Gone 'til November

Gone 'til November

4.3 13
by Wallace Stroby

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It’s late at night when Florida sheriff’s deputy Sara Cross arrives at the scene of a roadside shooting along a deserted highway. Another deputy, Billy Flynn, her former partner, who also happens to be her former lover, has fatally shot a twenty-two-year-old man during what started out as a routine traffic stop, and she’s the first to arrive on the… See more details below


It’s late at night when Florida sheriff’s deputy Sara Cross arrives at the scene of a roadside shooting along a deserted highway. Another deputy, Billy Flynn, her former partner, who also happens to be her former lover, has fatally shot a twenty-two-year-old man during what started out as a routine traffic stop, and she’s the first to arrive on the scene. He claims that the man pulled a gun, and that when he didn’t respond to Billy’s commands to drop it, Billy shot him. Billy is clearly upset, shaken up; Sarah sees the gun in the dead man’s hand and the bag of illegal weapons in the trunk of his car and believes Billy’s actions were justified.

Up north in New Jersey, Mikey-Mike runs a major drug operation and is tightening his hold on the competition, making a deal with a new supplier. Morgan, a middle-aged enforcer for Mikey who’s been in the life too long, would like to make one last score, walk away, and retire for good. Mike asks Morgan to head to Florida to find out what’s holding up his new deal, and Morgan sees the job as a possibility for his last big payday.

As more details of the roadside shooting emerge with Sara’s investigation, and as Morgan follows the trail Mikey lays out for him, the two storylines begin to merge into a much darker, more menacing scenario than either Morgan or Sara imagined. Sara, in order to protect herself and her son, must follow the truth no matter where it leads.

Acclaimed crime writer Wallace Stroby delivers a gripping novel that is part modern noir, part intense character study---and totally compelling from start to finish.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tormented lives brutally intersect in Stroby's powerful thriller, the possible first in a new series to feature Sara Cross, the lone woman sheriff's deputy in Florida's St. Charles County. One night, Cross, a single mother who's coping with her son's leukemia and the remnants of a two-years-gone postdivorce fling with fellow deputy Billy Flynn, arrives on the edge of a cypress swamp where Flynn has just shot a 22-year-old black man from New Jersey allegedly fleeing a traffic stop. Sara tries to smother her still-simmering lust for no-good Billy, but her cop instincts drive her toward a dismaying truth that hurtles her into a violent showdown with an aging New Jersey contract killer stricken with a rare cancer. While relentlessly probing the eternal mystery of why bright and capable women fall for dangerous losers, Stroby (The Heartbreak Lounge) explores moral choices that leave his devastatingly real characters torn between doing nothing and risking everything. (Jan.)
Library Journal
When a fellow officer—and ex-lover—kills a motorist from New Jersey and illegal guns are found in his car, it is ruled a righteous kill. However, Hopedale, FL, Deputy Sheriff Sara Cross sees a number of inconsistencies in the deputy's story, and soon she is conducting a covert investigation that leads to an unpleasant and dangerous end. VERDICT Stroby (Heartbreak Lounge, The Barbed-Wire Kiss) begins his gritty new series with a bang. Sure to appeal to fans of Edna Buchanan and John Sandford.
Kirkus Reviews
As if it weren't nerve-wracking enough to be a deputy and a mom, suddenly she's a target. Privacy's a joke in tiny Hopedale, Fla. So when Deputy Sara Cross and Deputy Billy Flynn become lovers, everybody knows it almost before they do. Nor does it stay news long when two years later they break up. Sara's coming to her senses, conventional wisdom maintains, since everybody also knows that for all his charm and good looks, Billy lacks substance, whereas all you have to do is watch Sara mothering her ailing six-year-old son to know that she's a rock. But rock or no, Sara is one of those women who all too often lets her heart rule her head, and on the night of a fatal shooting, part of her senses that it's a mistake to accept Billy's version of how it all went down. Yes, the explanation is plausible; yes, there are weapons stashed away in the young black man's car; and yes, when Billy fired it might well have been by the book. But soon enough strangers arrive in Hopedale-hard, big-city, dangerous men following stolen money, who are after Billy because they're sure he knows where it is. And after Sara, certain she does, too. A strong cast and energetic storytelling. But it's Sara, so human and so beset, who makes this another standout for Stroby (The Heartbreak Lounge, 2008, etc.).
From the Publisher
Praise for Wallace Stroby’s Gone 'til November

"A tightly written crime novel peopled with believable, memorable characters who face real-life dangers... Stroby tells his tale swiftly and the action scenes move with cinematic brio."

The Star-Ledger (New Jersey)

“[This novel] puts author Wallace Stroby in the company of noir masters like Dashiell Hammett and Elmore Leonard.”

The Huffington Post

“In Gone 'til November, Wallace Stroby’s mastery of character and dialogue is mated to a hellacious narrative engine. His heroine, Sara Cross, is a wonderful creation.”

—George Pelecanos

“A strong cast and energetic storytelling. But it’s Sara, so human and so beset, who makes this another standout for Stroby.”

Kirkus Review (starred review)

“Stroby begins his gritty new series with a bang. Sure to appeal to fans of Edna Buchanan and John Sandford.”

Library Journal

Gone ’til November is rock-solid crime fiction that melds compelling characters, crisp writing, and a finely rendered portrait of Old Florida, the state’s thinly populated, less-storied interior. Sara and Morgan, an aging career criminal who has just been diagnosed with cancer, are Stroby’s best creations. Morgan is ruthless and resourceful, but he also has a quiet dignity and a streak of humanity that may have readers picturing actor Morgan Freeman.”


“For those who favor a lean, tautly written police procedural—with an accent on firearms and plenty of them— then Wallace Stroby's third novel will come as something in which to revel…. It's the action back on the streets of Newark, in the alleys between the boarded-up brownstones, that really grabs the reader's attention.”

Yahoo Shine

"Swiftly told but suspenseful, filled with moral choices and a bit of welcome ambiguousness at its end, Gone ‘til November [has] a hell of a kick."

January Magazine

"Stroby has not lost one iota of the magic that made his first two books instant classics ... He truly gets it right."


"Just when you think that you can't be surprised anymore, a writer like Wallace Stroby ups the ante, finds a way to use familiar elements in new and surprising ways. This is a first-rate novel, with characters who live on in the reader's mind long after the book is finished. I always expect great things from Stroby, and Gone Till November is a significant addition to an already impressive body of work." 

— Laura Lippman, author of What the Dead Know

"In these days of mega formulaic blockbusters, it seems almost impossible to find a novel that not only has depth of characterization, but a compelling plot. Gone Till November achieves both and seamlessly…. This novel sings, darkly and irresistibly."

—Ken Bruen, author of London Boulevard

Praise for The Heartbreak Lounge:

“Stroby continues to show a real flair for blending noir into a tightly plotted fireball of suspense in his second novel. The Heartbreak Lounge’s tense story is complemented by believable characters—both heroes and villains… Stroby infuses his action-packed story with unpredictable twists. The Heartbreak Lounge continues the high standards Stroby set in his debut.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"A cat-and-mouse story that inspires just the tiniest bit of sympathy for the predator... Readers will have a hard time putting down this three-ring circus of a book."

—The Star-Ledger (New Jersey)

Praise for The Barbed-Wire Kiss

“A scorching first novel that mixes the melancholic heart of tough-guy fiction with a fierce and violent gangster plot.”

The Washington Post Book World

“Stroby does wonders with his blue-collar characters.”

The New York Times Book Review

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St. Martin's Press
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Meet the Author

WALLACE STROBY is an award-winning journalist and a former editor at the Newark Star-Ledger. Gone 'til November is his third novel, following the acclaimed The Heartbreak Lounge and the Barry Award—finalist The Barbed-Wire Kiss. He lives in New Jersey.

WALLACE STROBY is an award-winning journalist and a former editor at The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey. He is the author of books including Cold Shot to the Heart, Gone 'til November, and The Barbed-Wire Kiss. He lives in New Jersey.

Read an Excerpt


Sara steered the cruiser onto the shoulder, saw what was ahead, thought, Bad news.

Gravel crunched under the tires as the Crown Vic settled at an angle. The radio crackled.

"Eight-seventeen, are you on scene?" Angie, the night dispatcher. "Have you responded?"

Sara lifted the dash mike, keyed it. "Eight-seventeen here. On scene now. Will advise."

In the blaze of her headlights, Billy stood behind his own green-and-white cruiser, looking off into the swamp, hands on his hips. Farther up on the shoulder was a gray late-model Honda Accord, trunk open. Blue, red, and yellow lights bathed the night.

She replaced the mike, tried to memorize the scene, wishing the grants had come through for the dashboard video cameras. She looked at her watch. Two ten.

Billy turned toward her, face blank. She could see his jaws moving. He was chewing gum. After a moment, he looked back at the swamp.

She hadn’t seen him at the Sheriff’s Office, but she’d known he was on duty tonight, had heard him on the scanner. Part of her had hoped they’d cross paths before shift’s end, part of her didn’t. When she’d gotten the call, shots fired, she’d feared the worst. Now here he was, staring out into the swamp, looking lost.

What have you done, Billy Boy? And why did you have to do it on my shift?

She opened the door, took her portable radio from the passenger seat, and stepped out onto gravel. She fit the radio into its holder on her duty belt and plugged in the body mike clipped to her left shoulder. Her thumb slipped the holster loop that held the Glock in place on her right hip.

The air was thick, the heat oppressive after the air-conditioned cruiser. Hot for mid-October. No moon, but a sky full of stars.

The Honda had New Jersey plates. Billy had parked behind it, angled to the left, in the standard motor vehicle stop position, so the cruiser would protect him from oncoming traffic when he got out.

He half-turned. "Hey, Sara."

"Hey, Billy. You all right?"

He looked away from her, back at the swamp.

She had her hair tied up in back, could feel sweat form at the nape of her neck, drip beneath the Kevlar vest under her uniform shirt. She came up to stand beside him, followed his gaze. They were looking down a slight incline to the edge of the swamp. There was a patch of sodden grass, then a deeper dark where the trees started, Spanish moss hanging from them like cotton. In the grass, just short of the trees, a man lay facedown, right leg twisted under left, right arm extended.

"There he is," Billy said.

She looked around. She’d seen no traffic since she’d gotten the call, taken the turnoff for CR-23. Only locals used this route, few at night. To the east, acres and acres of sugarcane, then the distant glow of town. To the west, the gray ghosts of cypress trees, endless miles of wetlands stretching to Punta Gorda and the coast. She could smell the swamp, the rotten egg scent of sulfur.

The cruiser radios crackled in unison, the sound muffled by the closed doors. Off in the dark, as if in answer, bullfrogs sounded. Then another, deeper noise, the low bellowing of a gator. The light from their rollers painted the trees, the swamp, illuminated the body below.

"Is he dead?" she said.

He nodded. "Or close to it. He hasn’t moved at all. EMTs on their way."

"I heard."

She took the heavy aluminum flashlight from the ring on her belt and pushed the button. The bright halogen beam leaped out into darkness. She swept it across the man’s back. His head was turned to the right, and even from here she could see his eyes were open.

Chinos, blue dress shirt, a deep, dark stain between the shoulder blades, shirt soaked with blood. A black man, young, dressed too well to be from around here.

"I’m going to have a look," she said.

"Careful. You step into a chuckhole down there, you’ll break your ankle."

She shifted the light to her left hand, took a step down the incline, her right hand resting on the Glock. She could hear sirens in the distance.

She picked her way down the slope. When she reached the grass, she felt it give spongily under her shoes, water coming up around them.

She shone the light along the wet ground, looking for snakes. Something moved and splashed in the darkness. The noise of the bullfrogs stopped for a moment, then started again.

The gun was about a foot from the man’s right hand. She held the light on it. A blued revolver, .38 maybe, rubber grips. She made a grid with the flashlight beam, looking for another weapon, footprints. Nothing.

"Anyone else in the car?" she called up. The sirens closer now.

"No. Just him. I told him to stop. I told him."

She crouched, not letting her knees touch the ground. Up close, she could see the gold wire-rim glasses twisted beneath his face, one side still looped over his ear. He looked like a teenager, hair close-cropped, a small gold ring in his right earlobe. His eyes were wide.

She played the beam down the body. Left arm folded beneath, right outstretched as if pointing to the gun. The shoes were tan leather, polished, the upturned soles shiny and new. No way he could have run on this grass, gotten away.

She touched the side of his neck. A faint warmth, but no pulse.

From above her, Billy said, "He dead?"

"Yes. He’s dead."

Something moved in the trees, and her hand fell to the Glock. A shadow separated itself from the blackness, took wing silently. She looked up, watched it fly away, etched for an instant against the stars, wondered what it was.

She went back up the incline, careful where she put her feet. When she reached the gravel, Billy was standing beside the Honda’s open trunk.

"Check out this shit," he said.

She went over and shone the light inside. The trunk was empty except for a nylon gearbag, partially unzipped. She saw the glint of metal within.

"You look in there?" she said.

"Yeah. He was acting nervous, so I asked him to open the trunk. When I saw the bag inside, he took off. I told him to stop. When he got down there, he rounded on me, drew down."

His voice was unsteady. She looked at him, saw his eyes were wet.

Sirens rose and fell in the distance.

"Cold out here," he said. "When did it get so cold?"

He paused between words, chest rising and falling rapidly, as if he were hyperventilating. The onset of shock.

"You should sit in the car," she said. She tucked the flashlight under her arm, took the thin Kevlar gloves from her belt and pulled them on, punching the Vs of her fingers together to get the fit tight.

"I’m all right," he said.

"You don’t look it."

She shone the flashlight into the bag, reached down and pulled the zippered edges apart. Inside was a boxy MAC-10 machine gun with a pistol grip and a dull black finish. Under it were two semiautomatic handguns: a chrome Smith and Wesson with rubber grips, a blue-steel Heckler and Koch, both 9 mm. Boxes of ammunition, extra magazines for the MAC-10. No wonder he ran.

She heard a noise, turned to see Billy bent over on the shoulder, hands on his knees. He spit his gum out, gagged, vomited thin and watery onto the gravel.

"I’m okay," he said. He raised a hand to ward her off. "I’m okay."

He spit, straightened, turned away from her, bent and waited, ready to vomit again. She could hear his rapid breathing. He’s going to pass out.

He put his hands on his hips, sucking in air, getting his control back. She watched him for a moment, then walked around the Honda and shone the light through the windows. There was a folded Florida map on the front passenger floor. In back was a child safety seat and a brown leather overnight bag.

"He has a kid," Billy said. "You see that seat? He has a kid."

Maybe not.

She looked down the road. Coming over a small crest, she could see emergency lights—two cruisers and an EMT van.

She looked at him.

"Anything you want to tell me before the sheriff gets here?" she said.

He looked at the approaching cruisers, then back at her, shook his head.

"No," he said. "I’m sorry, Sara. I never had a choice."

"You did what you had to do. It’ll be all right."

Sirens all around them, the cruisers pulling up abreast of her own, the EMT truck pulling ahead. She moved closer to Billy, stood beside him.

The sirens rose, fell, and died. Car doors opened and closed around them. They stood together in the nexus of rolling lights.

She looked up, saw the far-off silhouette of a bird against the starfield. An instant later, it was gone. She wondered if it was ever there at all.

"Well," Sheriff Hammond said. "What’s your take on this mess?"

They were in his office, the door shut. Floor-to-ceiling windows looked out on the rest of the station. Through the window behind his desk, she could see the small stretch of lawn lined with whitewashed stone, a bare flagpole lit by flood-lamps.

Four A.M. and he was in jeans and flannel shirt, unshaven. His hair was longish, his nose laced with broken blood vessels. He was from Mississippi, had come east thirty years ago but never lost that soft accent.

Sara had a bottle of water from the break-room vending machine but hadn’t touched it yet. She wished she had an aspirin. It was her first midnight shift in months, and she’d been tired all night. Now she could feel the familiar beginnings of a migraine, the pulsing of a vein in her temple.

"From what I saw," she said, "it looks like it played out the way he told it. I responded as soon as I got the call. There wasn’t a whole lot of time between the stop and when I got there."

He took an unsharpened pencil off the desk and leaned back in his chair. His desktop was cluttered, a bundle of papers held down by a dummy hand grenade he’d brought home from Vietnam, wire IN and OUT baskets, a framed photo of his daughter as a teenager.

On a credenza behind him was a computer, shut down for the night. Beside it, in a plastic liner, was his sheriff’s campaign hat, which he wore only on formal occasions. When he’d taken over the Sheriff’s Office, he’d discontinued the use of their Smokey the Bear hats, opted for black baseball caps instead, and then made those optional as well, a change Sara had always been grateful for.

He scratched his jaw, tapped the pencil on the edge of the desk. She could sense his awkwardness.

"The lawyer from the Fraternal Order of Police is on his way," he said. "Boone from the state attorney’s office in La Belle is still at the scene, but he’ll roll back here soon. He’ll be talking with you as well. That might be a little uncomfortable."

"Why’s that?"

"He’ll have to know about you two."

Doesn’t everybody already?

She cracked the cap on the bottle, drank, replaced it.

"I understand that, Sheriff. But just for the record, that was over two years ago."

"I know. I’m just saying. Small county like this, small town, small department. If we don’t tell him, someone else will. It’s better it come from us."

"I’ll tell him."

"You’re a woman in an otherwise all-male department, Sara. That puts you in a unique position. It’s not fair, and I know it, but sometimes you have to be realistic about what other people might be thinking."

"I understand."

"This your first overnight in what, eight months?"


"Your first shift with him that entire time?"

She nodded, sipped more water, set the bottle on the floor. He pulled a yellow legal pad across the desk toward him.

"They ID the driver yet?" she said. She was feeling 4:00 A.M. fatigue, a slight dislocation from everything around her. The adrenaline was fading, and she wanted sleep.

He tilted the pad to read it.

"Derek Willis," he said. "Twenty-two. Had a current driver’s license on him. A resident of Newark, New Jersey, and only one arrest, a misdemeanor joyriding charge. Ran him through NCIS. No hits."

"That the name on the registration?"

"No. Car’s registered to a Wendell Abernathy, also of Newark. No hits on him either."

"FDLE involved?"

"Not yet."

"Good," she said.

"That could change, based on what Boone finds. If he feels he needs to bring them in, he will."

"Whatever the situation, this Willis wasn’t a tourist, out there in the middle of the night, weapons in the trunk."

"I expect not."

"And what was he doing on that road in the first place? There’s nothing out there for miles. If you’re just passing through, heading south, interstate’s easier, safer."

"Hopefully, all questions which will be answered."

She drank more water, put the bottle down, rubbed her left temple.

"Who’s watching the little guy?" he said.

"JoBeth. She’s at my house."

"JoBeth Ryan?"

"She’s driving now, so it’s easier for her."

"JoBeth’s a good kid. And her father’s a good man. She babysit for you a lot?"

"She’s good with Danny. He likes her."

"How’s he doing?"

"He has good days, bad days. The chemo’s been rough."

"You ever hear from his father?"

She shook her head, looked away.

"I’m sorry," he said. "It’s none of my business."

"It’s okay. There’s just not much to say. We’re getting on with our lives, you know? We have to."

"Don’t we all."

Excerpted from Gone ’Til November by Wallace Stroby.
Copyright © 2009 by Wallace Stroby.
Published in January 2010 by Minotaur Books.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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