Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Smoke City by Keith Rosson

Title: Smoke City
Author: Keith Rosson
Publisher: Meerkat Press
Publication Date: January 23rd 2018
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism
Marvin Deitz has some serious problems. His mob-connected landlord is strong-arming him out of his storefront. His therapist has concerns about his stability. He’s compelled to volunteer at the local Children’s Hospital even though it breaks his heart every week.

Oh, and he’s also the guilt-ridden reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, the French executioner who lit Joan of Arc’s pyre in 1431. He’s just seen a woman on a Los Angeles talk show claiming to be Joan, and absolution seems closer than it’s ever been . . . but how will he find her?

When Marvin heads to Los Angeles to locate the woman who may or may not be Joan, he’s picked up hitchhiking by Mike Vale, a self-destructive alcoholic painter traveling to his ex-wife’s funeral. As they move through a California landscape populated with “smokes” (ghostly apparitions that’ve inexplicably begun appearing throughout the southwestern US), each seeks absolution in his own way.

Vale had parked a few blocks down a side street bracketed by apartment buildings. Palm trees shrouded the sidewalk, bent toward the street like thugs. No one spoke. Whatever the hell had happened with Marvin, he clearly needed space. The van sat in the dark beneath a stunted little tree, and they could hear the traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard behind them, but this street was relatively quiet. Vale heard two women laughing in one of the apartments above them, but the sound was far away and still in the air.

Vale put his hand on Marvin’s shoulder. “You want to just go back to the motel?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Marvin said, leaning against the passenger door of the van.

“Are you guys possibly interested in telling me what’s going on? Maybe?”

“It’s a long story,” Casper said.

“It’s not even worth telling,” Marvin said. He took his glasses off, pinched the bridge of his nose. His eye socket was wrinkled, sagging, the lid dropping over a hollow red pocket.

Vale would never be sure who saw the man come from the mouth of the alley first, come from that small crooked lane between two apartment buildings. Certainly not Marvin, who still had his head tucked down, his glasses in his shirt pocket. It was Casper, most likely.

In Vale’s periphery, Casper slowed down a step and Vale himself flinched: the man was big, hulking, and smelled terrible—even ten, fifteen feet away Vale caught the scent of him as he lurched from the mouth of an alley. Big, shrouded in grime, wearing a tight-fitting Lycra jacket and gray jeans with the knees blown out. Cheeks carved gaunt in the wan lamppost light.

And God will judge,” he thundered, and stopped in front of the three of them. The pale wounded glint of his eyes. Like a linebacker on hard times. “God will judge,” he said again, sounding heartbroken this time, and he unzipped his jacket and took a small pistol from the inside pocket and passed its barrel over the three of them. Seventeen million people around them and yet the street right then was silent as a morgue. Deathly still.

Marvin looked up and put on his glasses and in a weary voice said, “Here it comes. You’re looking for me.”

Keith Rosson is the author of the novels The Mercy of the Tide and Smoke City, and his short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, December, The Nervous Breakdown, and more. He's been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a finalist for the Birdwhistle Prize for Short Fiction. He's also an illustrator and graphic designer, with clients that include Green Day, Against Me, the Goo Goo Dolls, and others. A fierce advocate of public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at

I wrote the vast majority of Smoke City, or at least what would become the general story arc and plot of the novel, while living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I handled shipping at a parts manufacturer that was staffed almost entirely by blind and visually impaired people, one of the few such operations in the country. The bus ride was an hour each way, and I made constant notes on the way to work about plot and storyline while listening to music. I had an office in a spare bedroom and at night would listen to the drunk UWM students scream and fight with each other on Oakland Avenue below my window. Later, I moved back to Portland and finished the book and began the arduous process of getting an agent and then landing a publisher. It took a while, but all told, these were some songs that definitely stood out as mainstays in the entire process. I suggest tempering these songs with the occasional listen to some Gregorian chants, which I did regularly in the writing of Smoke City. Hope you enjoy.

JOE PUG, “Hymn #101
CONCRETE BLONDE, “Little Conversations
PROPAGANDHI, “Failed Imagineer
ARMS ALOFT, “Skinny Love
BANNER PILOT, “Skeleton Key
DEAD TO ME, “Little Brother
J CHURCH, “Quickstep
RVIVR, “Wrong Way/One Way
TRANZMITORS, “Bigger Houses, Broken Homes
P.O.S., “Optimist

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