Paperback(Mass Market Paperback)


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743497558
Publisher: Pocket Star
Publication date: 01/25/2005
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 6.84(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

John Shirley is the author of many novels, including Demons, Crawlers, In Darkness Waiting, City Come A-Walkin', and Eclipse, as well as collections of stories, which include Really, Really, Really, Really, Weird Stories and the Bram-Stoker-award winning collection Black Butterflies and Living Shadows. His newest novels are the urban fantasy Bleak History and the cyberpunk thriller Black Glass. He's also written John Constantine: Hellblazer—War Lord, John Constantine: Hellblazer—Subterranean, and The Other End. Also a television and movie scripter, Shirley was co-screenwriter of The Crow. Most recently he has adapted Edgar Allan Poe's Ligeia for the screen. His authorized fan-created website is and official blog is

Read an Excerpt


By John Shirley

Pocket Star Books

Copyright © 2005 John Shirley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0743497554

Chapter One

The Sonoran Desert, Mexico

The devil rose up, and spun, and seemed to hiss at Francisco before settling back into dust. It was just a dust devil, a swirl of desert wind, but to Francisco, the desert's uninhabited places had always seemed invisibly peopled -- and dust devils were a hint of that secret life.

He muttered an unfelt prayer to the Holy Mother and turned back to the dump, not so very far from Chihuahua, where more than a dozen human basureros crept about under the overcast afternoon sky. They were scavengers -- like Francisco himself -- the poorest of the poor, hunched over among the moraines of trash, picking at it the way field workers plucked at strawberries in the harvest up north. But here they searched for saleable clothing -- especially shoes -- pieces of copper, batteries that could be sold to the unwary as if they were new, appliances that could be repaired or might seem to be intact, even bits of edible food.

Families. Children digging through trash alongside rats and crows and sometimes turkey vultures. The ninos sometimes getting sick from the things they rooted about in: poisons from old computers, dumped chemicals. Syringes. Tainted food. It was dangerous work, but you never knew...

Once, Francisco had foundsome money in an old purse, enough for a whole evening's chido caballo, the best heroin he'd ever had. Remembering the purse, he bent over, poked gingerly at a Styrofoam cooler. Last month, opening one of those, a swarm of wasps had come up and stung him so much he was sick for a week. Still...

The cooler was empty but for a few dead flies.

Francisco sighed. He'd found nothing that day but a pair of mildewed tennis shoes he doubted he could sell. The dump was pretty much picked through.

He shivered, thinking about heroin. He was too poor to sustain much of a habit -- the withdrawal was over long ago. But all he thought about was getting more. The relief of dope; the end of pain, until the dose wore off.

There had to be a way to get out of this life. He had tried everything he knew since his mother had died and his father had abandoned him, not far from here, at the age of twelve. How many years ago? Twenty? He had even lived for a while as a chapero. But he couldn't deal with being a whore for homosexuals. He wasn't like that.

He straightened, looking at the tennis shoes, tied together, dangling in his left hand. Useless, grayed, full of holes. Not even good for replacing Francisco's taped-together cowboy boots. He tossed the tennis shoes away, muttering, "No tengo ni un puto peso..." He had found nothing, had not a fucking penny.

"Ay, Francisco! Mi hijo. Que pedo?" That was Herve, a squat, rag-clad older guy, mostly toothless -- maybe not so much older, it was hard to tell, with his hair so patchy, his skin reddened from days outdoors picking through the dump with the other scavengers. He'd had a bad glue-sniffing habit, too. He might not really be much older than Francisco but he acted like his old man. Nothing but a sanguijuela. A leech.

"I'm not your little one, Herve, and where's that dope you promised me when I gave you that radio?" Francisco asked, in Spanish.

"It's coming, my boy! Hey -- you see that old church across there?"

"Church?" Francisco squinted through the swirls of dust at the horizon. He could just make out a cross, crooked against the sky, not much else. Maybe a quarter mile off, maybe more. "Nothing but a hole where there was a church."

"I heard there was a man asking about it -- asking over at the village who owned the land. He said he was a professor, some kind of history thing, he thought there was something there to find. If we could go there before he buys it..."

Francisco was intrigued -- but suspicious. "Why do you ask me about this? If you think there's something there" -- he approached Herve, lowering his voice so the others wouldn't hear -- "why wouldn't you go alone?"

"Oh -- because, like you say, I owe you something..."

Herve looked vaguely at the sky. Francisco scowled, thinking that Herve wasn't likely to be concerned about paying a debt. There was only one explanation: Herve was scared of the place. He was superstitious, even more so than Francisco.

"You're afraid of something, Herve...the place is supposed to be cursed?"

Herve shrugged. "Some say. Not me. It's like I say. You're like my son. I want to share..."

"Mi madre!" Francisco snorted skeptically. But he gestured sharply to Herve, nodding toward the church.

He led the way across the rubbish, climbing over a rusting refrigerator, circling a rotting sofa, kicking a crow out of the way that pecked at something bloody wrapped in toilet paper. Francisco thought he saw a tiny little fetal hand, blue and delicate, protruding from the tissue, and he looked away, fixed his attention on the church. It was a good long walk.

The dusk had come, and with it the wind had picked up by the time the two scavengers got there. Just the crust of a church was left. Some of the walls stood, leaning, supporting random sections of roof; some walls had crumbled. The doors had long been carted away. Sand duned against the walls, blown inside the church itself.

There was a great heap of trash here, outside the door. At some point someone had used even this church for a dump. That was sacrilegious, wasn't it? But what did it matter? If God had ever been to this part of Mexico, Francisco figured, he'd left.

"Hey -- there's stuff dumped here no one's picked through!" Herve said, bending over a pile of random, rain-rotted clothing. "Ay! It smells bad! But look, here's a nice pair of shorts, not much stain..."

Francisco was stepping deeper into the church, where part of the roof remained over the nave. He let his eyes adjust to the dim interior. The floor was covered with junk, partly cloaked by blown sand. Most of the junk was without value -- he could tell at a glance. An old, broken cross leaning against the wall was half buried in the sand.

But there -- something shiny, picked out in a ray of light. Maybe an old rosary that could be sold. It might even be silver.

He took a step toward it...and stopped, feeling a strange chill, as if he'd stepped through an invisible wall into someplace cold. His mouth was dry. He wet his lips and called, "Herve -- why don't you come in here, too?"

"Yes, yes I will. I've found some copper..."

He could tell by the older man's voice that he was making excuses, Herve was reluctant to go inside. He'd heard something about this place, all right.

"Huevon!" Francisco shouted. "Carapecha Boun!" No response, except a clattering noise.

Francisco shrugged, and muttered, "Melo paso por los huevos..." He pushed into the interior of the church -- that's what it felt like, as if the air itself was resisting him. Or warning him.

The shiny thing -- where was it? He'd lost sight of it.

A crunch underfoot -- his boot had gone through something. He pulled it free and bent to look. He'd stepped through the dry-rotted wood of an old crate. It looked as if it had been buried under the tile of the floor, and someone had dug up the tile recently. But they hadn't touched the crate. Why?

He bent closer, and a sound vibrated the air in response: the sound of a million insects chewing at wood and quivering their wings. He imagined beetles and maggots chewing at human bones in a coffin, their sound magnified to a chittery background grinding, merging into a drone that rose and fell...

But the sound couldn't be heard with his ears -- it was heard in his mind.

It's fear, he decided. Herve had awakened his superstition.

Ignore it, Francisco. There's something in that crate -- maybe what the professor man had been looking for.

That suggestion came like a voice in his head. Even calling him by name.

He shook his head, amazed that his imagination was so lively for once.

He steeled himself, and reached down, slowly, into the crate, expecting to feel the sharp incisors of a rat biting into his fingers. Something he'd felt all too often in the dump.

The gnawing sound was louder as he reached into the crate, and wetter -- like the amplified sounds of a feast...crescendos of gnawing...

The crate seemed empty, just empty space inside. But then his fingers closed over something firm, wrapped in cloth. A strange feeling shivered through him from the object: a feeling that laughed and growled and lifted him to his feet.

He drew the object out, straightening to hold it up in the light. The cloth was the decayed remnants of a flag, or might be. Wasn't that the crooked cross the Germans, the ones who hated Jews, had used in the big war?

Hands trembling, he unwrapped the object in the flag.

Within the cloth was a triangular spike of iron, rusty and stained brown, markings he didn't recognize incised on it: some strange language, or symbols. The splintery suggestion of a wooden shaft extruded from the object's flat end. The point was far from sharp, yet there was something about the metal spike -- almost tooth-shaped, really -- that suggested it could kill, and had killed before. It filled his hand suggestively...

He dropped the cloth, held the iron, and the strange feeling redoubled in him; it was like the hot, delicious sensation he'd had when he'd hit that Cargador de Bandeja when the man had tried to rape him -- without even giving him the money. Francisco had hit him in the head with the big metal flashlight he'd found in the back of the man's car. Maybe he hadn't died: he had grabbed the wallet and run, and he'd never found out. But what a feeling it had been, to hit that pendajo in the head, again and again -- a sweet release, like a rush on caballo. The very same feeling, but subtler, seemed to course from this old piece of iron itself, right into his hand, and from there it coursed all through him, shimmering in his spine with a soft purple light. But...

Someone was watching him. Not Herve -- someone in the shadows.

Francisco turned quickly to glare that way...and saw no one. He could have sworn someone was there, but he was alone in the ruins of the church. Except, were you ever alone, really?

Nothing else here, Francisco. You already have the great find. This thing of iron! This is power! Take it away from here!

There it was again. Was it a voice in his head, or was it merely his own thoughts?

He shook off that notion. Imagination again. But this spike of iron -- this was real. Some marvel of antiquity. It must be what the professor had been looking for. He could find the man and sell it to him. He must get it away from Herve, and quickly.

He hesitated...looking around. Surely there was more of value, here?

No. That cold, pushing sensation redoubled -- and he only wanted to get away from it. Get out...

He put the thing of iron in his shirt, against his belly -- he wanted to keep it in touch with his skin. He wasn't sure why.

And he turned and picked his way out, into the failing light, the mounting wind.

"Francisco!" Herve called out from somewhere behind him as he strode for the old pockmarked concrete road near the church. "What did you find? Francisco!"

"Chinga tu madre!" Francisco replied, cheerfully, not even turning around. He was feeling good. He hadn't felt this good since the last time he'd gotten high. It was like he had new strength in his limbs, and a new sense of destiny.

He walked out of the dump near the church, toward the sound of trucks and cars on the road. There was a whole world out there...and here he was scrabbling about in a dump!

Herve was shouting something after him. He couldn't make it out.

Fuck him. Here was the road!

He stepped onto it, feeling that this cracked, pot-holed, sand-strewn road would lead to glory. He would never turn back. He would go north. Yes...he had always wanted to go to the United States but had never been able to afford to pay the coyotes.

He looked north, distantly aware of a roaring behind him. Someone honking a horn. It didn't seem important. A truck screeched around him, and roared past with a receding blare.

Yes, to the north, Francisco...To Los Angeles...That's where the money is. Money and beautiful women who spend all day in bikinis. And the best dope. Not the shit you get here....

Women and dope. And power --

That's when he heard the squeal of brakes, and then the car struck sixty miles an hour.

Mendez and Rodriguez, two federales driving an old Chevrolet Impala, pulled up at the wreckage, both of them hoping no one was alive. It would be a pain in the ass if they had to take anyone to the hospital. But then, Mendez decided, maybe they could ask the survivor for money before they got the ambulance. Or there could be a wallet or two -- though it was hard to imagine anything surviving that wreck, flame licking up through black, billowing smoke....

What kind of car had it been? It was hard to tell now; it was accordioned around whatever it had struck; the driver, bloody and cooking on the burning hood, surrounded by broken glass. The car had struck --

Mendez looked at Rodriguez. Did he see it too? Rodriguez nodded, gaping. There was a man, standing there, unhurt. A skinny, ragged, hollow-eyed man of indeterminate age, probably one of the scavengers who picked through the dumps by the look of him. But the car was twisted around the man...just as if he were a column of the hardest steel.

An illusion, it must be. He had just walked up to the car that way, surely.

Mendez shrugged and got out of the cruiser. "You -- did you find anything in the car? Have you been robbing the dead?" he demanded, in Spanish.

The scavenger just stared back at him. Glowering. Unafraid.

That would not do. You couldn't let the local scum think they could look you in the eye.

Mendez drew his gun....

Francisco looked away from the federales, then back to the wreckage of the car. Had it really struck him -- and not hurt him at all?

Yes, Francisco. Do you see your power? Take your power north!

The cops were snarling something at him. One of them drawing his gun. Going to treat him like a dog, as they always did.

Not this time.

That swarming insect sound again. It seemed to urge him on.

And something caught his eye. His wrist had been freshly scarred, a symbol burned there in puckered red. A strange circular symbol...

The two cops came closer.

Francisco snarled and raised the iron spike in his hand and ran toward the startled federales. They fired their sidearms. The bullets whined harmlessly by. It was as if he had slipped into a kind of indefinable sideways-place where the bullets couldn't touch him.

And then he was upon them, slashing with the iron spike. Their heads exploded under its impact like eggs struck by a hammer. Their headless bodies staggered and fell.

Whistling a song, he dug through their pockets. Not carrying much money, for cops.

"Francisco? What have you done?" It was Herve, his eyes big and round, hands shaking, staring from the side of the highway. Herve had seen him kill these men. Francisco charged him. Herve turned with a strangled sound and tried to run, and immediately stumbled, falling among the rocks beside the road.

It was the work of but a moment to kill Herve.

Run, Francisco. More will come. If there are too many...

He went to the old patrol car, found the keys in it. He had had one legitimate job in his life, taxi driver, till cops like these had told him he had to pay them a great bribe in order to keep his license. Money he didn't have. Then it had been back to the gutters.

He drove the car down the old highway headed to the nearest town.

Abandon the car, Francisco. It is a police car. You will be questioned...

Here, the edge of town, seemed as far as he could safely take the car. He left it by the side of the road, engine running, and trotted across the highway and into the labyrinthine warrens of plaster and baked clay and brick, past startled faces, deeper into the ghetto of the poor.

Not everyone here is poor, Francisco. There is money. A man who loans money, there up ahead, with only one handgun to protect him. Kill him and take his money and his clothes. You must go north. You will find a way across the desert...

The voice seemed to come from all around him and from within him at once. But as he stopped for a moment to catch his breath, he felt that someone else was there too. He looked around.

No one was there. Watching.

Francisco felt that "no one" distinctly. Invisible, but somehow Francisco felt him there.

It does not matter, Francisco. Go north. Trust me. Trust the spike of iron...It protected you from the car and the police...Anything is possible!

So Francisco started his journey Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.


Excerpted from Constantine by John Shirley Copyright © 2005 by John Shirley. 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Constantine 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
snappa on LibraryThing 5 hours ago
Film adaptations are the stuff of fandom. Only read by those who are fans of a film, they are usually job lot productions, written on contract by writers with no personal investment in the story. They are usually placed very low in the scale of literary productions, but they do have a place and have been produced since the earliest time of film production in the 1890s. There are basically three types of film tie-ins: 1. the original work upon which a film is based, e.g. Gone With the Wind, The Maltese Falcon, Pride and Prejudice, etc. In this case the book, fiction or non-fiction, stands alone and predated the film. 2. The book written specifically with a film in mind. A good example of this is the work of German author Thea von Harbou, one time wife of director Fritz Lang. In 1924 von Harbou, following discussion with Lang, wrote a book / treatment for what was to become the film Metropolis. The work of fiction was published in 1926 as the movie was being made and appeared as a fully fledged book in 1927 with the release of the movie. The book and film varied in part, though they both had a singular origin. 3. The post production film tie-in novelisation. And here is where Constantine fits in, as do the majority of film tie-ins. It is a workmanlike production, written by a professional writer and adherring closely to the movie as seen by the public, though fleshed out in parts. And this is the value of such works - for fans of a movie wanting more, the opportunity exists to read a bit more about the characters, the background to the action and fill in some of the gaps which may have been edited out. Constantine therefore compliments the Keanu Reeves film in many ways, and is particularly useful due to the editing out of elements which any fan would consider important. This particular film tie-in is therefore recommended to any fan of the movie who wants to know more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, i couldnt put it down, not even for one second, WAY better than the movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
better than the film (which lets face it was pretty good) and superior to comparable books like van helsing for exaple. If you enjoyed constantine then try Lucifer wars.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The movie was based off of so many GOOD Hellblazer stories, and none of them were done justice, because no time or care was taken with ANY of them. The sad thing is that people unfamiliar with the comic may think it's like the movie and never bother with it, assuming that it's retarded, too. Too bad they don't let Garth Ennis direct it with as much freedom as Frank Miller was given for Sin City. THAT would be Hellblazer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first I didn't know what to expect. Once I read it I just had to read it again. I couldn't put it down. One of the greatest stories I've read since Van Helsing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Constantine is an awesome reading expirence, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, Highly Reccomended !!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although they play fast and loose with the Hellblazer character, on it's own it was actually a good book. You just wanted to keep reading to find out what happens next.