Under the Lakeby Stuart Woods
John Howell, a former investigative journalist trying to escape from his past, finds a perfect sanctuary in a lakeside home in the North Georgia mountains. But little does he realize the town harbors a dark and evil secret, hidden deep within the lake's waters...
- Penguin Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.20(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
Read an Excerpt
John Howell stirred to the sound of a familiar voice. Elisha Cook, Jr., he registered immediately. He kept his eyes shut and listened to the next voice. Sidney Greenstreet. He had the scene before Bogart even spoke: The Maltese Falcon and Bogart had just been drugged. Howell sat up and, throwing up a hand against the morning sunlight, stared at the television set in disgust. The Maltese Falcon was a midnight, not a mid-morning movie. Where did these people come off putting a black movie like that on at ten o'clock in the morning? Probably some post-grad Bogart freak of a programmer at the station. He should be waking up to I Love Lucy reruns, not The Maltese Falcon. What was the world coming to? There was no sense of fitness, of propriety, anymore.
He looked about him at the seedy room above the garage. It was a mess, as usual; manuscript paper scattered over the desk and floor; the typewriter, its keys dusty from disuse, waiting. The sight of it filled him with the nameless dread that seemed to start most of his days lately. The inside of his mouth felt like the inside of his head; swollen, inflamed, dirty. There was an empty Jack Daniel's bottle and a second, one-third empty, on the desk next to the typewriter, silent evidence of the origin of his condition. No, not the origin, just a symptom. The origin was harder to pin down, required more thought than Howell felt able to muster. He fixed his mind on the only thing that would move him off the old leather sofa and get him into the house: a toothbrush. He would kill for a toothbrush.
He squinted to bring hiswristwatch into focus: eleven fifteen. Shit, he had an appointment at noon. He struggled upright, slipped his feet into his sneakers, grabbed the empty bourbon bottle and headed for the house, dropping the bottle into a trash can next to the back door. He didn't want the maid picking up empties.
"Afternoon, Mr. Howell" the maid said dryly as he passed through the kitchen. Bitch. He didn't need that from her. He ran up the stairs to the bedroom. She had left it pin neat, the maid wouldn't have to lift a finger. He dug a suit out of his dressing room, flung it on the bed, brushed his teeth violently for two minutes, then dove into a hot shower.
Forty-five minutes later, miraculously on time, he sat flipping idly through the pages of Poultry Month magazine and wondering what the hell he was doing there. The reception room was a perfectly normal, even tasteful one, with plush carpets, leather furniture and decent art. Only the seven-foot-high fiberglass chicken seemed out of place.
The phone on the reception desk buzzed, and the young woman lifted it and turned toward Howell. "Mr. Pitts will see you now," she said. She rose and opened the office door for him.
Lurton Pitts came at him from behind the huge desk like a baseball manager comes at an umpire after a questionable call. Only at the moment his hand shot out did the man smile. "John...can I call you John? I'm awful glad to meet you. I've admired your work for an awful long time, I can tell you. I've been reading your stuff ever since you won the Pulitzer Prize for the stories about those murders. I read your book about it, too. Fine stuff, that was."
"Well, thanks, Mr. Pitts."
"Call me Lurton, son, everybody does. Can we get you a glass of iced tea or something?"
Howell supposed that a man who had on his office wall a warmly autographed photograph of himself with the Reverend Jerry Falwell would not have a bar in the same office. "No thanks, I'm just fine, uh...Lurton."
"Good, good," Pitts said, directing him toward a chair and circling the desk to find his own. "I'm grateful to Denham White for arranging this meeting. I know how valuable your time is, and I'll get right to the point. What do you know about me, John?"
"Well, only what I read in the papers, I guess." Howell knew that the man had over a thousand Little Chickie fried chicken parlors all over the country, that he was the quintessential self-made man, and that he espoused causes and gave money to charities and officeholders that were all over the political ball park, from far right to far left field. It was hard to get a fix on Lurton Pitts.
"I've had a rewarding life," Pitts said, leaning back in his high-backed leather chair and gazing out over the Atlanta skyline. "My daddy was a one-mule fanner until I showed him how to get in the chicken-raising business. I was fourteen when I figured that out. By the time I was twenty-one I was the biggest chicken farmer in the state. I opened my first Little Chickie that year, too. It's grown by leaps and bounds, and I don't mind telling you we're snapping at Colonel Sanders's ass, if you'll pardon the expression."
"Mmmm," Howell said. He couldn't think of anything else to say. Why was he here?
"But my interests have always been broader than the chicken business," Pitts continued. "I'm interested in foreign relations; bet you didn't know that."
"Nope" Howell replied, trying not to giggle.
Pitts leaned forward and fixed Howell with an intense gaze. "John, can I confide in you?"
"Oh, sure" This was some bizarre joke of Denham White's. He would arrive at lunch and there would be six guys around a table, drinking martinis and speechless with laughter. He tried to think of some graceful way just to leave, but failed.Under the Lake. Copyright © by Stuart Woods. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Stuart Woods is the author of more than sixty novels. He is a native of Georgia and began his writing career in the advertising industry. Chiefs, his debut in 1981, won the Edgar Award. An avid sailor and pilot, Woods lives in Florida, Maine, and New Mexico.
- Key West, Florida; Mt. Desert, Maine; New York, New York
- Date of Birth:
- January 9, 1938
- Place of Birth:
- Manchester, Georgia
- B.A., University of Georgia, 1959
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Just like the three star rating says.... Okay, but not great. It was the first time I've read anything by Stuart Woods and if this, as other reviews suggest, is his best I probably will not try another. His characters are interesting but story line was very predictable.
You won't be able to put this one down. A great read for mystery fans.
The best Stuart Woods Novel I have yet to read.