Two Trains Running

Two Trains Running

4.2 8
by Andrew Vachss, David Joe Wirth

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"Once a devastated mill town, by 1959 Locke City has established itself as a thriving center of vice tourism. The city is controlled by boss Royal Beaumont, who took it by force many years ago and has held it against all comers since. Now his domain is being threatened by an invading crime syndicate. But in a town where crime and politics are virtually indivisible,… See more details below


"Once a devastated mill town, by 1959 Locke City has established itself as a thriving center of vice tourism. The city is controlled by boss Royal Beaumont, who took it by force many years ago and has held it against all comers since. Now his domain is being threatened by an invading crime syndicate. But in a town where crime and politics are virtually indivisible, there are other players awaiting their turn onstage. Emmett Till's lynching has inflamed a nascent black revolutionary movement. A neo-Nazi organization is preparing for race war. Juvenile gangs are locked in a death struggle over useless pieces of "turf." And some shadowy group is supplying them all with weapons. With an IRA unit and a Mafia family also vying for local supremacy, it's no surprise that the whole town is under FBI surveillance. But that agency is being watched, too." Beaumont ups the ante by importing a hired killer, Walker Dett, a master tactician whose trademark is wholesale destruction. But there are a number of wild cards in this game, including Jimmy Procter, an investigative reporter whose tools include stealth, favor-trading, and blackmail, and Sherman Layne, the one clean Locke City cop, whose informants range from an obsessed "watcher" who patrols the edge of the forest, where cars park for only one reason, to the madam of the county's most expensive bordello. But Layne is guarding a secret of his own, one that could destroy more than his career. Even the most innocent are drawn into the ultimate-stakes game - like Tussy Chambers, the beautiful waitress whose mystically deep connection with Walker Dett might inadvertently ignite the whole combustible mix.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Vachss's latest, set in 1959, leaves recurring character Burke behind to explore the teeming, clannish, race-driven underside of American politics. The Southern town of Locke City, at the mountainous foot of the rust belt, has become the vice-driven fief of one Royal Beaumont, a wheelchair-bound "hillbilly" who indulges in casual incest and rules the town by force. When the New York mafia tries to cut in on the action, Beaumont fights back, determined to protect his stake-and the town's racial composition, especially with a stealthy local black militant cell gaining in strength. Michael Shalare's Irish mob arrives and proposes a truce on the grounds that once "our man" Kennedy gets in, the Italians will be "told" to leave, and racial as well as monetary order will be preserved. The book is broken by episodic bursts of dialogue with time-stamp headings ("1959 October 04 Sunday 20:46"); the dialogue itself doesn't feel differentiated enough from tough guy to tough guy, and smacks of faux periodisms. Some of what Greil Marcus called the "old, weird America" surfaces, but any scene with a woman in it yields awkward results. The pace is good and the plot is riveting, though the telescoped sociopolitics feel rigged from the start, as does a bloody climax. 15-city author tour. (On sale June 14) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Locke City, a Southern mill town turned tourist mecca, is controlled by the firm but benevolent hand of local crime tsar Royal Beaumont. When the New York mafia arrives, he hires former undercover FBI agent Walker Dett to protect his interests. In short snippets of action and dialog, Vachss (Down Here) creates a broad picture of crime in Locke City, from teenage street gangs to crooked national politicians, with the Ku Klux Klan, militant African Americans, and other factions woven into a shocking climax. A riveting page-turner that marks a definite change of direction from the author's dark Burke thrillers (e.g., Pain Management), this book will attract Vachss devotees and crime fiction aficionados alike. Recommended for public libraries.[See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/05.]-Thomas L. Kilpatrick, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Vachss (Down Here, 2004, etc.) plows a field famously sowed by Dashiell Hammett and reaps his own kind of red harvest. The time, 1959-and America, like Hammett's America a quarter century earlier, is restive as the winds of political and social change gather. The place-a small, entirely corrupt Midwestern burg named Locke City, currently owned top to bottom by homegrown Royal Beaumont. Crippled by a childhood disease, Royal rules from a wheelchair-throne; few, though, have ever doubted that his power is absolute. Or not until now, when rival mobs-one Irish, one Italian-suddenly sense windows of opportunity. They lurk at Locke City's perimeter and sniff around Royal's honey-pots-prostitution, gambling, protection-in a way calculated to cause maximum anxiety. In response, Royal sends for outside help in the form of Walker Dett, a man with the sort of "stillness" to him that Hammett's Continental Op would have recognized and appreciated. Dett is a killer, a hired gun with the war smarts of a Clausewitz. You have a problem such as Royal finds himself facing? You make a call. Dett arrives. You put the problem in his hands, then sit back and count the body bags. It's more than just the number of them, of course. It's the quality, a matter of filling them with exactly the right bodies. There's plot and counterplot as hard guys maneuver for position and form unlikely alliances. Dett, however, is always in charge, a dodge ahead of his enemies. He schemes, lures and, when at last he pounces, few are left standing. But Dett has a softer side and it catches him unaware. One night, the Angel of Death meets an Earth Angel and, to his astonishment, he falls in love. Life altering for Dett; for thereader unexpectedly moving. A bit of a slow coach in the middle, but it recovers well. Dark, violent, blood-drenched, page-turning. Author tour
From the Publisher
"Gripping. . . . It begins in the clipped, tough-guy manner of Dashiell Hammett . . . but by the end it enters a strange . . . twilight zone all its own." —The Wall Street Journal“Ambitious, expansive. . . . Walker Dett [is] a superb creation.” —Entertainment Weekly"A sprawling epic. . . . A raw portrait of a volatile era." —Philadelphia City Paper"If you're craving a midsummer mystery . . . Andrew Vachss has something special for you—a dark, violent and even weird tale. . . . The plot . . . zips ahead with the speed of one of those dangerously overpowered late-1950s Oldsmobile 88s. . . . The bits and pieces cut back and forth among the characters, like a fast-paced movie." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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Random House Audio Publishing Group
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5.54(w) x 6.21(h) x 0.99(d)

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Two Trains Running

By Andrew Vachss

Random House

Andrew Vachss
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1400043816

Chapter One

1959 September 28 Monday 21:22

A candy-apple-red '55 Chevy glided down the rain-slicked asphalt, an iridescent raft shooting blacktopped rapids. Behind the wheel was a man in his mid-twenties, with a wiry build and a narrow, triangular face. His elaborately sculptured haircut was flat on top, long on the sides and back, ending in carefully cultivated ducktails.

The Chevy's headlights picked up an enormous black boulder, standing sentry in a grove of white birch. The driver pumped the brake pedal, then blipped the throttle as he flicked the gearshift into low. He gunned the engine, kicking out the rear end in a controlled slide through a tight S-curve. As soon as the road straightened, he eased off the gas and motored along sedately.

A quarter-mile later, the driver pulled up to what looked like a miniature cottage. A lantern-jawed man slowly rose from his seat on the one-man porch. He held a double-barreled shotgun in his right hand like an accountant holding a pencil.

"It's me, Seth," the driver said, out his side window.

"I knew that a few minutes ago, Harley," the man with the shotgun replied. "Heard those damn glasspacks of yours a mile away."

"Come on, Seth. I backed off as soon as I made the turn," the driver said.

"You're getting way too old for that kid stuff," the man said reproachfully. He stepped closer to the Chevy. The driver reached up and flicked on the overhead light. The man with the shotgun glanced into the back seat, then shifted his stance slightly to scan the floor.

"Let's have a look out back," he said.

The driver killed his engine, took the keys from the ignition, and reached for the door handle.

"I'll do it," the man with the shotgun said. "You just sit there, be comfortable, okay?"

"Are you serious?" the driver said.

"You been here enough times, Harley."

"Exactly," the driver said, with just a hint of resentment. "So what's with all the--?"

"Ain't my rules."

"Yeah, I know," the driver said, sourly. "Let's go, okay? The boss said nine-thirty, and it's getting close to--"

"Next time, come earlier," the man with the shotgun said, taking the keys.

He walked behind the Chevy and opened the trunk with his left hand, leveling the shotgun to cover the interior. He pulled a flashlight from his belt and directed its beam until he was satisfied. Finally, he closed the trunk gently, walked back to the driver's window, and handed over the keys.

"See you later, Harley," he said.

1959 September 28 Monday 21:29

The darkened house was a featureless stone monolith, the color of cigar ash. Harley ignored the horseshoe-shaped brick driveway that led to the front door; he drove carefully past the big house, his engine just past idle, until he came to a paved area clogged with cars. He slid the Chevy into a generous space between a refrigerator-white Ford pickup and a gleaming black '56 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and climbed out, not bothering to lock his car.

A short walk brought him to a freestanding single-story building. Its wooden sides had been weathered down to colorlessness, but the roof and windows looked newly installed.

As he approached, Harley saw his reflection in the mirrored finish of a small window set at eye level. Before he could knock, the door was opened by a short, bull-necked man wearing a threadbare gray flannel suit. The man's perfectly rounded skull was covered by a thick mat of light-brown hair, roughly trimmed to a uniform length. His facial features were rubbery; his mouth was loose and slack.

"It's me, Luther," Harley said.

The short man nodded deliberately, as if agreeing with a complex proposition. His slightly protuberant eyes were as smooth and hard as brown marbles, reflecting the moonlight over Harley's shoul-ders. Wordlessly, he tilted his head to the left.

Harley stepped past the slack-mouthed man into what looked like a modern two-car garage. A charcoal-gray Lincoln sedan was poised on the concrete slab, its nose pointing toward a wide, accordion- pattern metal door. Conscious of the other man somewhere behind him, Harley opened a door in the back wall, and followed a passageway to his left.

He paused at the threshold of a large, low-ceilinged, windowless room. One wall was lined with file cabinets, another with bookshelves. Various chairs and a pair of small couches were scattered about, all upholstered in the same dark-brown leather. Most of them were already taken. A few of the seated men glanced expressionlessly at the new arrival, the youngest man in the room.

The far end of the room was dominated by a lengthy slab of butcher block, laid across four sawhorses to form a desk. Behind it sat a massive man in a wheelchair, like a stone idol on a gleaming steel-and-chrome display stand. He had a large, squarish head, with wavy light-brown hair, combed straight back without a part, going white at the temples. His ears were small, flat against his skull, without lobes. Heavy cheekbones separated a pair of iron-colored eyes from thin lips; his nose was long and narrow; a dark mole dotted the right side of his jaw. The man was dressed in a banker's-gray suit, a starched white shirt, and a midnight-blue silk tie with faint flecks of gold that occasionally caught the light. On the ring finger of his right hand was a blue star sapphire, set in platinum.

The man glanced at his left wrist, where a large-faced watch on a white-gold band peeked out from under a French cuff, then looked up at the driver of the Chevy.

"I was held up at the gate," Harley said. "Seth took about half a day to . . ."

Nobody said anything.

Harley took a chair, and followed their example.

1959 September 28 Monday 21:39

"Procter!" a sandpaper voice blasted through the half-empty news-room.

All eyes turned toward a broad-shouldered man hunched over a typewriter. "What's up, Chief?" he shouted back, without breaking his hunt-and-peck rhythm, eyes never leaving the keyboard.

"Get the hell in here!"

The broad-shouldered man kept on typing.

A pair of night-shift reporters at adjoining desks exchanged looks. One scrawled "2" on a piece of paper and held it up; the other crossed his two forefingers to make a "plus" sign. Each man reached for his wallet without looking, eyes focused on four large clocks on the far wall, marked, from left to right: Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and New York.

In perfect rhythm honed by long practice, a dollar bill was simultaneously slapped down on each man's desk.

The second hands of the clocks swept on. One full revolution, then another. Two minutes and seventeen seconds had elapsed when . . .

"Procter, goddamn it!" rattled the windows.

The reporter who had made the "plus" sign plucked the dollar from the other's desk as Procter slowly got to his feet. His hair was as black as printer's ink; raptor's eyes sat deeply on either side of a slightly hawked nose. Wearing a blue shirt with the cuffs rolled above thick wrists, and a dark-red tie loosened at the throat, he stalked through the newsroom holding several sheets of typescript in his right hand like a cop carrying a nightstick.

Procter ambled into a corner office formed from two pebbled-glassed walls. Behind a cigarette-scarred, paper-covered desk sat a doughy man wearing half-glasses on the bridge of a bulbous nose. His bald scalp was fringed with thick mouse-brown hair.

"Chief?" Procter said innocently.

"How many goddamn times have I told you not to call me that?" the doughy man snapped, his scalp reddening. "You've got a lot of choices in that department, Jimmy. 'Mr. Langley' will do. So will 'Augie,' you like that better. Save that 'Chief' stuff for your next editor."

"So I'm fired?" Procter said, his voice not so much empty as without inflection of any kind.

"I didn't say that!" the doughy man bellowed. "You know damn well what I meant. This isn't one of those big-city sheets you're used to working for. We do things differently around here."

"I've been around here all my life," Procter said, mildly. "Born and raised."

"You like playing word games, maybe you want to take over the crossword. You haven't been around this newspaper all your life. You came home, that's what happened."

"Came home after being fired, you mean."

"I say what I mean, Jimmy. You're a great newshound, but this is your fourth paper in, what, seven years? We both know you wouldn't be working for the Compass if there was still a place for you with one of the big-city tabs."


"And we both know, soon as a job on a real paper opens up again, you'll be on the next bus out of here."

"I can do what I do anywhere."

"Is that right? For such a smart guy, you do some pretty stupid things. What happened up in Chi-Town, anyway?"

"The editor spiked too many of my stories," Procter said, in the bored tone of a man retelling a very old story.

"So you went behind his back and peddled your stuff to that Communist rag?"

"That expose never saw a blue pencil, Chief. They printed it just like I wrote it."

"Yeah, I guess they did," the doughy man said, fingering his suspenders. "And I guess you know, that's never going to happen here."

"I've been here almost three years. You think I haven't learned that much?"

"From this last piece of copy you turned in, I'm not so sure. Your job is to cover crime, Jimmy. Crime, not politics."

"In Locke City--"

"Don't even say it," the editor warned, holding up one finger. "Just stick to robberies and rapes, okay? Shootings, stompings, and stabbings, that's your beat. Leave the corruption stories for reporters in the movies."

Excerpted from Two Trains Running by Andrew Vachss 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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