Long Mile: The Shango Mysteries [NOOK Book]

Overview

Winner of the 2006 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) for Best Mystery/Suspense/Thriller!

This gritty detective thriller, set in New York City, relates one African-American man's riveting quest for truth and redemption.

Framed for murder during a failed drug bust, former NYPD officer John Shannon spends two years in jail before his release on appeal. Eager to find the ...
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Long Mile: The Shango Mysteries

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Overview

Winner of the 2006 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) for Best Mystery/Suspense/Thriller!

This gritty detective thriller, set in New York City, relates one African-American man's riveting quest for truth and redemption.

Framed for murder during a failed drug bust, former NYPD officer John Shannon spends two years in jail before his release on appeal. Eager to find the true killer and clear his name, he enjoys two scant minutes of freedom before being brutally arrested, knocked unconscious, and whisked away to the Office of Municipal Security, run by a former CIA director. Refusing their job offer, Shannon heads home to make amends with his estranged wife and discovers terrifying news: his teenage son J. J., who has become mixed up with a drug gang, has been kidnapped. Shannon's desperate search for J. J. is complicated by a new warrant for his arrest, the mysterious murder of his former partner, and Shannon's personal struggle with anger, violence, and justice.

Written in the tradition of Raymond Chandler and Walter Mosley, this is the first in a series of thrillers featuring the compelling character of John Shannon.

Click here to download Book Club Questions for The Long Mile, prepared by author Clyde W. Ford!
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Desperation and hope fuel Ford's angry narrative concerning a wrongly convicted black detective, but no amount of action and bloodshed can make up for an overly familiar plot. After serving two years of a sentence for a murder he didn't commit, former NYPD detective John Shannon is let loose on appeal only to find that his 14-year-old son has been kidnapped. What happens next is thoroughly predictable, including plenty of gunplay and some dubious prison philosophy courtesy of Shannon's cellmate Charles Promise. The reader waits in vain for some innovation, some new twist we haven't encountered before amid the unrelievedly downbeat depiction of the underworld and its denizens. Alas, we've walked this long mile too many times before. Ford is also the author of the well-received study The Hero with an African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Traditional Africa. Agent, Natasha Kern Literary Agency. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738720524
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 6/1/2009
  • Series: The Shango Mysteries
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 381 KB

Meet the Author

Clyde W. Ford is a media-savvy author and in-demand public speaker. A native of New York City, he graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, then Western States Chiropractic College. He is the author of four books: Where Healing Waters Meet: Touching Mind and Emotion Through the Body (1989, Station Hill Press); Compassionate Touch: The Body's Role in Healing and Recovery (1991, Simon & Schuster; reprinted 1999, NorthAtlantic Press); We CAN All Get Along: 50 Steps You Can Take to Help End Racism (1993, Dell); The Hero With an African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Traditional Africa (1999, Bantam). For his groundbreaking work in mythology, Jonathan Young, Founding Curator of the Joseph Campbell Library described Clyde as "picking up where Joseph Campbell left off."

As a featured guest, Clyde has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss his writing and his work in human rights; on New Dimensions, the National Public Radio program hosted by Michael Toms; and on more than 150 radio and television programs across the nation. His numerous articles and interviews have appeared in professional journals, newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet.

Clyde has taught a wide variety of subjects at institutions around the country and in Europe including Swahili at Columbia University, Mathematics at the State University of New York, African American History at Western Washington University, and Somatic Psychology at the Instit|t f|r Angewandte Kinesiologie in Frieburg, Germany.

Clyde has traveled widely throughout sub-Saharan Africa. He currently lives in Bellingham, Washington where he maintains a private practice as a chiropractor and psychotherapist specializing in somatic psychology and the therapeutic use of myth. He enjoys his time aboard Mystic Voyager, his 30-foot trawler, writing, and cruising the waters of the Pacific Northwest and the Inside Passage.

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Read an Excerpt

"We're all prisoners of our minds."

Charles Promise liked to let the words hang in the air before he continued. "Doesn't matter which side of these cell bars you're on. The bars don't imprison you, your thoughts and feelings do. The bars won't set you free either, only your thoughts and feelings will. Someday you'll leave here. But when that day comes will you step out of prison a free man?"

With a nerve-grating scrape of metal on metal, my cell door sliced open. I sat on the edge of my bunk mesmerized, unable to move, pondering Promise's words. After two years in prison, I was being set free. I was anxious to reclaim my life. Yet, from the pit of my stomach a hot swell of anger rose. I swallowed hard to keep it down. I'd served this time for murdering Danny Rodrigues. Now thanks to a smart lawyer I was temporarily free. I wanted to avenge Danny's murder and I wanted to vindicate myself. But I feared that this firestorm of anger would consume me first.

"Time, Shannon," a guard called out. He strummed the bars with his nightstick, beating out a one-note metallic dirge that ricocheted off the cellblock walls. I stepped out of my cell. I nodded to the guard and then walked along slowly as he trailed me. We call this "walking the long mile." It's a term of honor, reserved for inmates taking their last steps down Death Row or their first steps toward freedom. A familiar musty smell hung in the air. Under my feet, the concrete felt hard and unforgiving. I walked past men standing silently in their cells. Our gazes met. Their eyes were fixed straight ahead, unflinching, an inmate's salute of defiance and respect. As a former NYPD detective, I never thought that I wouldearn the respect of convicted criminals, nor they mine. Now after two years in prison, I believe I knew why these men stood silently for me this morning. They saluted not the crimes for which we were convicted but the spirit within each of us that allowed us to survive in here day after day.

I slowed my pace and leaned over the railing for one last look down at the concrete floor four flights below. In my two years here, six men had taken this plunge. Some were pushed. Others jumped willingly. It's said that in the split seconds before hitting the floor, one has an unimaginable feeling of freedom.
"Move on, Shannon," the guard behind me growled, jabbing his nightstick into my back.

I stumbled forward but stopped at "the penthouse." I didn't care about the guard, or his nightstick. Neither could keep me from saying goodbye to my friend, Charles Promise. I reached through the cell bars and clasped Promise's hand. Our thumbs locked. Beneath his sagging flesh, I felt his bones.

"Thanks," I said.

"Wasn't nothing, John," he replied, looking me in the eyes, searching not saluting.

Then his gaze softened. I let mine do the same. Promise and I stared at each other with our hands clasped. My palm grew warm.

In his early seventies, Promise's dark brown skin was wrinkled, drawn at the corners of his eyes and lips. His light gray hair bordered on white. He had a prominent nose and deep, penetrating eyes. A serene smile always seemed to grace his lips.

Behind Promise, a thin blue light painted the early morning view from his barred window. On each level, the inmate closest to the stairs had a window, but only Promise, from his top-level cell, looked beyond the prison's walls.

The guard jabbed me harder, then barked, "Come on, Shannon."

I grit my teeth but I did not move.

"Ease up on him, Tom," Promise said, his voice floating like a feather from his darkened cell. "He's 'walking the long mile' this morning. Let him walk it in his own time, in his own way."

Promise's voice had a hypnotic quality. The young white guard simply stared at the old black man. I'd witnessed this scene many times: A few quiet words from Promise calming an inmate or a guard. I believe Promise could do this because he'd been here in this same prison for so long. In some cases, he'd actually seen the fathers and grandfathers of inmates and guards come and go. His thin, ebony body was stooped now, though his arm muscles hinted of a once younger, robust man. He had an uncanny worldliness about him. In all his years inside prison, I bet he'd seen a lot more of life than the average person sees outside. I believe that Promise had found peace with his lifetime incarceration, and that gave him tremendous power over others on both sides of the cell bars seeking a similar peace in their lives. I dropped my hand and Promise pulled his inside.

"Been two years," he said, his voice still a whisper. "Walking out may shock your system."

"I'll manage," I said. "I get to see my wife. . . and my son. That'll help."

"That boy needs you," Promise said.

I smiled. "He's thirteen now. Bet he thinks he's grown and doesn't need anyone."

"I needed my father, and he wasn't there for me. You needed your father and he wasn't there for you. JJ needs his father, and you can be there for him now."

"I want to make up for lost time with him and with Liz."

"Man leaving prison doesn't always get a hero's welcome," Promise said. "Don't be surprised if JJ's angry 'cause you left him for two years."

"Didn't want to."

"It's his feelings that matter, not the facts."

I nodded.

"Don't be surprised if Liz's angry, too."

"'Cause I left her?"

"Yes, and 'cause she's had a long time alone to think about what she really wants. Something's churning inside her or she wouldn't have sought a separation."

"Now that my conviction's been overturned she and I can talk and set things straight between us. I want to start over," I said.

"May have less to do with your conviction then you think. It's her feelings that matter, not the facts," Promise said.

"But there are some facts that do matter," I said. "Like who killed Danny Rodrigues, and who framed me for his murder. Those facts I've got to discover."

"And I believe you will." Promise nodded. "But don't push the river. Let it come to you."

I nodded back.

"I'll come to see you," I said.

Promise's eyes brightened.

"I'd like that," he said.

I'm sure he'd heard similar promises from other inmates "walking the long mile." He fixed his gaze on me. His eyes moved slowly, deliberately, as though he was searching for something inside me. Maybe he already knew the truth of the promises I'd just made. Maybe he was searching for the truth in places within me I had yet to discover. The guard let us finish our exchange and when Promise's smile widened, I knew he'd found what he'd been searching for.

"Whatever comes your way, you're gonna do just fine. I can see that," he said. "May not be easy, but you're gonna do just fine."

"Thanks," I said. I turned to leave, moving slower now. Whenever I walked away from Promise, I felt like I carried the added weight of his words.

The guard's heavy boots clunked on the metal steps down. Bed springs squeaked as men flopped back onto their bunks. At the end of a long corridor illuminated with rows of fluorescent lights, we stopped in front of an office with a metal Dutch door. The guard shoved past me, then rapped his nightstick on the door, sending two dull thuds racing down the hallway and back. The top half of the door swung open.

"Shannon, John M," the guard on the other side said in a low monotone.

He pushed a paper my way. I signed for my possessions. He handed me a large envelope. But he held on. He set a cold piercing gaze in his eyes. The edges of his lips curled into a sneer.

"You lucky son-of-a-bitch," he said. "You kill another cop and then you beat the rap."

He sounded like a viper hissing. I tugged on the envelope, but the guard would not let go. His eyes said, Go ahead. Rip it from my hands. Give me one last excuse to beat you. And I wanted to rip it from his hands. I wanted to rip my life from every hand that had stolen these two years from me.

"You'll be back," the guard said, adding a malevolent chuckle. "Just like homing pigeons, you black guys find your way back here."

I hardened my stare, while the firestorm inside me grew. Then I remembered what Promise had done moments ago; what he'd told me many times: Not the eyes of a raging bull about to run into a matador's sword, but the eyes of a man steady within himself, who takes control by projecting quiet strength. I softened my gaze, still holding on to the envelope. Suddenly, the guard let go and then he slammed the upper half of the door in my face.

I opened the envelope and turned it on its end. I couldn't remember all the parts of me I'd given up when I stepped inside this prison. My wallet fell out, and it shocked me to see my photograph on an outdated driver's license. I wasn't bald then. I felt more inside the envelope, but I decided to wait for a quiet moment away from here before rediscovering these lost pieces of myself.

Moments later, I walked the final steps of my "long mile," through the prison's front gate. I squinted and when my eyes finally adjusted to the brilliant sunshine of this early October morning, I saw the rolling hills of upstate New York aflame in reds, yellows and oranges against a cobalt blue, cloudless sky. Early morning traffic whizzed by in both directions in front of the prison. Chilly air kissed my face and found its way through the weave of my sweater. I shivered slightly, but it felt invigorating and good.

A horn blew on the other side of the road.

"John."

I barely heard the muffled voice above the traffic. I looked across the road, hoping to see my wife and my son. But I saw a young white woman waving from the driver's window of her car. She stepped out. At first, I didn't recognize my lawyer, Nora Matthews. Until now, I'd only seen her across a thick glass partition, only spoken to her by prison telephone. After the separation decree, I knew that Liz might not be here to meet me. Still, I scanned Nora's car, hoping to see another door fly open, and my son, John Jr. burst out.

But Nora stood alone.

A wall of traffic separated us. Winds rising from each passing vehicle swirled around me. While I waited for a break in the cars, I stared at Nora. She waved with wide sweeps of both arms, while her body bounced like a schoolgirl at a rock concert. I put her at five feet eight. She wore a full-length dress perfectly tailored to flow with the generous curves of her body, and slit partially up one side. Its rust color also blended with the surrounding hills. But her smart outfit stood in sharp contrast to the fifteen year-old Japanese import that she drove.
I stepped forward but misjudged the speed of an oncoming SUV. Nora rounded her lips and widened her eyes as I jumped back to my side of the road. I screwed up my face and shrugged. She laughed and put a hand out for me to wait. The yellow scarf fluttering around Nora's neck, gave her a carefree, untamed look.

Fed up with waiting, I sprinted through a gap in the traffic, racing across the two-lane roadway. My body flew through the crisp air, moving with an unfettered ease that I had nearly forgotten I possessed. Nora turned to face me. She reached her arms around my body. I pulled her into me, and she did not resist. Nora's soft dark brown hair brushed my chin. A subtle, fruity fragrance teased my nose. In the crisp fall air, I could feel heat rising from her body, carrying with it the unmistakable scent of a woman. She wrapped her arms tightly around me.

In part, I knew this was a victory hug. I'd let Innocence Watch take on my case after Nora and three other eager young white lawyers from the organization appeared in prison. I'd already been in for six months. They said that Innocence Watch reviewed high-profile cases for breeches of the law. They only took on those that they thought they could win. They pointed out irregularities in the federal prosecution, and ineptitude in the way my attorney handled the case. Nora led the team that successfully argued the appeal, resulting in my release.

She pressed her body further into me. My body responded. I started to lose myself in our embrace. I really wanted to. But then I stiffened and pushed away. A chill seized me. Nora was my lawyer not my lover. I wanted my wife here, and I couldn't pretend that Nora had taken her place.

"It's okay," Nora said.

But it wasn't okay.

"What happened to Liz and JJ?" I asked. "Did you hear from them? Is something wrong?"

"I don't know," she said. "I left messages. Liz never called back."

"Maybe she changed her mind," I said.

"Maybe," Nora said. "You can call her on my cell."

The caring I saw in her light brown eyes told me she understood. She reached back in through the open window. I didn't want to face disappointment. Not yet. I put a hand on her shoulder. "I'll call on the drive back," I said.

A gust of wind caught Nora's yellow scarf, trailing it to one side of her neck. She grabbed my hand. "C'mon. We have a five-hour drive back to the city, and a lot to talk about on the way. You can stay at my place if. There's a hot bath, a great meal, and a comfortable couch."

A five-hour drive? Something inside of me snapped. I jerked my hand away from Nora. In prison, time is a commodity that you can possess more or less of. I could hear myself about to holler at Nora as though she'd just sentenced me to five hours, when after two years, even five hours felt like too much time.

"Feds going to retry me?"

"They're still considering."

"Brooklyn D.A.?"

"Said he'd file no new charges until the feds decide."

"You believe him?"

"No... Well, maybe."

"Maybe?"

Perhaps Nora could see the anguish in my face, or sense it in the way my body quivered. She grabbed my hand, and squeezed tighter. "Don't worry," she said softly. "We'll get to the bottom of this together. We'll talk about it on the way home. One step at a time. We'll get there, one step at a time."

I traced the outline of Nora's vibrant red lips with my eyes as they formed each word slowly and deliberately. I searched her face. I desperately needed to believe her. She stared at me without blinking. One step at a time. I repeated the words like a mantra. I also heard Promise tell me, "Don't push the river."

"Let's go," I said.

Nora smiled. She dropped my hand, opened the car door, and slipped into the driver's seat. I walked around toward the passenger's side. I heard honking overhead. I stopped and looked up. A flock of Canadian geese flew in chevron formation. Then, as if the order came from some unseen guiding hand, the entire flock pivoted in perfect harmony, heading off in a new direction.

I had just reached the trunk, when I heard a set of brakes squeal. I whipped my head around. A car barreled toward me. I thought that a driver had gone off the road. I leapt out of the way. The tires kicked up a cloud of dust. The doors flung open and two men hopped out. I turned toward them. My body straightened. A baby-faced, light-skinned black man approached me from the passenger's side, an older white male from behind the wheel. Both men wore a suit and a tie. Babyface walked with a swagger. The other man lagged a few feet behind. I'm six-three and both of these men were at least as tall as me. If they wanted to fight, I felt pretty certain that I could take them. After two years in prison, my body was buff and rock hard. I saw Babyface look me over. Then I saw a slight bulge from beneath his armpit. He was carrying a weapon. I guessed the other one was carrying as well.
I wanted to jump Babyface before he had a chance to go for his gun, but Nora bolted from the car and came racing toward us. I stuck out my arm to hold her back. Simultaneously, both men reached into their pockets, whipped out thin wallets, and flashed badges at me.

"What the hell do you want?" I yelled.

"John Shannon," Babyface said, snapping like a bulldog. "NYPD. You're under arrest."
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Page Turning....

    This book kept me up way past my bed time, turning page after page, chapter after chapter wondering what was about to happen next. I cant wait to read the next book. I'm really hoping Shannon will rekindle his love with his wife and more romance in the next book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2005

    A great read

    Clyde W. Ford has written a fast paced, heartfelt, mystery driven by a father¿s determination to find his teenage son that may be lost in the underground world of crime. The main character, John Shannon, is a husband, father, policeman, and now ex-con, who is trying to put his life and family back together. What makes this story unique is the guidance Shannon receives from an unlikely source¿a fellow inmate in prison for life. Charles Promise has discovered the secret to understanding one¿s own destiny. As Shannon goes from one crisis to another, Promise¿s words help him accept his destiny. Ford uses his psychology background in an unobtrusive but effective way. I found the Long Mile not only a good read, but food for thought about my own destiny.

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