to Orlando and three rooms somewhere in the city."
"There's a guy named Maurice Tyson who lives at the Gateway. He understands every word Zeus says and that's something no one else can do. So, I need him on board."
"Who's the third?" Doug asked.
I tried not to pause because it was a dead giveaway to my discomfort. But I just couldn't stop myself. "Uh ... Doc Waters."
"Mother of God!"
"Doc's old news," I said. "Themob can't even remember his name."
"Doc Waters ripped apart the Philadelphia Mafia, for chrissakes. The mob doesn't forgive and forget. If the man sticks his nose out the door, it's all over. Putting him on a Boeing 757 is sheer insanity."
Point well taken. The New York–Jersey–Philly corridor was loaded with organized crime bosses who had a reputation for long memories. A few years back, Doc Waters kicked the mob where it hurt, which meant retaliation was likely to pay Doc a call. Even so, Doc was an irreplaceable part of my game plan.
"Doc's cousin is chief of corrections for Orange County. Bottom line — he's my foot in the jailhouse door."
"Or a foot in the grave."
"Not negotiable. He's part of the deal."
"You know you're asking for the moon, right? But let's say I work a miracle and muster up three tickets and a place to stay. It'll cost you."
I braced myself. Just because Doug made his livelihood working with charities didn't mean he was charitable. Want him to scratch yours? Be prepared to scratch his.
"You know the name Manny Maglio?"
"The king of strip clubs?"
"Manny likes us to call them gentleman's clubs. He's in the entertainment industry."
Most red-blooded men living in Central Jersey knew about Maglio's Venus de Milo Club in South River. He also had a couple of other nudie operations — one in Queens and the other near Camden.
"So, here's the trade," Doug continued. "Manny's a big-time contributor to United Way."
I gagged on my decaf.
Doug's hands went palms up and did a bad JFK imitation. "Ask not where the money comes from, but what it can do for others."
"Do Manny a favor and he forks over a fat donation?" I guessed.
"Something like that. He's got this niece, Twyla. She's in what you might call show business."
"Yeah, show business with an erotic twist. She works for one of Maglio's competitors. For spite, according to Manny."
"Nothing like a little lap dancing to really piss off your relatives."
"Seems that Manny promised he'd take care of his niece just days before her dad met with an untimely accident."
"I bet accidents are a big problem for the Maglio family."
"Twyla blamed Manny for not doing enough to protect her dad. So now she's taking it out on her uncle."
"Or taking it off."
Doug gave me a stop sign. "Here's where you come in. Manny wants his niece to go legit — to get a decent job. He's got connections at Universal Studios in Orlando, and he's set her up for an interview. Maglio will do whatever it takes to get Twyla away from the Northeast with all its temptations and bad influences."
"Uh,-oh," I whispered. There was a freight train heading my way.
"She doesn't know that her uncle is working behind the scenes to give her a change of venue. And she can't find out. The lady thinks a cousin of some guy she met at her club set her up with Universal. She also thinks Universal is so hot to recruit her they're sending someone to escort her to Orlando."
I cut Doug off. "Hold it. You had this all figured out, didn't you? You knew I was going to hit you up for a trip to Florida."
"One trip," said Doug. "One trip is what I expected."
"Even so, you knew what I was going to lay on the table."
"Of course," Doug chuckled. "I know you. Like I said, when one of your boys falls on his nose, you're there in a flash. It's in your DNA."
Doug was right. It was all about genetics, and if I had a weird empathy for anyone at the bottom of society's pig pile, then blame Anne. Or maybe even my parents. My old man was a lawyer who went to bat for every scumbag who couldn't afford a dream-team defense. At age eighteen, I had been so indoctrinated with criminal law, I could have passed the New Jersey bar. My mother battled injustice in other ways — mainly by helping poor people find a hot meal, warm blanket, or sometimes a place to get an abortion. When I graduated from Penn State, the expectations were that I would carve out some kind of human-service career. Instead, I fell into a big-salaried ad agency job, which prompted my parents to predict that in time I would find out what was really important. Naturally, they were right.
"Let me make sure I have this straight," I said. "You want me to bring this woman to Orlando. And that's it."
"That's it. She thinks the studio's picking up her expenses for the trip. You get her to Orlando, she walks into the HR office at Universal, and the rest is automatic."
I knew there had to be more. "Why does the niece need hand holding? Why not give her a ticket to Orlando and let her go solo?"
"She's a lot like your Gateway folk," Doug explained. "Her cerebral cortex has a few — kinks."
"In other words, without a chaperone, you're not sure she'd ever make it to Universal Studios."
"I think she'd make it to Orlando. But she could be easily led in a different direction, from what I've been told."
Excerpted from Book of Nathan by Curt Weeden, Richard Marek. Copyright © 2010 Curt Weeden and Richard Marek. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Meet the Author
CurtWeeden a former Johnson & Johnson corporate vice president, is president of of Business & Nonprofit Strategies, Inc., a consulting firmthat focuses on business social responsibility strategies.Richard Marek is former president and publisher of E. P. Dutton and editor in chief of The Dial Press. Marek has edited over three hundred books, including Thomas Harris's The Silence of The Lambs.
Richard Marek formerly served as president and publisher of E. P. Dutton and editor in chief of The Dial Press. Marek has edited over three hundred books, including Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs, and has worked with a number of bestselling authors, including Robert Ludlum, James Baldwin, and Truddi Chase. He is the author of Works of Genius. Marek lives in Connecticut.
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Book of Nathan Curt Weeden and Richard Marek Oceanview, Aug 2 2010, $25.95 ISBN: 9781933515915 Former advertising executive Rick Bullock runs a homeless shelter in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His late wife who succumbed to cancer had a passion to help the homeless and now he does. He is taken aback when the police arrest someone he knows former East Jersey State prisoner and a frequent guest of Rick's facility, Zeus for the murder of a famous televangelist in Florida. Bullock refuses to believe that Zeus who would not hurt a fly killed anyone especially this gruesome homicide. Bullock heads to Florida to determine what he can do. He is taken aback further when his amateur inquiry leads to a lost book of the Bible that contains a definitive answer to a disturbing question and the evidence that his friend is innocent. However, someone does not want the out of state person intruding on a slam dunk case and that unknown adversary is willing to kill to achieve Zeus' conviction. Filled with numerous surprising spins, the Book of Nathan is an enjoyable incredibly fast-paced mystery as Rick's discovery of a manuscript has the mob, pro-lifers, pro-choicers and others demanding he hand over his find or else. Over the top of High Point, readers who appreciate a twisting story line faster than a speeding bullet and will want to join Rick on his odyssey. Harriet Klausner
When high-profile evangelist Benjamin Kuros is murdered, it is a child-like homeless man named Zeus who is charged and thrown into a Florida jail cell. All too quickly the public turns on Zeus and bays for blood in a familiar snapshot of society today, one that all too quickly condemns the mentally disabled as dangerous and violent. And if Zeus is a thumbnail sketch of the forgotten homeless, then Rick Bullock (ex Madison Avenue advertising man turned homeless shelter Director) represents those who work silently to support these people. The extent of Rick's support is limited by the nature of his work, minimum wages, lip-service support from philanthropists and his own internal battle following the death of his wife. None-the-less, Rick undertakes to go to Florida, confident of Zeus's innocence and ready to prove it with the assistance of two of his centre's residents in tow. The trip is only made possible through the begrudging assistance of old friend and professional fund-raiser Doug Kool, born into money and privilege and doing all he can to make sure it stays that way. Doug fixes Rick up with plane tickets and accommodation to get him and his cohorts to Florida, but of course there is a catch. The means for the trip will only be provided if Rick also escorts local mobster Manny Maglio's niece, Twyla Tharp - dancer and prostitute, to an interview at Universal Studios. It is this tight group of travellers who take us through the book, with Twyla providing most of the comic relief. At the centre of this story, and the reason for the death of Benjamin Kuros, is a newly discovered Bible text, the titular Book of Nathan. Purporting to disclose the moment when a foetus obtains a soul it is set to escalate the debate over abortion; unfortunately the book went missing from Kuros's murder site. Understandably the pro-life and pro-choice factions are equally keen to get their hands on it and there are people who believe that Rick is the key to finding the book. The Book of Nathan is set up as a comedy/mystery and it stumbles slightly but doesn't fail in this aim. The plot is well developed, the main characters likeable and certainly worth cheering for, some of the dialogue could have been tightened and in some cases shortened for sharper effect. But at the end of the day this was an enjoyable read with enough twists to keep any mystery fan interested.
Interesting mystery combines the talents and experiences of the two authors. When an extreme evangelist is found murdered, the person arrested for the murder is "Zeus" a huge mentally challenged person. Rick Bullock who manages the shelter frequently used by Zeus does not believe he is guilty and sets out to investigate the murder - to prove Zeus is innocent. He puts together an interesting team to help him with his investigation and he gets some support from some interesting people. The support on the other hand is not always motivated in the same way Rick is motivated. A mob boss wants Ricks help to get his niece out of shady business and into a more respectable job - at Disney. A wealthy businessman is more interested in finding the lost Book of Nathan - the likely reason the evangelist was murdered. Rick finds there is a lot of interest in this lost book and in order to find the real killer, he must find this book. There is lots of humor in this book - from characters to situations. A must check it out.