Goldenboy

Goldenboy

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by Michael Nava
     
 

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In his latest case, Henry Rios may have something few defense attorneys ever experience: a truly innocent client

It’s a cause Henry Rios can’t resist: defending a young gay man on trial for killing the coworker who threatened to out him. Jim Pears is charged with first-degree murder; Pears says he’s innocent but the evidence is damning.

Overview

In his latest case, Henry Rios may have something few defense attorneys ever experience: a truly innocent client

It’s a cause Henry Rios can’t resist: defending a young gay man on trial for killing the coworker who threatened to out him. Jim Pears is charged with first-degree murder; Pears says he’s innocent but the evidence is damning. Pears was found covered in the victim’s blood and with the murder weapon in his hand. But nothing about the People v. Jim Pears is what it seems.

Rios is asked to join the case because he knows first-hand the pressures and threats that come with being gay in 1980s California. In the midst of one of the most complex trials of his career, Rios meets and falls in love with Josh Mandel, the prosecutor’s star witness. For this defense attorney, fighting for justice has never been more personal. And the stakes are no less than life and death.

Goldenboy
is the second book in the Henry Rios mystery series, which also includes The Little Death and Howtown.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gay attorney Henry Rios, hero of Nava's previous The Little Death, appears here for the first time in hardcover, venturing from the Bay Area to Los Angeles to solve a series of grisly murders in a fast-paced novel that is as troubling as it is entertaining. When a gay teenager is arrested for the murder of a co-worker, who threatened to expose his homosexuality, Rios is called to L.A. by Larry Ross, a close friend and fellow lawyer who is dying of AIDS; too ill to rise to the boy's defense himself, Ross asks Rios to ``balance the accounts'' by preserving the accused murderer's life in exchange for Ross's own. Both, he explains, are afflicted by the same diseasethe bigotry that ``shows itself in letting people die of AIDS, making it so difficult for them to come out that it's easier to murder.'' Nava's palpable anger at that prejudiceand its tragic consequencescomes through with an urgency that transcends the central detective story. Despite a shamelessly sentimental ending, it is the many rough edges of Goldenboy that linger in the reader's mind long after the breathless conclusion. (March)
Library Journal
Asked to defend a young homosexual accused of murder, well-known criminal lawyer Henry Rios ( The Little Death ) hesitates. With the trial date a mere two days away, and with overwhelming evidence against the man, Rios needs time to prepare. As series protagonist and narrator, Henry not only voices the theme of heterosexual bigotry against gays, but also denigrates the exploitation of gays by other homosexuals. Unfortunately, Nava subordinates these themes and solution of the mystery itself to a rather precipitous love affair between Rios and a prosecution witness. A notch or two above Joseph Hansen in quality, this is, overall, well-written and interesting. REK

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781453297711
Publisher:
Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller
Publication date:
02/19/2013
Series:
Henry Rios Mysteries
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
215
Sales rank:
209,008
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

GOLDEN BOY

A HENRY RIOS MYSTERY
By MICHAEL NAVA

alyson books

Copyright © 1996 Michael Nava
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1555838294


Chapter One

"You have a call."

I looked up from the police report I had been reading and spoke into the phone intercom. "Who?"

"Mr. Ross from Los Angeles."

"Put him through." I picked up the phone thinking it had been at least a year since I'd last talked to Larry Ross.

"Henry?" It was less a question than a demand.

"Hello, Larry. This is a surprise."

"Are you free to come down here and handle a case?"

I leaned back into my chair and smiled. Born and bred in Vermont, Larry retained a New England asperity even after twenty years in Beverly Hills where he practiced entertainment law. His looks fit his manner: he was tall and thin and beneath the pink, nude dome of his head he had the face of a crafty infant.

Rejecting a sarcastic response - Larry was impervious to sarcasm - I said, "Why don't you tell me about it."

"It's the Jim Pears case. Have the papers up there carried anything about it?"

I thought back for a minute. "That's the teenager who killed one of his classmates."

"Allegedly killed," Larry replied, punctiliously.

"Whatever," I said. "I forget the details."

"Jim Pears was working as a busboy in a restaurant called the Yellowtail. One of the other busboys named Brian Fox caught Jim having sex with a man. Brian threatened to tell Jim's parents. A couple of weeks later they round the boys in the cellar of the restaurant. Brian had been stabbed to death and Jim had the knife."

"Airtight," I commented.

"No one actually saw Jim do it," he insisted.

I turned in my chair until I faced the window. The rain fell on the green hills that rose behind the red-tiled roofs of Linden University. That last weekend of September, winter was arriving early in the San Francisco Bay.

"That's his defense - that no one actually saw him do it? Come on, Larry."

"Hey," he snapped, "whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?"

"Okay, okay. Let's presume him innocent. What stage is he at?"

"The Public Defender has been handling the case. Jim pled not guilty. There was a prelim. He was held to answer."

"On what charge?"

"First-degree murder."

"Is the D.A. seeking the death penalty?"

"No," Larry replied, uncertainly, "I don't think so. But isn't that automatic if you're charged with first-degree murder?"

"No." I reflected that, after all, criminal law was not Larry's field. "The D.A. has to allege and prove that there were special circumstances surrounding the murder which warrant the death penalty."

"Like what?" Larry asked, interested.

"There are a lot of them, all listed in the Penal Code. Lying in wait, for instance. There's also one called exceptional depravity."

"Not just your garden-variety depravity," Larry commented acidly. "Only a lawyer could have written that phrase."

"Well, figuring out what it means keeps a lot of us in business," I replied, glancing at my calendar. "When does Pears's trial begin?"

"Monday."

"As in two days from today?"

"That's right," he said.

"I'm missing something here," I said. "The trial begins in two days and the boy is represented by the P.D. Am I with you so far?"

"Yes, but -" he began, defensively.

"We'll get to the buts in a minute. Isn't it a little late to be calling me?"

"The P.D.'s office wants to withdraw."

"That's interesting. Why?"

"Some kind of conflict. I don't know the details."

Almost automatically I began to take notes, writing 'People v. Pears' across the top of a sheet of paper. Then I wrote 'conflict.' To Larry I said, "You seem to know a lot for someone who isn't involved in the case."

"Isn't the reason for my interest obvious?"

I penned a question mark. "No," I said, "better explain."

"Everyone's abandoned him, Henry. His parents and now his lawyer. Someone has to step in -"

"I agree it's a sad situation. But why me, Larry? I can name half a dozen excellent criminal defense lawyers down there."

"Any of them gay?"

"Aren't we beyond that?"

"You can't expect a straight lawyer to understand the pressures of being in the closet that would drive someone to kill," he said.

I put my pen down. "What makes you think I understand?" I replied. "We've all been in the closet at one time or another. Not many of us commit murders on our way out."

There was silent disappointment at his end of the line and a little guilt at mine.

"Look," I said, relenting, "how does Jim feel about me taking the case?"

"I haven't spoken to him."

"Recently?"

"Ever."

"Customarily," I said, "it's the client who hires the lawyer."

"His P.D. says he'll go along with it."

"Go along with it? I think I'll pass."

"Jim needs you, Henry," Larry insisted.

"Sounds to me that what he needs is a decent defense. I'm not about to take a case two days before it's supposed to go to trial even if Jim himself asked me. I'm busy enough up here."

"Henry," Larry said softly, "you owe me."

In the silence that followed I calculated my debt. "That's true," I replied.

"And I'm desperate," he continued. Something in Larry's voice troubled me - hot for Jim Pears, but for Larry Ross.

"Are you telling me everything?" I asked after a moment.

"I need to see you, Henry," he said. "I'll fly up tonight and we'll have dinner. All right? I'll be there on the five-fifteen PSA flight."

"That'll be fine, Larry." I said goodbye.

After I hung up, I went across the hall to Catherine McKinley's office. She and I had both worked as public defenders and had remained friends after leaving the P.D. Now and then we referred clients to each other, though this happened less often as she took fewer and fewer criminal defense matters, preferring the greener pastures of civil law. I had remained in the trenches.

Her secretary, a thin young man named Derek, was taping a child's drawing to the side of his file cabinet. The drawing depicted a green house with a lot of blue windows, a red roof, a yellow door and what appeared to be an elephant in the foreground.

"Is your daughter the artist?" I asked.

He turned to me and smiled. "It's out house," he replied.

"And your pet elephant?"

"That's the dog. You want to see her?" he asked, gesturing toward Catherine's closed door.

"If she's not busy."

He glanced at the phone console. "Go ahead," he said, and handed me a bulky file. "Would you give this to her?"

"Sure."

I knocked at the door. Catherine said, "Come in."

In contrast to my own office which could charitably be described as furnished, Catherine's office was decorated. The color green predominated. Dark green wallpaper. Wing chairs upholstered in the same shade. All the green, she told me, was to provide subliminal encouragement to her clients to pay their bills. It must have worked because she looked sleeker by the day.

She glanced up at me with dark, ironic eyes. Catherine was a small, fine-boned woman, not quite pretty but beside whom merely pretty women looked overblown. I set the file at the edge of her desk.

"What's this?" she asked, laying an immaculately manicured finger on the folder.

"Derek asked me to bring it in."

She smiled. "I didn't think he was your type."

"I was on my way in anyway," I said, dropping into one of her money-colored chairs. "I may need a favor."

She raised a pencilled eyebrow.

As I told her about Larry's call the eyebrow fell and the shallow lines across her forehead deepened. When I finished she said, "You can't really be thinking about taking the case."

"I'm afraid I really am," I replied. "Larry wouldn't have called me if it wasn't important, much less remind me that I owe him ..." I let the sentence trail off.

Catherine filled in the blank. "Your life?"

I shrugged. "My professional life, anyway."

"Still," she said dismissively. "Sounds like a slow plea to me."

"Maybe."

"What's the favor?"

"If I take the case I'll need someone to stand in for me on my cases up here. Just to get continuances."

"It'll cost you, Henry," she warned.

I smiled. "My professional life?"

"We'll start with lunch," she replied. "Get me a list of your cases and we'll discuss them then. Is that it?"

I stood up. "For now. Thanks, Cathy."

She looked at me. "Don't you ever get tired of losing, Henry?"

I thought about this for a second. "No," I said.

It was still raining when I left my office at six to meet Larry's plane at the San Francisco airport. The wind was up, scattering red and yellow leaves like bright coins into the wet, shiny streets. A stalwart jogger, wrapped in sweats, crossed the street at the light and I felt a twinge of regret. The only kind of running I did these days was between courts. Still, a glance in the mirror reported no significant change in my appearance from my last birthday - my thirty-sixth. The light flashed green and I jostled my Accord forward onto the freeway ramp.

I entered a freeway that was clogged with Friday night traffic. Sitting there, watching the rain come down, gave me time to think. It wasn't true that I never got tired of losing. Only three years earlier I had been tired enough of it to resign from the P.D.'s office, expecting to abandon law altogether. But I had fallen in love with a man who was murdered. Hugh Paris's death led me back into law though I took a lot of detours getting there. One of them was through the drunk ward of a local hospital. I might have been there yet had it hot been for Larry Ross and the United States Supreme Court.

The summer I entered the drunk ward was the same summer that the Supreme Court, in a case involving Georgia, upheld the right of states to make sodomy - a generic term for every sexual practice but the missionary position - illegal. Within weeks there was a move to reinstate California's sodomy law, which had been repealed ten years earlier, by a special election. A statewide committee of lawyers was organized to fight the effort. Larry Ross, a hitherto closeted partner in a well-known Los Angeles firm, chaired the committee. He needed a lawyer from northern California to lead the effort up here. After asking around, he round me, or rather, what was left of me.

We went into the campaign with the polls running against us. Larry poured all his energy and a quarter of his net worth - which was considerable - into trying to change the numbers. Halfway through, however, it was plain that we would lose. Since we couldn't win the election, we decided to try to knock the sodomy initiative off the ballot with a lawsuit. We went directly to the state Supreme Court, arguing that the initiative violated the right to privacy guaranteed by the state constitution.

Two days before the ballot went to the print shop, the court ruled in our favor. It looked like a victory but it wasn't. We had merely prevented things from getting worse, not improved them. Since then, some part of me had been waiting for the next fight. Maybe Larry had round it in this Pears case.

I pulled into a parking space at the airport and hurried across the street to the terminal. I was nearly twenty minutes late. Coming to the gate I saw Larry in a blue suit, raincoat draped over one arm and a briefcase under the other. He was far away yet I could hardly fail to recognize his spindly stride and the gleaming dome of his head.

Then, coming closer, I thought I had made a mistake. The man who now approached me was a stranger. The flesh of his face was too tight and vaguely green in the bright fluorescent light. But it was Larry. The edges of his mouth turned upward in a smile.

"Henry," he said embracing me, or rather, pulling me to his chest, which was as far up on him as I came.

I broke the embrace and made myself smile. "Larry."

He looked at me and the smile faded. I looked away.

It was then I noticed the odor coming off his clothes. It was the smell of death.

Chapter Two

To cover my shock at his appearance I asked, "Do you have any luggage?"

"No, I'm catching the red-eye back to L.A. Where are we eating?"

I named a restaurant in the Castro. As we talked, he looked less strange to me, and I thought perhaps it was only exhaustion I saw on his face. He worked achingly long hours in the bizarre vineyard of Hollywood. We talked of small things as I drove into San Francisco. We came over a bill and then, abruptly, the city's towers rose before us through the mist and rain, glittering stalagmites in the cave of night, and beyond them, sensed rather than seen, the wintry tumble of the ocean.

We rolled through the city on glassy streets shimmering with reflected lights. On Castro, the sidewalks were jammed with men who, in their flak jackets, flannel shirts, tight jeans, wool caps and long scarves, resembled a retreating army. I parked and we walked back down to Nineteenth Street to the restaurant. Inside it was dim and loud. Elegant waiters in threadbare tuxedos raced through the small dining rooms with imperturbable poise. We were seated at a table in the smaller of the two dining rooms in the back with a view of the derelict patio just outside. Menus were placed before us.

"It's really good to see you," Larry said, and picked up his menu as if not expecting a response. I ventured one anyway.

"You've been working too hard," I said.

"I suspect you're right," he replied.

I dithered with the menu as I tried to decide whether to pursue the subject.

"What you want to say," Larry said, "is that I look terrible."

"You look-" I fumbled for a word.

"Different?" he asked, almost mockingly. He lit a cigarette and blew smoke out of the corner of his mouth away from me. I waited for him to continue. Instead, the waiter came and Larry ordered his dinner. When it was my turn I asked for the same.

We sat in nervous silence until our salads were brought to us. The waiter drizzled dressing over the salads. Larry caught my eye and held it. When the waiter departed, Larry picked up his fork, set it down again and relit his discarded cigarette.

"I'm dying, Henry," he said softly.

"Larry-"

"I was diagnosed eight months ago. I've already survived one bout of pneumocystis." He smiled a little. "Two years ago I wouldn't have been able to pronounce that word. AIDS has taught me a new vocabulary." He put out his cigarette.

"I'm so sorry," I said stupidly.

The waiter came by. "Is everything all right?"

"Yes, fine," Larry said.

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" I asked.

"There was nothing you could have done then," he said, cutting up a slice of tomato.

"Is there now?"

"Yes. Defend Jim Pears." He put a forkful of salad in his mouth and chewed gingerly.

"I don't understand."

"I'm going to die, Henry," he said slowly.

Continues...


Excerpted from GOLDEN BOY by MICHAEL NAVA Copyright © 1996 by Michael Nava. Excerpted by permission.
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.

Meet the Author

Michael Nava (b. 1954) is the award-winning author of seven novels featuring criminal defense lawyer Henry Rios. The Little Death (1986), the first book in the series, completed while Nava was in law school, was followed by Goldenboy (1988), How Town (1990), The Hidden Law (1992), The Death of Friends (1996), The Burning Plain (1997), and Rag and Bones (2001). He is also the co-author of the nonfiction book, Created Equal: Why Gay Rights Matter to America (1994). Nava is a six-time recipient of the Lambda Literary Award as well as the Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award for Gay and Lesbian literature. Michael Nava lives in San Francisco, where he works as an appellate lawyer.
Michael Nava (b. 1954) is the award-winning author of seven novels featuring criminal defense lawyer Henry Rios. The Little Death (1986), the first book in the series, completed while Nava was in law school, was followed by Goldenboy (1988), How Town (1990), The Hidden Law (1992), The Death of Friends (1996), The Burning Plain (1997), and Rag and Bones (2001). He is also the co-author of the nonfiction book, Created Equal: Why Gay Rights Matter to America (1994). Nava is a six-time recipient of the Lambda Literary Award as well as the Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award for Gay and Lesbian literature. Michael Nava lives in San Francisco, where he works as an appellate lawyer. 

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Goldenboy 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a nicely paced murder mystery suitable for an afternoon read. Mr. Nava is very good at using situations and dialogue to define his characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago