Margaret Moseley's colorful and unforgettable Edgar Award-finalist that captures Fannie Flagg's homespun charm and Janet Evanovich's laugh out loud humor.
When small town girl Bonita Faye's abusive husband, car salesman and fishing guide Billy Roy is killed, she begins an adventurous new life that takes her from Poteau, Oklahoma to Paris and back again in a story of murder and redemption...and more murder... stretching over three decades.
"Bonita Faye is one of the funniest, most resourceful and optimistic fictional heroines you'll ever come across." Dallas Morning News
"Bonita Faye is the Eliza Doolittle of the dust bowl." Associated Press
"Poignant, humorous, captivating...a startlingly fresh voice and a literary original you'll want to share with friends." Tulsa World
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.53(d)|
About the Author
Moseley was born in Durant, Oklahoma, raised in Fort Worth, Texas and for twenty years lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas. During her time in Arkansas, she was a personal friend of the Clintons and campaigned for them as an Arkansas Traveler at the time of the 1992 election.
She is the author of five mystery novels Bonita Faye, Milicent LeSueur, The Fourth Steven, Grinning in His Mashed Potatoes, and A Little Traveling Music Please, all of which are being republished by Brash Books, starting in early 2015.
Moseley is married to computer guru and novelist Ron Burris. They live in Euless, Texas, with their rescued beagles Miss Sadie and Miss (The Terror) Matilda.
Read an Excerpt
By Margaret Moseley
Brash Books, LLCCopyright © 1996 Margaret Moseley
All rights reserved.
It was only a little murder. He wasn't even an important man. And it happened so long ago — forty years ago to be exact. That's why I don't understand why everyone got so upset. If anyone shoulda been shocked, it shoulda been me. After all I was married to him.
You can't tell by looking at me now, but I was a little, bitty thing back then. Not bigger than a minute. Why, when I look down at this stranger's body I carry around now, I wonder if I really am the same young girl who married Billy Roy Burnett in 1949.
Don't that seem long ago? Why, that was ten years before they even opened the Black Angus Cafe and it seems like that cafe has been there on the highway forever. Can you imagine Poteau without the Angus? Where would the people eat on Sundays after church? Where would the Lions meet? Why, there wouldn't be no town at all without the Angus.
It weren't there in 1950 either when Billy Roy died. I don't like saying "murdered." Do you?
Just think. If there'd been a Black Angus Cafe back then, that's where I would of been when Harmon came to tell me about Billy Roy. Instead, I was at home frying Sunday dinner chicken when he came. We always had fried chicken after church and even though Billy Roy wasn't home, I was frying away like always. Like he'd be coming in any minute, atelling me where he'd been and why he'd missed coming home last night.
So when the knock sounded at the front door, I jumped a tad. Billy Roy would have just slammed on in through the kitchen door. Guess I was thinking about that and that's what startled me when Harmon knocked at the front.
I went to the door with a pink apron over my go-to-meeting clothes. I know I should have changed before I started cooking, but you can see nothing about that day seemed right anyway. So, there I was, with flour from the chicken all over my apron, and some on my nose, when I opened the door.
I saw that it was Harmon through the oval glass in the door. We didn't have many fancy things back in those days and I took a lot of pride in that etched glass in the front door. Always made sure there was a light burning in the hall at night, so everybody passing by could see how it shone so clear. Didn't care how much Billy Roy razzed.
I had never met Harmon, but I had heard him talk once at a Town Meeting back when they was trying to make the Heavener Runestone a state park. Harmon was a state trooper then, the best-looking one Oklahoma had ever seen, and he was going on in his speech about how if all of us town folk got behind the park, just a few miles from Poteau, it would attract tourism and we'd all be rich as Mr. Got Rocks himself. I didn't pay much mind to his words, but he sure was handsome in his starched brown uniform.
That's really what I saw first through the glass, the brown uniform. It was when I opened the door that I saw Harmon in it.
He sure was excited and some embarrassed when he started talking. "Mrs. Burnett? Mrs. Billy Roy Burnett?"
Well, of course, I said I was. Sometimes I rattle on, more now than what I used to, but that time I just stood silent as a stump and let him talk.
"Mrs. Burnett, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your husband, Billy Roy, is dead." After getting it out, he just stared at me like I was staring at him.
It was like after the telling, there was no more to be said about the matter, but after a minute, it got uncomfortable so he started speaking again.
"He, Billy Roy, was up on the mountain." Everybody called Cavanal Hill a mountain, but legally it's nothing but the highest hill in the United States.
I decided to help him out. "Yes?"
Glad I was talking, he went on. "Your husband was shot, Mrs. Burnett. Murdered, it looks like. I sure am sorry to be the one to tell you this," he added again.
Harmon was still standing in the doorway, his back against the one o'clock sun that peeked out over his left shoulder. When I stared into that sun, all I could make out of him was a black silhouette. The glare in my eyes made them water and a tickling started in the back of my nose. I sneezed, but being polite I caught the sneeze in the hem of my apron. When I raised my face, all Harmon could see were my red, teary eyes.
He said later, that was what prompted him to come on in the house and take me in his arms. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Mrs. Burnett. I ain't ever done this before. I knew I'd get it wrong."
"Don't be silly," I said. I could smell the starch in his brown uniform as he held me in a comforting clutch. I wanted to tell him he was good at the consoling part, but I didn't tell him that until after we were married.
We just stood there in the hall and patted each other. My eyes were still running and all Harmon seemed to know to do was pat my back like he was burping a baby. That's when I heard the sizzling of the chicken in the frying pan. I ran into the kitchen and Harmon followed.
While I was turning the chicken so it'd brown even, Harmon kept stammering on about Billy Roy. "Don't you worry none, Mrs. Burnett. We're going to catch whoever done this to you."
Nobody hadn't done nothing to me. I was the one standing in the kitchen, alive and cooking chicken. Billy Roy was the one who was dead. Besides no one had ever done anything for me in my life. Everything that had ever happened to me, I had made happen. Even marrying Billy Roy. Sometimes I didn't know what was good for me and what wasn't.
The chicken was done, perfect like I always make. I turned off the gas and stared at the golden chicken parts piled up on the blue platter. Harmon alternated, eyeing first me and then the plate. We were both young and didn't know what came next.
So we ate the chicken.
"Where is he? Billy Roy?" In case he had forgotten who had brought us together for this Sunday meal.
"They're bringing him into Wilson's — Sheriff Hoyle and the others. Don't reckon you'll want to be seeing him before Mr. Wilson gets to him. He wasn't pretty, Mrs. Burnett." Harmon and I did what we were getting good at. We stared at the chicken bone in Harmon's right hand. You could see the curved shape of Harmon's mouth where he had taken a bite out of the leg. Under the flaky crust, you could see the chicken meat, dark and shining with oil. Muscle and fat covered the tendons and veins of the exposed flesh and bone. Globules of fat burst from the still-hot meat and a little slid down Harmon's thumb. He put the leg down and wiped it on the starched napkin I had given him when we sat down. The oil in the chicken made his thumbnail shine like he had a manicure.
I don't know how long we would have gone on sitting there, staring and eating. I don't know 'cause people started coming.
Ever notice how they do that?
They just start coming to the house of death just as sure as if there were a steeple over it with the bell tolling a message. "Someone's dead. Come one, come all. There's food to be had and kitchens to clean. Come one, come all. Do your part for the dead."
Years later, when we were older, my best friend Patsy and I made a pact. Whoever died first, the survivor would come and clean out the crumbs from the silverware drawer before the church ladies got there. You could have unmade beds and dust bunnies under the couch, but it was the silverware drawer crumbs that turned them on.
When Billy Roy died, I didn't know that. I took a glass of lemonade from Mrs. Pearleman and went out front to sit in the porch swing while the ones who came to comfort cleaned out my silverware drawer with whispered "tsk, tsks." I wasn't a dirty housekeeper, it was just that this was Sunday and silverware drawer cleaning wasn't until Monday.
They cleaned my house from kitchen to storage closet, inspecting anything in the closets or drawers they wanted to.
My real Paris nightgown got the most looks. I heard Martha Hannagen whisper to Ethel Stockman as they passed in the hall, "Third drawer on the left, behind the hose and under the blue tissue paper. Don't miss it."
I didn't see him go, but the next brown uniform that stood in front of me was Sheriff Hoyle's.
"Mrs. Burnett, Mrs. Burnett." He sounded like he had been saying my name for a long time before I heard him.
"Mrs. Burnett, I want to tell you what we know. And I gotta ask you some questions." Sheriff Hoyle sounded apologetic about being intrusive into my grief.
Now I can imagine what kind of picture I must have presented to him. Sitting on one leg on the porch swing, the other dangling useless except when I pumped it forward with my body to move the swing in a slow motion. Black hair shining like a tight satin cap, big eyes, a slight waifish body in a blue dress ten years too old for the wearer. No makeup and a pale, pale complexion.
I was just too frail and vulnerable for him to stand, but he had to do his duty. So he did it gently.
"Mrs. Burnett, when did Billy Roy go up on the mountain?"
"Did anyone go with him?"
"What was he doing up there?" I guess that was one of those 'for the record' questions. Everybody knew why anyone went up on Cavanal Hill on a Saturday morning before deer season.
"When did you expect him back?"
This was the first interesting question. I turned my face up toward his. I hadn't invited him to share the swing with me and he was standing, asking questions in rhythm to my pumping. Asking when the swing was forward and scribbling in his notebook when it was away from him.
"Lord, I never know when to expect Billy Roy back, Sheriff Hoyle. When they're no more deer to shoot. When they're no more fish to catch. When he runs out of whiskey, worms or gunshot."
"You weren't worried about him when he didn't come home last night?"
"No, I just read my books, went to bed and then got up this mornin' and went to church. You know that. You and Berta sat behind me." They had, too. Alike even to the left-sided parts in their hair. Both in their gray serge suits. Shiny serge covered their vast abdomens and I could smell spot-cleaning fluid even over in my pew. Her suit had black grosgrain trim on the collar and sleeves. They had stood and sat together in the intimate rhythm of two people who have been together so long they anticipate and mime the other without conscious thought. Up and down they had got to sing and pray, each excursion sending out fresh wafts of Berta's home-cleaning efforts.
Sheriff Hoyle musta changed into his uniform when somebody told him about Billy Roy. Berta was right now in my bedroom easing open the third drawer on the left. She still had on her serge.
"Bonita Faye, think carefully. Can you think of anyone who would want to kill Billy Roy?"
His calling me Bonita Faye instead of Mrs. Burnett surrounded the interrogation with a private atmosphere. And, of course, the least thing that smacked of private or confidential in Poteau was exactly what everyone wanted to know most.
The men, husbands of the cleaning ladies, were all lounged around the porch, mainly on the steps and banister. They had been gossiping and smoking while I was swinging. Ever so often one of them would glance my way; young widows being a novelty. But I never spoke to them when I was married, so we didn't have nothing to say now either.
The men suspended their conversations and turned in unison to hear my answer to Sheriff Hoyle.
I gave the swing an extra pump before I answered. "Why, no, Sheriff. Do you?"CHAPTER 2
I sat there swinging on that porch for hours. The sun and the town comforters had long since departed. Even my friend Patsy.
I had got up once to go to the bathroom, apologizing for bumping into the women parading through my house. The bathroom had been added on to the house years before and jutted off by itself down the hall near the door to the one bedroom. When I closed the door so I could use the toilet, I noticed someone had put out my good set of towels on the rack and washed off the spilled powder on the sink and put away my bobby-pins.
When I lifted the toilet lid, I saw one of the housekeepers had managed to scrub the bowl clean of its perpetual rust stains. Wish I knew who had done it. It was bound to come back and if someone had a secret formula for cleaning rust out of toilet bowls, I wanted to know it.
I also sat at the kitchen table for a slice of Ethel's chocolate layer cake. I remember that. I just don't remember how I wound up back in the swing, watching the cars move out of the yard. It musta been twilight 'cause some cars had their lights on and some didn't.
I remember Patsy saying she'd stay with me, and then I musta said no in a rude way 'cause she looked hurt. She got over it though and brought me my white sweater to put on before she left to cross the field to her own house. The night was turning cool and the sweater felt good even though it was a bit scratchy.
Finally I was alone and could think. But, like me and Harmon had felt in the kitchen earlier, I didn't know what came next.
It was close to ten-thirty when I decided what to do. I came in the house, locked the door behind me and went into the kitchen to the telephone.
Miss Dorothy, the town telephone operator, librarian and postmistress, answered on the fourth ring. When she recognized it was me, she had to tell me how sorry she was about Billy Roy and how sorry she was not to have come to the house to clean, but she had been on call at the switchboard all day. However, she was making me her pineapple upside-down-cake. She remembered how much Billy Roy had liked it.
After all that, she gave me Harmon Adams's telephone number.
He answered on the first ring.
"Harmon, this is Bonita Faye Burnett."
"Yes, Bonita Faye, I mean, Mrs. Burnett. Hello. How are you?"
I didn't know if he was asking because he wanted to know or if it was just part of his telephone etiquette. Etiquette is always getting in the way of people getting down to what they really want to do or say.
"I'm fine." I knew my role lines, too.
Then I got down to it.
"Listen, Harmon. I want to go see the place where ... where Billy Roy was murd ... shot ... killed. Where he died, I mean. I want to go there now."
"Now, now, Bonita Faye, you can't mean that." No more Mrs. Burnett, not now or ever again.
"Yes, I do, Harmon Adams. And I want you to take me. Come and get me in your truck." I know I sounded excited, maybe hysterical.
Harmon tried to dissuade me or at least, please, Bonita Faye, wait until tomorrow morning when it was light. It was only when I told him I was going to walk to Cavanal Hill by myself, right now, that he agreed to come pick me up.
I was waiting for him on the steps, hunkered down by the banister where the husbands had sat all afternoon. I ran toward the pickup in the dark just as soon as it slowed down in front of the house. In my big, longsleeved white sweater I musta looked like a ghost gliding across the lawn. I ran around the front of the truck and opened the door to jump in.
"Jesus, Bonita Faye, you coulda waited until I came to a full stop." Harmon's face was pale and green from the reflection of the light panel on the dashboard. He still had on his starched uniform, probably had put it on when I called, but in an indecisive gesture to the semi-officialness of this meeting, he had his collar open and one sleeve rolled up. What would a young police officer wear to take an attractive new widow to the scene of her husband's murder at midnight? He finished making his decision once I was actually in the passenger seat. He rolled up the other sleeve as we drove the few miles to Billy Roy's last campsite.
"There's a trail of sorts," he said after we parked in a small clearing between some roadside scrub trees. "Keep close to me and don't wander off it." His flashlight lit the way.
"Are there snakes?" I asked.
"No, not at night, but these woods are crawling with poison ivy."
I followed his khaki form up and into the woods. Except for Harmon's dim light ahead, everything around us was dark. It was only when I looked up that I could make out any shapes. Trees whose branches stood out against the lighter sky.
Excerpted from Bonita Faye by Margaret Moseley. Copyright © 1996 Margaret Moseley. Excerpted by permission of Brash Books, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
[I have to tell you....I don't remember how I actually got this book. I do know that it was before new years. And, that it was not a NetGalley ARC.] This book is funny,strange, comfortable and...wonderful! Bonita Fay takes what little she has and makes lemonade from lemons. Virtually unschooled, she makes intelligant, intellectual arguements for David Copperfield and why we should all have religious freedom and acceptance. The cover image is kind of why it kept sitting in my TBR pile so long. Pearls and a sharpened Chef's knife might do that to a reader. I'm not sure I'd classify it as a cosy either, althought it comes up as one on the goodreads shelf. All I have to say is "hang on tight....we're in for a bumpy ride"
I read three to four books a week. As a college English instructor, I read all types of books, but for pure escape, this is one of the best I have ever read. Are there other books out there with Bonita Faye as a character? If so, I'd love to read them too! Every woman needs a way to get away from stressful situations, and reading about Bonita Faye's adventures is easier than climbing those Ozark hills...
I really enjoyed this book, it is definitely worth picking up!!
I truely enjoyed this book from cover to cover. Good pace and makes you laugh
Cute story but no depth.
This story will not let you go once it gets you.
I realize that I am outdated in today's society because I believe that citizens of our great country should be subject to its laws. Murder is a very serious crime. This book is all in fun, right? That makes it ok for a murderer to go on to a good, happy life. Especially, since all three men were "bad guys." I wont read any more of this author's books.
Bonita Faye, by Margaret Moseley, is not a character that will soon be forgotten. Tenacious, driven, and fierce, Bonita Faye is a small town country girl with the soul of a continental traveler. Caught early in an abusive web, Bonita Faye finds fellowship in best friend Patsy and kindness in state trooper Harmon Adams after the murder of her husband Billy Roy Burnett. And once you are in Bonita Faye's small circle, she is loyal to a fault. Using insurance money, Bonita Faye travels to Paris, the city she has always dreamed of visiting. Here she meets taxi driver Denis Denfert who helps her find her way around. She also meets student Claude Vermeillon and his sister Simone. These three, in addition to Robert Sinclair, American expat, are the nucleus of the family she finds outside of Paris. When you are family, Bonita Faye will do ANYTHING to protect you. Bonita Faye is the fifth novel written by Margaret Moseley and published by Brash Books. It is exciting, heartwarming, and just this side of the law. You will never forget this character and may even wish to be in an inner circle like hers. She is a good soul, even when embroiled in bad deeds. I wholeheartedly recommend Bonita Faye and hope to meet another character just like her in my reading journeys
A narrative tale of the lifetime experience of a woman best described as “just plain folk”. Growing up dirt poor and uneducated in the Arkansas/Oklahoma region where life is tough but the people are tougher. This is an engaging story of a girl/woman with a dream, a plan and the cunning ability and savvy to make it from just barely eking out a living into living the good life, or at least a much better life. Be a bystander and watch as the pages turn an “ain’t no never mind” lass into a young lady living in Paris, learning the language, (both French and proper English), and mastering the lifestyle. That’s Paris France not Paris Kentucky. Along the way she gets away with murder, literally. I came across some phrases I had not heard in years, though I call it a Northern Blue, not a blue northern. I can almost picture the gal with a chaw of Red Man at an outdoor café on the Champs-Élysées. A most entertaining read with none of the extraneous and superfluous filler found in more recent writings, and recommended for a change of pace entertaining read.