It means something to be a client. It means he gets my loyalty, whether he deserves it or not. It means he gets my absolute best for the price of an hourly fee. It means in a world where every person has turned against him there is one person who will fight by his side for as long as there is a battle to be fought.
Author of the acclaimed novels Fatal Flaw, Bitter Truth, and Hostile Witness, bestselling writer William Lashner crafts dark, witty, engrossing tales of suspense involving one of the most intriguing characters of modern popular fiction: Victor Carl.
A defense attorney who lives his life in shades of gray, Victor Carl fights all the right fights for all the wrong reasons. With a failing legal practice, a dead-end love life, a pile of unpaid traffic tickets, and a talent for mixing it up in tough working-class bars and sparring with obstinate cops, Victor skates on the razor's edge of legal ethics in search of the easy buck. But the one absolute in Victor's life is loyalty, especially to a client even if he happens to be dead. Like Joey Cheaps, a no-account who takes a knife to the throat down on the waterfront, but not before he shares with his lawyer his part in a terrible crime.
With his client murdered, Victor must search for a killer. But solving the crime means investigating the darkest spot in Joey Cheaps's misspent youth, sending Victor on a twisting journey that leads to a missing suitcase stuffed with money, photographs of a mysterious naked woman, and a Supreme Court justice with a secret to hide. And most dangerous of all, Victor steps into the crosshairs of a vengeful enemy with a past full of pain and a taste for blood.
As thrilling as it is darkly evocative, Past Due is a superb tale of crime and justice that takes the intrepid Victor Carl into brilliant new territory and confirms William Lashner's place among the top suspense writers of our time.
About the Author:
William Lashner, a former Philadelphia lawyer, is a graduate of New York University Law School and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has served as trial attorney in the Criminal Division of the United States Justice Department. He lives with his family outside of Philadelphia.
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author William Lashner is the author of seven suspense novels that have been published in more than a dozen languages throughout the world. A graduate of the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, he lives with his family outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Read an Excerpt
By William Lashner
William MorrowISBN: 0-06-050817-5
Chapter OneThey say Philly is a city of neighborhoods, but it's really a city of neighborhood taps. There they sit, one on every corner, with the same hanging sign, the same glass block windows, the same softball trophies, the same loyalty among their denizens. When you're a Philly guy you can count your crucial affiliations on the fingers of one hand; you got your mom, you got your church, you got your string band, you got your saloon, you got your wife, and the only thing you ever think of changing is your wife.
Jimmy T's was just such a neighborhood joint. When Beth and I stepped inside we were immediately eyed, and for good reason. We were strangers, we were wearing suits, we had all our teeth.
The dank, narrow bar was decorated like a VFW hall, Flyers pictures taped to bare walls, cheap Formica tables, a pool table wedged into the back, a juke box in the corner with its clear plastic cover smashed. Someone had made an unwise selection, maybe something not sung by Sinatra. Working men of all ages slumped at the bar, leaned on the tables, wiped their noses, sucked down beers, complained about politics, the economy, the Eagles, the cheese steaks at Genos, the riffraff moving in from the west, their girlfriends, their wives, their kids, their lives, their goddamned lives. Before we stepped in it had been sullenly loud, but the moment we opened the door it had quieted as if for a show. It didn't take long to realize we were it. I figured we might as well make it a good one.
"You sure yous are in the right place?" said the bartender, a crag of a man with a great head of white hair and a missing arm. The thief, Earl Ganz, I presumed.
"We're in the right place," I said. "I'll have a seabreeze."
Ganz blinked at me. "Say what?"
"A seabreeze. It's a drink."
"Hey, Charlie," said Ganz without looking away, "guy in the suit says he wants something called a seabreeze."
A slim-jim at the end of the bar, long, brown and desiccated, said in a rasp, "Tell him to drive his ass on down to Wildwood, face east, open his mouth."
I turned away from the derisive laughter swelling behind me. "You don't know how to make a seabreeze?"
"Are you really sure yous in the right place. We don't got no ferns here."
"Careful," I said. "My mother's name is Fern."
"No, not really. Do you have grapefruit juice?"
"It's late for breakfast, ain't it?"
"You kidding me, right?"
I let out a long disappointed breath. "Why don't you then just inform me as to the specialty of the house?"
Earl Ganz blinked at me a couple times more. "Hey, Charlie. Man here wants the speciality of the house."
"Give him a wit," said Charlie.
"A wit?" I said. "Something Noel Coward would have ordered, no doubt."
One of the guys behind me said, "Wasn't he the councilman up in the third district, caught with that girl?"
"Yes, he was," I replied. "All right, Earl, let me have a wit."
Earl took a beer glass, stuck it under the Bud spigot, pulled the spigot with his stump, placed it before me.
I looked up at him, puzzled. "That it?"
He took a shot glass, slammed it on the bar next to my beer, filled it with tequila. When I reached for the tequila, he slapped my hand away. Then he lifted the shot glass, hovered it over the beer, slop dropped it inside. The beer fizzled and foamed and flowed over the edges of the mug.
"What the hell's that?" I said.
"A guy comes in," said Earl "sits down, says, 'Earl let me have a Bud,' he gets just the beer. But he says, 'Let me have a Bud wit,' then this is what he gets." He leaned forward, cocked his head at me. "Mister, it's the closest we got to a speciality of the house."
I stared at the still foaming drink for maybe a bit too long, because an undercurrent of laughter started rising from behind me.
Beth reached over, snatched the beer with the shot glass still inside, downed it in a quick series of swallows, slammed the empty back on the bar so the shot glass shook. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, swallowed a belch.
"How was it, missy?" said Earl.
"It's not a seabreeze," said Beth, "but it'll do."
I took a twenty out of my wallet, dropped it on the bar. When another wit sat before me, boiling over, I lifted the glass high, turned to face the crew watching me from among the tables, said loudly, "To Joey Cheaps," and downed my drink.
It roiled in my stomach like a pint of sick. I shook my head, gasped out a "God, that's bad."
I expected a jiggle of laughter at my discomfort with the drink, I expected a few expressions of surprise that I had mentioned Joey Parma, I expected maybe a few murmurs of assent to my toast, a few sad exclamations of poor bastard as they remembered the man who had turned Jimmy T's into his local tap. I expected something different than what I got, which was a dark, glum silence.
It took me a minute to figure it out, but I did.
"So," I said, "how much he end up owing you guys when he died?"
There was a moment more of quiet, and then one of the men said, "A hundred and six."
"Thirty eight," said another.
"Fifty," said a third.
"How about you, Earl?" I said. "What was his tab here?"
"Two hundred, thirty six and fifty nine cents," said Earl. "Approximately."
"Well, we got you all beat," I said. "Three thousand, five hundred. Approximately."
There was a moment of stunned quiet and then someone, barely suppressing his glee, said, "Oh man, you got hosed," and then a wave of nervous laughter hit the bar.
"What were you, his bookies?" someone said.
"Worse," I said. "We were his lawyers."
The entire tap then collapsed into laughter, loud belly-grabbing laughter. Even Charlie at the end of the bar turned his sour gape of a mouth around. "His lawyers," he said in rasp. "What a pair of saps."
"It would have been quicker you just let him burn your money," said another.
"Joey's lawyers. What a perfect pair of saps," said Charlie.
"Hey, Joey's lawyer," said a man, "how'd it feel to be getting it up the bum instead of giving it for a change."
As the laughter spiraled and swelled, I joined in and then I said loudly, "You know what we need to soothe our empty wallets?"
"We need to have ourselves a proper wake for our debts. But not on wits, no more wits for me."
"What yous got in mind?" said Earl Ganz.
"Why don't you send someone to the Wawa for some juice," I said, "and then, Earl, let me teach you how to make a seabreeze."
* * *
It didn't end with a conga line, but it came close.
The first taste Earl took of a seabreeze made his lips twist. You could tell he didn't take to it right off.
"Close your eyes this time," I said.
Earl's eyes blinked shut, the crowd came closer.
"You're on a tropical island. Beyond your lounge chair, the ocean is lapping. A cabana girl, tawny and lean, wearing a lot of nothing" - catcalls, whistles - "has handed you your drink. She leans over, her breath is sweet, redolent of coconut, conch."
"Conch?" said Earl, eyes still closed.
"Conch. And she leans ever closer and her warm breath now is in your ear and she whispers, her voice smooth as the white sand beneath her bare feet, 'How is the drink, Earl?. Is it okay? Is it, Earl? Is it okay?'"
Excerpted from Past Due by William Lashner 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.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Philadelphia lawyer Victor Carl is broke, as usual, and his father is lying in a hospital bed near death. Victor¿s client Joey ¿Cheaps¿ Parma seeks Victor¿s advice about a murder he was involved in 20 years before of Thomas Greeley, a law student/drug kingpin. Soon after his confession, Joey¿s body is found on the waterfront, with his throat slit. Victor, always defender of the underdog, knows the police won¿t put too much effort into finding Joey¿s killer, so Victor commits to finding out why Joey was murdered. His investigation leads him back to Joey¿s youth, and on to the people surrounding Thomas Greeley, including a present Supreme Court jurist and his strange wife and her life journals which hold the secret behind Joey¿s death. Victor Carl is perhaps the best character written today. His self-deprecating comments, inner turmoil, and reflections reveal a man whose demons from the past influence his present-day life. The relationship with his father, previously tumultuous, is now mellowing as his father¿s health deteriorates. Lashner delivers intriguing characters with real depth and dimension. Victor Carl¿s introspections are insightful and well-delivered and simply eloquent. The plot is a twisty one, and the read lengthier than most mysteries, but well worth the time.
Number 4 in the Victor Carl, Philadelphia defense lawyer, series.This book opens and develops much in the same way that Lashner¿s 3rd book, Fatal Flaw, did, in that the plot turns on an event in the past, a known event but one that has critical consequences for the action. The event is a death, a 20 year old murder in which Carl¿s client, Joey Cheaps, was involved. Unfortunately, Joey has the nerve to be murdered on Lashner before paying his bills (typical), but in the same area in which the 20 year old murder took place.Carl, who is nothing if not stubborn, decides to investigate Joey¿s murder, getting into his usual trouble with the police and underworld figures. But at the same time, his own past comes due, as his father lays dying in a hospital, waiting for a risky operation that may save his life or hasten his death, and tells an unwilling Carl the story of his own first love--a nice counterpoint to the main plot.Lashner really doesn¿t write legal thrillers or police procedurals as much as he writes psychological ¿thrillers¿, where EVERYBODY¿S psyche is part of the plot--and he does this extremely well.But his best point, as far as I¿m concerned, is his character creation. Philadelphia is some weird place if it has only a fraction of the truly odd characters who populate Lashner¿s novel. My favorite in this one is a vamp, a woman who lives totally for herself, sees her life as a work of art--Alura Strascinzky. Alura Strascinzky--are you serious? Lashner is, and she is one of his one-off wonders. I had already concluded that Lashner has a good deal of fun with his books, and this book just confirms me in that notion.Lashner is excellent in evoking a sense of place and character. His plot is as always, convoluted, with extremely satisfying twists and turns. The books are well-written and tend to keep you up late at night. Highly recommended.
The default type size looks appropriate for a 1st grade reader. When you try to make it smaller . . . nothing happens. You're stuck scrolling or pressing every five seconds. The OCR-generated typos are horrendous, disruptive abd frustrating: punctuation marks floating between lines; numeral "1" instead of U/c "I"; two hyphenated "I"s instead of an U/c H in Hector, etc.
Philadelphia lawyer Victor Carl is broke, as usual, and his father is lying in a hospital bed near death. Victor¿s client Joey ¿Cheaps¿ Parma seeks Victor¿s advice about a murder he was involved in 20 years before of Thomas Greeley, a law student/drug kingpin. Soon after his confession, Joey¿s body is found on the waterfront, with his throat slit. Victor, always defender of the underdog, knows the police won¿t put too much effort into finding Joey¿s killer, so Victor commits to finding out why Joey was murdered. His investigation leads him back to Joey¿s youth, and on to the people surrounding Thomas Greeley, including a present Supreme Court jurist and his eccentric wife and her life journals which hold the secret behind Joey¿s death.
Victor Carl is perhaps the best character written today. His self-deprecating comments, inner turmoil, and reflections reveal a man whose demons from the past influence his present-day life. The relationship with his father, previously tumultuous, is now mellowing as his father¿s health deteriorates. Lashner delivers intriguing characters with real depth and dimension. Victor Carl¿s introspections are insightful and well-delivered and simply eloquent. The plot is a twisty one, and the read lengthier than most mysteries, but well worth the time.
In Philadelphia, lawyer Victor Carl visits his dying father residing at the Temple University Hospital. His dad may be near death and seems to only tell melancholy tales from his youth, but has enough of his faculties to know that his son¿s cable is out and the Sixers are on TV........................................ Meanwhile pathetic insignificant wannabe thug Joey ¿Cheaps¿ Parma wants to retain Victor involving the murder of a lawyer Tommy Greeley twenty years ago. Only Victor would agree to assist Joey Cheaps, who not only never pays on time, is assumed guilty even by his attorney, and admits to his lawyer that he was one of the killers. However, not long afterward, the throat slashed corpse of Joey Cheaps is found near the waterfront. Though he knows he will not get paid and realizes he should mind his business, Victor feels a certain obligation to his dead client and begins making inquiries into what happened two decades ago and why suddenly did that homicide resurface into a new murder..................................... Though the conspiratorial ending and the lack of legalese makes the tale more a private investigator novel, fans will enjoy touring Philadelphia on Victor Carl¿s days off. The story line is fast-paced, punctuated by Victor¿s sarcasm, much of which is self-effacing. His relationship with his dad adds a humanizing sidebar even if the Iverson is the draw. Readers will enjoy trekking the town with Victor as he does what he believes is right even for a dead beat loser like Cheaps............................ Harriet Klausner