Ravensby George Dawes Green
When Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko pull up at a convenience store off I-95 in Georgia, their only thought is to fix a leaky tire and be on their way again to Florida-away from their dull Ohio tech-support jobs. But this happens to/em>
The Boatwrights just won 318 million dollars in the Georgia State lottery. It's going to be the worst day of their lives.
When Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko pull up at a convenience store off I-95 in Georgia, their only thought is to fix a leaky tire and be on their way again to Florida-away from their dull Ohio tech-support jobs. But this happens to be the store from which a 318,000,000 million dollar Jackpot ticket has just been sold -- and when a pretty clerk accidentally reveals to Shaw the identity of the winning family, he hatches a ferociously audacious scheme: He and Romeo will squeeze the family for half their prize.
That night, he visits the Boatwright home and takes the family hostage, while Romeo patrols the streets nearby, prepared to murder the Boatwrights' loved ones at any sign of resistance. At first, the family offers none. But Shaw's plot depends on maintaining constant fear-merciless, unfaltering terror-and soon, under the pressure, everyone's sanity begins to unravel . . .
At once frightening, comic, and suspenseful, RAVENS is a wholly original and utterly compelling novel from one of our most talented writers.
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By Green, George Dawes
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2010 Green, George Dawes
All right reserved.
Romeo was driving down from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the baffling twilight, going too fast, when a raccoon or possum ran in front of the car. The impact was disturbingly gentle. No thud—just a soft unzipping, beneath the chassis. Still, it tore at Romeo’s heart. He braked and pulled over.
Shaw awoke. “What’s wrong?”
“Hit something,” said Romeo, and he got out and started walking back up I-77, hunting for the carcass. Shaw followed him. A tractor-trailer bore down on them with a shudder and the long plunging chord of its passing. Then the night got quiet. They could hear their own footsteps. Cicadas, and a sliver of far-off honkytonk music. “God,” said Shaw. “This is it. We’re really in the South.”
But they found no trace of the animal.
They walked quite a ways. They waited for headlights so they could scan up and down the highway. They backtracked and searched along the shoulder. Nothing—not so much as a bloodstain. Finally Romeo just stood there, watching the fireflies rise and fall.
“Hey,” said Shaw, “I bet your friend got lucky.”
“Uh-uh. I hit it.”
“Well maybe it was like a sacrifice.” Playfulness in Shaw’s tone. “Maybe it just wanted us to have a propitious journey.”
When they got back to the Tercel Shaw said he was wide awake and could he drive? That was fine with Romeo. He got in on the passenger side, and they descended into the North Carolina piedmont. His ears popped; the air grew humid. He tilted his seat all the way back and looked up at the moon as it shredded in the pines. Somewhere after Elkin, NC, he let his eyes slip shut for just a second—and then the highway started to curve beneath him, and he felt himself spiraling slowly downward, into a bottomless slumber.
Tara kept away from the house on Wednesday nights.
Wednesday nights were jackpot nights. Mom would start drinking early. Pour herself a g&t in a lowball glass; then fan out all her lottery tickets on the coffee table and gaze lovingly at them, and touch them one by one and wonder which was going to be the one. The TV would be on but Mom would disregard it. All her thoughts on the good life to come. Yachts, spas in Arizona, blazing white villages in Greece, the unquenchable envy of her friends. She’d finish her first drink and fix herself another. Her boy Jase—Tara’s little brother—would put his head in her lap while he played with his Micro. She’d tousle his hair. She’d swirl the ice in her drink. At some point the colors of the dying day, and the TV colors, and all the colors of her life, would begin to seem extra-vivid, even gorgeous, and she’d tell herself she was the blessedest woman in the world, and pick up her cell phone and text her daughter:
I know we win tonite!!
I need u!! Tara baby!! My good luck charm!! Where are u? Come home!!
They were siren calls though, Tara knew. She had to be deaf to them. Study late at the library, catch a movie, hang out with Clio at the mall—just keep clear of the house till the jackpot was done and Dad would come home to take the brunt of Mom’s drunken post-drawing tirade. By midnight Mom would have worn herself out with rage and grief, and she’d have passed out, and the coast would be clear.
But on this particular Wednesday, Tara had made a blunder. She’d left her botany textbook, with all the handouts, in her bedroom. She’d done this in the morning but she didn’t realize it till 7:00 p.m., after her organic chemistry class, when she checked her locker and saw that the book wasn’t there.
She had a quiz tomorrow. She hadn’t even looked at that stuff.
She thought of calling Dad. Maybe he could sneak the book out to her. But no, it was too late. He’d be on his way to church by now, his Lions of Judah meeting. Maybe Jase? No, Jase would tip Mom off; Jase was in Mom’s pocket.
No. What I have to do, Tara thought, is just go back there and be really docile and don’t let Mom draw me into a fight, whatever she says don’t fight back—and first chance I get I’ll slip away to my room before the drawing, before she blows up.
Tara went to the parking lot and got in her battered Geo, and left the campus of the Coastal Georgia Community College. Fourth Street to Robin Road to Redwood Road: streets she despised. She hated their dull names and their blank lawns and their rows of squat brick ranch houses. Hers was the squattest and brickest of all, on a street called Oriole Road. When she got there, she slowed the car to a crawl, and looked in through the living room window. Mom, the TV. The painting of Don Quixote tilting at windmills. The wooden shelf of Dad’s # 3 Chevy models, and Mom’s Hummels. Jase’s feet stuck out at the end of the couch. Everything that Tara despised about her home was glowing and warm-looking like an advertisement for low mortgage rates or pest control, and such a depressing show she had to call Clio and tell her about it.
“I’m spying on my own house.”
Said Clio, “That’s kind of perverted.”
“It’s a really ugly house.”
“I can see my brother’s little marinated pigs’ feet.”
“But I have to see how drunk Mom is.”
“How drunk is she?”
“That’s the problem, I can’t tell. I can’t see her hands. I have to see how she’s holding her glass. If she’s swirling her glass with her pinky out, then I’m already in deep shit.”
“Are you going in there?”
“I have to.”
“But isn’t this your Mom’s freak-out night?”
“So what are you doing there? Come over to Headquarters. You know who’s coming? That Kings of Unsnap guy. Jonah. The one who wants to do you.”
“You told me that, Clio.”
“So come let him do you.”
“I got a botany quiz in the morning.”
“Oh God. You’re such a boring geek.”
“Why don’t you do him?”
“OK,” said Clio. “You talked me into it.”
“You’re such a whoring slut.”
“I know. Hey I gotta go. If your Mom does something interesting, like touching your little brother’s weewee or something, let me know.”
“I’ll send you the pics,” said Tara. “You can post them.” She hung up, and sighed, and pulled into the carport.
As soon as she stepped into the living room, Mom was at her: “Where were you?” Tara consulted the lowball glass and saw that the swirling was quick and syncopated, with the pinky fully extended, which presaged a grim night.
“I was in class.”
“You should call me when you’re gonna be this late.”
Not late, Tara thought, but drop it.
Mom kept pressing. “Which class was it?”
“Um. Organic chemistry.”
“Why you taking that?”
Leave it alone. The only goal is freedom. “I don’t know, I guess it’s some kind of a requirement.”
“But if you’re only gonna be a goddamn whatever—why do they make you take organic chemistry?”
Said Mom, “They want all our money and what they teach you is worthless.”
Hard to let that pass. Inasmuch as Mom contributed not a cent to her tuition—inasmuch as every penny came from Tara’s job at the bank plus help from her grandmother Nell plus a small scholarship, and all she got from her parents was room and board for which she paid $450 a month so that wasn’t a gift either—it was a struggle not to snap back at her. But what good would that do? Remember, all you want is to get to your room. Remember, this woman is the same birdnecked alien you were just watching through the living room window a moment ago. Pretend there’s no family connection, that you’re invisible and you can slip away unnoticed at any time—
“Wait. Sit for a minute. The drawing’s coming up.”
“Got a quiz tomorrow, Mom. So I should probably—”
“You know what it’s worth this time?”
Tara shook her head.
“You’re kidding me,” said Mom. “You really don’t know?”
“I really don’t.”
“Three hundred and eighteen million dollars.”
The sum touched Tara’s life in no meaningful way, but she thought if she showed sufficient awe maybe Mom would release her.
“Though if you take the lump sum,” said Mom, “then after you pay your taxes, you’d only have a hundred some million.”
“Like a hundred twenty-odd. Hardly worth bothering, right? You mind freshening this for me? So I won’t disturb the Little Prince here?”
Mom swirled her glass.
On the TV was Nip/Tuck, which wasn’t appropriate for ten-year-old Jase but then he wasn’t watching it anyway. He was playing Revenant on his Micro. Oblivious as ever—and Tara was happy to ignore him back. She carried Mom’s glass to the kitchen, filled it with ice and Bombay and tonic, cut a thin half-wheel of lime and placed it festively. Be solicitous, servile. Try to soften her. Don’t resist in any way.
But when she returned, Mom was holding up a thin windowed envelope, a bill from some credit card company, and demanding: “Know how I got this? Came right to the office. Angela gave it to me. I didn’t even know this bill existed. It’s for seven hundred dollars. Your father never mentioned it.”
What would be the least resistant reply possible? Tara tried, “That’s awful, Mom.”
“Awful? It’s the most humiliating thing that can ever happen to anyone. Anyone. Ever. Of course your father isn’t worried. Your father thinks we’ll be fine.”
“Well, won’t we?”
Oh, that was dumb. That was way too cheerful. Mom pounced. “You don’t get it at all, do you? They’re gonna foreclose. They’re gonna take our house. They’re gonna take it out from under our feet and take the damn Liberty with it. You’re gonna have to leave school. I’m sorry, cupcake. You’re gonna have to start producing some income.”
“Mom, I’m a little tired. Would you mind if I—”
“Do you think I’m not tired? I am so damn tired of being this poor and your father in total denial and you kids thinking this is some kind of bad dream we’re gonna wake up from! We’re gonna lose everything, do you not get it? This boat is sinking. Nobody’s gonna bail us out. The boat is going down! I mean, baby, sugar-cake, you’re gonna have to start swimming. You’re gonna—”
But then came a fanfare on the TV, and instantly Mom left off. She gave Jase a little swat and he hustled out of her way, and she leaned forward to check her flotilla of tickets.
“And now,” said a somber announcer, “here’s tonight’s drawing for the Max-a-Million jackpot. Tonight’s jackpot is worth… three hundred and eighteen milly-on dollars.”
No one onscreen. Just the voice of that undertaker. And a hopper in the shape of a funeral urn, full of lightly waltzing plastic balls. One of them flew up suddenly on a puff of air and rolled down a serpentine ramp and posed itself before the camera.
“The first number is… tuh-wenty-seven.”
Mom murmured, “Uh-huh. Got that here.” Trying for indifference. But her eyes were full of eagerness.
Tara quietly cheated a few steps toward the hall.
“The next number is forty-two.”
“Well I do have that,” said Mom.
And Tara made her move. Melted silkily away while Mom was too dazzled by the numbers to notice.
In her room, Tara shut the door and sat at the laptop on her desk. Clio had just posted:
u still "studying" bitch? do u think jonah wrights sperm has beneficial properties of healing? wil it help u lose pounds from hips waist and thighs? he wasn't at headquarters tho just creepy seth from jax. I h8 the wick. die if I dont getout of the wick.
Tara wrote back:
Havent started yet. Caught by Mom. She's watching the drawing. In 20 seconds she'l lose and go skitzo.
And right on time: Mom’s hell-on-the-loose shriek from the living room. Worse even than usual. Then: “TARA! TA-RA!”
Tara typed brb and opened the door. “Yes?”
Particularly anguished tonight. Tara returned to the living room to find her on her knees before the TV, with Jase cowering in the corner. Mom had utterly lost it. Her mouth was open and she was holding up one of her tickets and tears were pouring down her cheeks, and this wasn’t just another drunken display of self-pity: there was true fear. “GRACE OF GOD!” she cried. As though she were beholding His face at that very moment. She clutched the ticket in her fist and rocked back and forth. “GRACE OF GOD! GRACE OF GOD! GRACE OF GOD!”
Excerpted from Ravens by Green, George Dawes Copyright © 2010 by Green, George Dawes. 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
George Dawes Green is a highly acclaimed novelist and poet. He currently divides his time between Georgia and New York.
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George Dawes Green works every angle in this deceptively simple thriller about a family who's enormous lottery win attracts the attention of two unstable, dangerous dudes. George captures the characters in that deft, short hand fashion that's the hallmark of the master suspense writer. The story makes some unexpected turns along the way. The resolution does seem to come all of a sudden. But this sort of story can only end one way and George has the sense not to hang around after the ending. Which I like. There's nothing left to tell.
Interesting premise, but the book was rushed towards the end. Also, the author takes some big leaps to move the plot along concerning the family and their interactions with their captors. The book could have had another 50 pages of plot and character development and I would have given it 5 stars. Still a good read and I liked the writing style from each character's perspective.
This is the second book I have read by George Dawes Green and boy, am I glad I was introduced to his works. In Ravens two grifters on their way to Florida, when stopping at a convince store, find out that a local family has just won 380 million dollars in the state Jackpot. Shaw, one of the grifters, decides that he and his friend are going to get in on the money. They find the family and place pressures on them to obtain 1/2 of their winnings. The way they maintain their hold upon the family is through constant terror. I loved this book. Green did a wonderful job with describing the setting of Brunswick, NC making it seem down home, yet dirty and oppressive at the same time. He used many different techniques to relate the character's emotions and inner demons with the things around them. And all the while, he built the tension of the novel so high and tight I thought I would burst! Once the climax was at its max I found my heart racing and my mind reeling. Green is a master at building suspense and terror. I listened to the audio version of this book and I am sure I don't have to tell you how much I love Hachette's Audio books. This one did have a flaw in my eyes. The female voice, I found to be harsh and raspy. I am not sure if they had her speak that way for effect or not but I found it really off putting. The male voice on the other hand way GREAT, so many different characters to portray and yet each one had their own voice.
Nice twist of events. A believable story line. Good development of characters. Kept my interest throughout. Entertaining and a reflection of human nature.
Although the language was more vulgar than necessary, the book was interesting and explored the minds of the characters in a realistic way. I would recommend it.
Patsy Boatwright spends every Wednesday night the same way...curled up on the couch with a drink waiting for the winning Jackpot numbers. Even though week after week she is disappointed, she knows without a doubt that sooner or later, her numbers will win. And she was right, one night she falls on her knees screaming "Grace Of God, Grace Of God, Grace Of God" over and over. She had won three hundred and eighteen million dollars. Romeo and Shaw are on their way from Ohio to Florida when they stop at a convenience store to check their tire pressure. One of them overhears a clerk on her cell phone talking about the store selling the state Jackpot winning ticket. Together they hold the Boatwrights hostage, telling them they'll murder some family members if they don't cooperate. This is another book that I feel must have a short review for fear of posting spoilers. The author has done a good job of letting us get to know these characters. They are all so different it kept me interested and entertained. George Dawes Green has added many facets to this book, and some were hilarious, the power Shaw has over everyone. I love this book because it's full of a different kind of suspense than most books. You're not trying to figure out who the bad guys are, you already know that. The suspense is waiting to see how it all ends. I hope to see more from this author.
This book was just an okay read for me. While the idea behind the story was interesting and I enjoyed the author's writing style, I still had a hard time getting through this one. I guess the biggest thing was that I didn't find any of these characters likeable and, therefore, couldn't feel much sympathy for any of them, even the family being terrorized by Romeo and Shaw. The one character I did want to see succeed was the sheriff, but by the time he got involved and started investigating what was going on, I didn't care whether the Boatwright family got out of this mess or not. This was just one of those books I wish I hadn't picked up.
Shaw and Romeo were passing through town. They stopped at a truck stop to check their tires. Shaw overheard the clerk discussing the lottery. Seems a local had won the jackpot of over 300 million dollars. A plan began to form in his mind. The men held the Boatwrights hostage. If they did not cooperate they would murder their relatives. My summary is short because I do not want to spoil this book for other readers. Green successfully combines humor and suspense to create an unforgettable thriller. The characters come to life on the pages of this book. I was amazed as Shaw became almost a folk hero among not only the people of the town but his captives. He was obviously a sociopath yet he convinced people he was their savior. Each character had a distinct voice. I found myself rooting for the sheriff. I wanted him to be successful in capturing the villains and with Miss Nell. Miss Nell was a delightful character. She was feisty and interesting. Tara was the most intelligent one in her family. The Boatwrights were a stereo type peek into the life of a southern lower class down on their luck family. They were an exaggeration of a way of life. Patsy was a heavy drink lottery playing wife/mother. Mitch was a husband/father; he seemed to lack confidence in himself. Romeo was the villain with redeeming qualities. The ending of this book was surprising. I wanted more. I wanted to know what happened to the family. Raven is well done. My husband and I listened to this book while on vacation. More than once we sat in the car a bit longer than necessary so hear what would happen next. Raven not only held our attention, it captures listeners. The readers are excellent. Do not miss this audio book!
This one was a page turner. I was so hooked right from the word go with this one. The story was narrated by a few different characters. It jumped back and forth, but it didn't seem choppy. The story just goes on, but from a different perspective. It wasn't like it would switch to a new character and rehash what the last character just told us. The writing was good. There was only one thing that bothered me, when a character is talking the author would use Said Shaw instead of Shaw Said. But that was really the only thing I didn't like. I liked the beginning, it gave us enough info about the characters to pull me into the story, without giving so much detail that it became mundane. It follows the Boatwright family and then friends Shaw and Romeo. The Boatwrights win the lottery and that's when Shaw and Romeo really enter the picture. The suspense in this novel doesn't come from not knowing what's going on. Quite the opposite, we know what's going on right from the word go. The suspense comes from hoping that someone will slip and everyone else will know what is going on. I would say it's more psychological that physical suspense. The ending threw me for a loop. And while the last passage confused me a little it still was a great ending. Overall good writing and a great story.