True Crime

True Crime

4.4 8
by Andrew Klavan
     
 

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In the heat of the city, a man is out of time: speeding in a beat-up Ford Tempo, blasting easy-listening music.  Reporter Steve Everett drinks too much, makes love to his boss's wife, and has just stumbled upon a shocking truth: a convicted killer is about to be executed for a crime he didn't commit.

In the cold confines of Death Row, Frank Beachum is… See more details below

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Overview

In the heat of the city, a man is out of time: speeding in a beat-up Ford Tempo, blasting easy-listening music.  Reporter Steve Everett drinks too much, makes love to his boss's wife, and has just stumbled upon a shocking truth: a convicted killer is about to be executed for a crime he didn't commit.

In the cold confines of Death Row, Frank Beachum is also out of time.  Ready to say good-bye to the wife and child he loves and hello to the God he still believes in, Beachum knows he did not kill a convenience store clerk six years ago.  But in a few hours--if Steve Everett can't find the evidence to stop it--a needle is going to pierce Frank Beachum's skin.

The killing machine is primed.  The executioner is waiting.  And so is the priest.  Now the clock is ticking down and the race is on--between the reporter and his demons, between the system and its lethal flaws, between the last innocent man and society's ultimate crime .  .  .  .


From the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though this is only Klavan's fourth novel under his own name (he received two Edgar Awards for pseudonymous mysteries), his stylistic range and thoroughly compelling plots have earned him a loyal readership-an audience that should be broadened with this gripping tale. Here Klavan puts an intensely human, often intriguingly quirky face on a familiar plot device: the race to save a convicted killer on death row. When a St. Louis News staffer crashes her car hours before her scheduled interview with Frank Beachum (the interview itself to take place just eight hours before Beachum's execution), reporter Steve Everett is handed the assignment. Everett, 35 (and possessing ``wicked, sharply angled brows and a wicked, sharply angled smile''), is already under pressure: though married, he has been shtupping the boss's wife, which creates no little tension at work and at home. Furthermore, he comes to believe that Beachum is innocent, and both personal ethics and career opportunism propel him to pursue his theory. To this end, Klavan gives us the photo finish to end all photo finishes: readers may be gasping for breath by the time Beachum's fate is decided. Even before that, however, the author's vivid characterizations and dramatic prose-packed with tension, black humor and wry observations on the human condition-command attention. Alternating chapters (their style changing as deftly as their settings) present a harrowing portrait of a killer's final hours along with perceptively observed personal and professional crises of an oddly likable schlemiel. 250,000 first printing; major ad/promo; film rights to 20th Century-Fox; simultaneous Random House audio. (June)
Library Journal
Six years ago Frank Beachum, at his wife's request, was sent to buy steak sauce and ended up being accused of shooting a pregnant convenience store clerk. Although he swears his innocence, the only person to believe him is his wife. On the day he is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection, he agrees to an interview from a reporter for a local newspaper. As jaded reporter Steve Everett gathers background material for the interview, he discovers some alarming inconsistencies in the evidence used to convict Beachum. This novel is so well written that it is difficult to read. All the horror and panic of an impending execution are convincingly portrayed; particularly terrifying and nauseating are the descriptions of the minute details the prison staff attends to in preparation for the execution. The tension is at times unbearable. Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/95.]-Dawn L. Anderson, North Richland Hills P.L., Tex.
From the Publisher
"Time flies when you're having fun, waiting to die, or reading True Crime, Andrew Klavan's nerve-plucking suspense novel...A beat-the-clock suspense thriller."
—The New York Times Book Review

"A classic .  .  .  True Crime moves like a tornado, its plot turning in tighter and tighter circles until it explodes in an ending that will leave readers exhausted.  .  .  .  His characters are vivid and compelling, his observations on the human condition perceptive, and his darkly humorous prose masterful."
—Houston Chronicle

"The most suspenseful and exciting novel I have read in the last couple of years.  The adrenaline was flowing so strongly near the end, I actually thought my heart might give out.  A wonderful, funny, heartbreaking, powerful book."
—John Lescroart, author of Guilt

"One of the best novels to come down the pike in years...so gripping and plot-switching that you won't be able to put it down." —USA TODAY

"Simultaneously intense and funny and harrowing, teeming with precise and memorable character studies, topped off with a surprise ending...Excruciatingly suspenseful."
—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"The narrative plunges on at breakneck speed .  .  .  a literate, heartfelt, and suspenseful novel of the rough friction of life.  I enjoyed the hell out of it."
—Newsday

"A page-turning thriller .  .  .  A suspense-filled story with vivid characters and a stunning portrayal of contemporary time and place."
—San Antonio Express-News

"Big, scary fun.  Fill up the coffee pot and lock the doors before beginning."
—Stephen King

"An ingenious, wickedly comic, and painfully sensitive roller coaster .  .  .  Has you gasping for air .  .  .  Klavan does give you pockets of repose, with somber, heart-wrenching scenes on Death Row juxtaposed with Everett's bumper-car race to the truth."
—West Coast Review of Books

"WARNING: Andrew Klavan has an astonishing gift: he can patch his characters into your spine.  You'll be reading this brilliant, riveting, dangerous novel, and suddenly you'll find that Beachum's Deathwatch cell has become your own,and there's no way out of here, you're not going anywhere until the hour of your own execution, until Klavan's finished with you.  So say your prayers before you open this book."
—George Dawes Green, author of The Juror

"A breakneck one-day death-row countdown .  .  .  Klavan incinerates improbabilities with bravura bravado."
—Toronto Sun

"A terrific read .  .  .  Klavan is simply shameless in serving the suspense.  .  .  .  For that, and much else, we'd like to thank him."
—Daily News

"True Crime gives the most compelling fictional tour yet of the last mile .  .  .  readers won't stop turning pages .  .  .  Klavan presents with chilling precision and a gift for language the results of his research."
—People

"The best thriller of this year .  .  .  The most intriguing and artful I have ever read."
—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"This is one novel you won't put down until the last twist has been unraveled and the last oh-so-satisfying page has been turned."
—Associated Press

"Life shuts down while you're immersed in this book .  .  .  it's a keeper."
—Chattanooga Free Press

"I've admired Andrew Klavan's work for years.  But this book offers more suspense—and more surprises—than his other books put together!  Readers always ask me which authors I find most chilling.  After reading True Crime, Andrew Klavan is at the top of my list."
—R.L. Stine

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307791214
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/27/2011
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
2,261
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Frank Beachum awoke from a dream of Independence Day.  His last dream before the hour, a cruel dream, really, in a sleep that had been strangely sound, considering.  He had been in his backyard again,before his trip to the grocery, before the picnic, before the police had arrived to take him away.  The heat of the summer's morning had come back to him.  He had heard the sound of the lawn mower again.  He had felt the mower's handle pressed against his palms and even smelled the mown grass.  He had heard her voice too, Bonnie's voice,as she called to him from the screen door.  He had seen her face, her face the way it had been, pert and compact under short, tawny hair, pale--not pretty, she was never pretty--but given luster by her large, tender and encouraging blue eyes.  He saw her holding the bottle up, the bottle of A-1 Sauce.  She had been waggling it back and forth to show that it was empty.  He had stood in his backyard under the hot sun, and his little girl, Gail, had been a baby again.  Sitting in her sandbox again, the plastic one shaped like a turtle.  Whacking the sand with her shovel and laughing to herself, to the world in general.

It had all been to Frank as if he were really there.  It hadn't seemed like a dream at all.

For several moments after he awoke, he lay as he was, on his side, his eyes closed, facing the wall.  His mind gripped at the dream, held on to it with terrible longing.  But the dream dissolved mercilessly and, bit by bit, the Deathwatch cell came back to him.  He became aware of the cot beneath his shoulder, the white cinderblock wall just in front of his face.  He turned over--half-hoping.  .  .  .  But there were the bars ofthe cage door.  There was the guard on the other side, sitting at his long desk, typing up the chronological: 6:21--prisonerawakes. The clock hung high on the wall above the guard's bowed head.  Seventeen hours and forty minutes were left before they strapped Frank down on the gurney, before they wheeled him into the execution chamber for the injection.

Frank lay back on the cot and blinked up at the ceiling.  The wise Chinaman says that when a man seems to dream of being a butterfly, he may truly be a butterfly dreaming he's a man.  But the wise Chinaman is wrong.  Frank knew the difference, all right; he always knew.  This leaden weight that encased him like his skin, this inner tonnage of sadness and terror: this was the real stuff; he knew it was the living stuff.  He closed his eyes and for another aching second or two, he could still smell the mown grass.  But not like he could feel the movement of the clock's hands, not like his nerve-ends picked up the passing of time.

He clenched his fists at his sides.  If only Bonnie wouldn't come, he thought.  It would be all right, if Bonnie wouldn't come to say good-bye.  And Gail.  She was no baby anymore; she was seven now.  She drew him pictures of trees and houses with her Crayolas.  "Hey," he'd say, "that's really good, sweetheart."

That was going to be the worst of it, he thought.  Sitting with her, with them, the time passing.  That, he was afraid, would be more than he could bear.

Slowly, he sat up on the edge of his cot.  He put his hands over his face as if to rub his eyes, and then kept them there a longmoment.  That damned dream had made him heart sore with longing for the old days.  He had to steady himself or the longing would weaken him.  That was his greatest fear.  That he would go weak now.  If Bonnie saw him break at the end--or, God help him, if Gail did.  .  .  .  It would be with them their whole lives.  It would be their memory of him forever.

He sat up and drew breath.  He was a six-foot man, slim and muscular in his loose green prison pants and his baseball shirt stenciled CP-133.  He had shaggy brown hair that fell on his brow in a jagged shock.  His face was lean and furrowed and he had close-set eyes that were brown, deep and sad.  He dragged his thumb across his lips, wiping them dry.

He felt the guard's gaze on him and glanced over.  The guard had raised his eyes from the typewriter and was looking Frank's way.  Reedy was the guard's name.  A wiry boy with a severe white face.  Frank remembered hearing that he had worked at the local drugstore before coming to Osage.  He seemed nervous and embarrassed today.

"Morning, Frank," he said.

Frank nodded at him.

"Can I get you anything?  Some breakfast?"

Frank's stomach felt bad, but he was hungry all the same.  He cleared his throat to keep from sounding hoarse.  "If you got a roll and some coffee, I'll take that," he said.  His voice trembled just a little at the end.

The guard paused to type the request into his chronological report.  Then he stood up and talked to the other guard stationed outside the cell door.  The other guard poked his head in through the door.  He looked nervous, too, and pale.  He seemed to receive Frank'sbreakfast order with great respect and gravity.  There was an air of ceremony to the whole procedure.  It made Frank nauseous: one step following the next in an inevitable ritual.  As the minutes followed each other.

"We'll have that for you right away," Reedy told him solemnly.  He returned to his desk and sat down.  He typed the transaction into his report: 6:24--Breakfast order relayed to CO Drummer.

Seated on the edge of his cot, Frank looked down at his feet now.  He tried to put poor nervous Reedy out of his mind.  He tried to focus his thoughts, block out everything, until he felt as if he were alone.  He put his hands between his knees and clasped them.  He closed his eyes and concentrated.  He began to pray: his morning prayer.

It steadied him.  He was always aware, every moment, that the eye of God was on him, but when he prayed, he could feel the eye, there, above him, very clearly.  The eye was motionless, unblinking and dark, like those cameras in the ceilings of elevators that watch you just when you feel most secluded and alone.  When he prayed, Frank remembered that he was not alone and he felt that eye watching him.  Behind that eye, he told himself, there was a whole other world, a whole other system of justice, better than the state of Missouri's.  To that system, and to its judge, he appealed as he prayed.

He prayed for strength.  It wasn't for himself he was asking, he said, it was for his wife, for Bonnie, and for their little girl.  He asked Jesus to take them into consideration now, on this final day.  He prayed that he'd be given the strength to tell them good-bye.

After a while, he did feel stronger.  The dream was half forgotten.  He raised his gaze to the clock on the wall.  And he felt the eye of God was ever on him.



Excerpted from True Crime by Andrew Klavan.  Copyright (c) 1995 by Amalgamated Metaphor, Inc.  Excerpted by permission of Crown Books, a member of the Crown Publishing Group.  All rights reserved.  No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


From the Paperback edition.

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