Old Flames

Old Flames

4.0 13
by Jack Ketchum

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When her lover betrays her and dumps her coldly, Dora's mind begins to crack. She tracks down her old high school love to recapture what she might have had. He's married with a family, but Dora isn't about to let that stop her . . .  See more details below


When her lover betrays her and dumps her coldly, Dora's mind begins to crack. She tracks down her old high school love to recapture what she might have had. He's married with a family, but Dora isn't about to let that stop her . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In Ketchum's by-the-numbers suspense thriller, divorcée Dora Welles, a New York City antiques dealer who's unlucky in love, decides to track down her old high school squeeze, Jim Weybourne, through a detective agency that specializes in locating lost lovers. When Jim turns out to be happily married with two children in California, the resourceful Dora finds a way to insinuate herself casually into their lives. Dora soon begins scheming how to supplant Jim's wife and reclaim him for her own. Though Dora makes an interesting study as a woman whose driven personality needs the least nudge to pitch over into violent psychopathology, this slim story offers no twists or surprises, especially for readers who have seen the theme treated countless times before in fiction and film. Ketchum (Joyride) reveals in an afterword that he originally wrote the novel as a screenplay; indeed, this might have worked better as a B-movie. (Dec.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Old Flames

By Jack Ketchum Dorchester Publishing

Copyright © 2008 Dallas Mayr
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8439-5999-4

Chapter One

Dora and Owen

So here I am again, she thought. This is far too familiar.

There was pain of course but she embraced the pain as she always did. He was big and she was not, so she could count on pain with him. Tears and sweat were pretty much the same thing anyway she thought. She was opposed to neither.

But there was yearning. That old unwanted acquaintance.

She wanted-maybe even needed this time-to see his face. A face could speak what the body didn't. His body told her he was close to coming. As was she. But that was all it told her. A glance over her shoulder was insufficient. Especially in the dark. And Owen insisted on his bedroom dark the way he insisted on taking her from behind.

But here in this room on this bed while he filled her he was emptying her too. She could feel a winding down. She fought that. Pushed back hard into his tight flat belly as though the slap of impact flesh against flesh and his own sounds, his grunts and moans and harsh breathing could meld into an invisible wind that might whirl around and enter her again through her open mouth and ears and eyes.

She wanted to be filled. Instead she relinquished wanting.

It was all she could do.

He woke in the dark and turned the clock towardthe glow of the city lights below through the screened window. Never mind that his was a penthouse apartment. New York was never wholly dark.

He rose naked out of bed, careful not to wake her and turned and watched her roll slowly over into the space he'd left behind and nestle into what remained of his heat and thought how young and innocent she looked though she was neither and considered how to phrase his note to her.

He was still considering that when he stepped out of the shower. In the kitchen over coffee he did as best he could and then he went to work.

Owen told her once that he'd chosen the clock for the pitch and tone of its alarm as much as for its design so that when it intruded on her sleep it did so like a handshake, firm but gentle too. She turned it off and listened to the silence for a moment and knew that the apartment was empty. Owen was an early riser. She reached for the pack of cigarettes on the nightstand and lit one. Owen didn't approve but he didn't try to stop her either.

She lay back into the pillows and watched the smoke billow and drift above her. She thought that smoking was in a strange way a collaborative thing. Something human and yet not. Its trajectory could be managed by you but not completely. Its texture appeared random or somehow ordained by the mere fact of burning but a movement of the hand or a breath of air could shape it differently, turn it this way or that.

Here was proof that you existed she thought. You smoked and all at once your very breath had substance.

Who said that smoking was just a dirty habit? There was poetry.

Coffee she thought. You're still dreaming. You need coffee.

He'd made a fresh pot and left it on for her which she thought considerate and poured herself a cup and then opened and read the note he'd propped against the coffeemaker and though she drank what was in her cup the pot and its contents were the first to go.

The offices of Mars Black Design were at Fifth and Fifty-fourth Street. She stepped out of the cab and crossed Fifth Avenue at a yellow light which turned red half her way across. Horns blared. They could blare all they cared to. In New York City pedestrians trumped cars every time. Pedestrians wearing Armani in particular.

She signed in and nodded to the solemn young man at the security desk and took the elevator to the eleventh floor and stepped out into the immaculate stark white reception room. She noted a well-dressed middle-aged man in a plush leather chair frowning into the Wall Street Journal and judged him a prospective client and another much younger man whose portfolio beside him indicated a new or aspiring designer and a Federal Express messenger receiving a signature on his clipboard from Gloria at the desk-Gloria who first smiled at her and then looked alarmed.

"Dora? He's with a client...."

She threw open the smoked-glass door to his office hard enough so that it rebounded off the wall and closed again behind her. She felt a moment's disappointment that it didn't shatter. He was standing behind his desk with a short fat bald man standing in front of it and he'd been showing the man some plans but it was clear that at the moment she'd driven those plans from their minds quite well.

"Just who the fuck do you think you are, Owen?" she said.

"Dora ... this is not the time...."

"Excuse me. You. Get out."

The fat man just looked at her. Nice tie, she thought.

"Dora ...?"

"Did you hear me? I said get out!"

"Another time, Owen, okay?" The man backed away.

"George ... I'm sorry. I'll call you, okay?"

"Sure, Owen."

He closed the door quietly behind him. She pulled out the note from her purse.

"What are you? Some kind of goddamn schoolkid? A fucking note you leave for me? You don't even have the balls for a phone call? 'I can only hope you won't think too badly of me ... we've not felt close for some time ... I'll always care ...' Jesus Christ, Owen! What kind of bullshit is this?"

"It's the truth, Dora...."

"Who is she, you bastard."

"There's nobody, for god's sake."

"You're a fucking liar. You couldn't tie your own goddamn shoes without a woman around to help you. 'I'll always care for you....' I want to know who she is. Are you listening to me?"

The Qing vase on the podium beside her was a favorite of his. It dated from the late seventeenth century. Had stood on a windowsill at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England for forty years.

It made a loud unlovely sound against the wall.

He looked stricken. Staring at the pieces strewn across the floor. She smiled.

"You should see your apartment," she said.

"Goddammit! I'll sue you, you bitch!"

"No you won't. It'd make the papers. I'd damn well see it did."

She moved toward him around the desk. Moved in close. To his credit he stood his ground.

"I'm waiting. How well do you like your little Klee over there?"

She wondered what he was seeing in her face. Whatever it was he folded.

"Nobody," he said. "Nobody you know."

And she found that while she'd expected as much, even knew as much, some poor sad part of her hadn't really. Had hoped that it wasn't true even up to now. Women were such fucking fools, she thought. Whoever this one was, was probably just as stupid about men as she was. She nodded.

"Nobody I know."

"Ex-wife of a client, Bill Curtis. You've never met her."

"I've met Bill, though, haven't I. How does Bill feel about this?

"I have no idea, Dora."

The rage was gone, played out. Shattered along with the vase. For a strange unsettling moment she wasn't even sure why she was here. She turned and walked to the door and stopped with her back to him. Her back was all he would get.

"You might want to ask her," she said. "If you feel like it, of course. I mean, it's all about you." She shook her head. "I haven't used this word in years. But you really do suck, Owen, you know that? In the true meaning of the word? It means all you do is take."

She could hear him sigh.

"What the hell," she said. "Pretty much all of you do."


Excerpted from Old Flames by Jack Ketchum Copyright © 2008 by Dallas Mayr. 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.

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Old Flames 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Lindsie More than 1 year ago
Jack Ketchum has some great books, "The Girl Next Door." and "The Lost." When I picked up "Old Flames" I was expecting it to be in the neighborhood of these two. Sadly it wasnt. It was really short and it got to the point way to fast. He did not build up suspense and it ended to quickly. I think it would have been a great novel if he put in the amount of effort that he put in for "The Girl Next Door" and "The Lost."
harstan More than 1 year ago
¿Old Flames¿. In Manhattan Owen dumps his lover Dora Welles by message. She confronts him and the married with children Owen admits he found someone else to be his lover. Dora destroys some of his prized possessions like a seventeenth century vase. At a bar she meets Estha from her high school class of twenty-five years ago. Estha says she hired a private detective who found her teen boyfriend Ralphie. Dora decides to do like wise she hires Flame Finders Joseph Ledo who quickly locates Jim Welbourne, an attorney with a wife and kids living in California. Dora goes west to see if he is the one. If not she will assume her significant other was her late cat Lawrence but if yes his family will be collateral damage.---------------- ¿Right to Life¿. In1998 Manhattan married with a son Greg Glover is worried about his pregnant lover Sara Foster as he takes her for an abortion. He knows she lost a child in a lake accident that also ended her marriage. He drops her off near the clinic while he goes to park the car. When he arrives at the clinic after dodging the picket line, he asks for Sara, but she has not checked in. He franticly looks for her and obtains help from the cops, but Sara is nowhere. Panicked Greg knows this is not like Sara what he does not know is Sara is wakening up in a ¿prison¿ cell in New Jersey having been abducted by the picketers.--------------------- These are two well written exciting psychological horror thrillers that put twists on seemingly everyday people. Readers will appreciate Jack Ketchum¿s shockers that take adverse relationships plausibly further than one would expect.----------- Harriet Klausner
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Kasia_S More than 1 year ago
After reading Ketchum's gross fest masterpiece "Off Season" and its sequel "Offspring" I was always under the impression that his works were all about psychical terror, tearing out limbs and such, but this novel surprised me, it gave me a glimpse of his writer's mind and the way he toys with stories and ideas. I am not saying that icky things aren't happening here, they are but along a different story line, this time the evil people are seemingly average folks and not cannibals who live in caves...unfortunately death sucks no matter how pretty or polite the killer is. The book is composed of two novellas. First is about Dora, a woman who never found happiness with men ( mostly on her own accord) and they way she choose a better way to quench her thirst for closure and the other about Sara, who gets kidnapped on her way to the abortion clinic. Both are pretty short but there is some meat in each one, my favorite was the second even though it was more ruthless and insane, the first is more like a nightly news story gone psycho but the second one gave me chills. I enjoyed them both but usually I prefer longer novels and I think both would benefit from some stretching. I never felt that Dora was as crazy as the words made her, it seemed like I was supposed to be scared of her because I was told to, not because she was indeed insane. Sara on the other had more of my sympathy; I just wish the ending was longer, the buildup was so good that I wished for more. Her capturers were indeed two loons who were in a huge need of a gluteus maximus kicking and Ketchum did a good job of making me furious at them. Overall this was a fun and super fast read. I think its interesting how he made Dora the menace and Sara the tortured one, two sides of a female that join in one novel, kinda neat. - Kasia S.
SK-fan More than 1 year ago
I agree with other reviewers in the respect that the end was a little quick. It felt abrupt, for me. I did really enjoy the read. It's not my absolute favorite book, but it gripped by attention for sure! It was quite elicit in its sexuality on several occasions and I will be cautious to whom I recommend this one, but it was worth my time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago