Wahey! It’s my stop today on the Epiphany Jones blog tour and I’m so excited to be able to share an extract of this debut novel by Michael Grothaus. It’s a psychological thriller laced with dark comedy and an emotional core. Grothaus has used his skills and experiences as a journalist who spent years researching sex trafficking as a springboard for his debut.
I’ll be giving away a copy of the book to one lucky winner, so be sure to enter the competition. (Entry details at the bottom of this page.) But first, here’s what it’s about:
A man with a consuming addiction. A woman who talks to God.
And the secret connection that could destroy them both…
Jerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins.
Here’s a bit of chapter 2:
I wake feeling like I haven’t slept.
The TV mutely plays an episode of Mr Ed. Wilbur and the talking horse are in astronaut suits. It’s the one where Mr Ed tries to convince Wilbur that they can build a ship to the moon. And why not? If your horse can talk, it sure as hell can build a space shuttle.
I reach for a balled-up dirty sock on the floor and spy a lone yellow pill sunk into the carpet next to it. So I do have one leg. I really should take it.
I really should do my laundry, too. Tomorrow. Both tomorrow.
I stumble into the kitchen and grab the box of cereal with a white cartoon rabbit on the front. e microwave clock shows just how little time I have. I spoon my breakfast into my mouth, but by the time I get to the museum I’m still twenty minutes late. e moment I step into the Grey Room my boss starts complaining.
‘I need that Chagall done by eleven.’
‘Sorry, Sir. I was jerking off till five in the morning,’ would be the honest thing to say. But this guy, he probably hasn’t got it up in twenty years. He wouldn’t understand.
‘Sorry, missed the bus.’
‘Today is the last time you miss the bus. Understand? By eleven,’ he orders and walks back into his office.
I turn on the Mac. It’s got a grey desktop that perfectly matches the grey walls and grey everything else in this room. No wonder I’m depressed.
I’m a Colour Imaging ‘Specialist’ for the Art Institute of Chicago.
It’s my job to make sure all the paintings you see in those art appreciation textbooks nobody could give a damn less about have accurate colour representation – so the periwinkle blues actually look periwinkle blue and the Venetian reds, Venetian red.
And let’s get something straight about my title. There’s nothing ‘special’ about me. Nowadays companies will throw ‘specialist’ or ‘consultant’ into any job description. It’s their way of tricking you into thinking you’re important.
But a ‘specialist’ is one step above a peon and a thousand levels below anyone who matters.
Same thing goes for all you ‘consultants’. Let’s be real, you don’t advise your company about anything. You’re a salesman. You’re Willy Loman and you’ve already got one foot in the grave.
‘Hey, buddy,’ Roland calls out before he’s even in the room. ‘Here’re more negatives for that Chagall. Donald wants them by eleven, I think.’
‘Thanks,’ I say, powering on the scanner. Roland looks like a failed male porn star: a little too old, a little too thin, a little too boney. Most disturbing though is that he shaves his arms every day. He does this so everyone can clearly see his stupid sleeve tattoo, which runs from his wrist to his elbow. And I swear to God, I’ve never seen him without his shirt sleeves rolled up.
‘Hey, you want to see it?’ Roland asks with the excitement of a twelve-year-old who’s just found his father’s nudies.
‘They’ve brought it to you?’
‘I can’t. I’ve got to get this done.’
Roland shakes his head. ‘Check it out with me. It’ll take five minutes.’ My sleep-deprived mind doesn’t have the power to argue, so I follow him down the hall to his photo studio. What would normally be a thirty-second walk takes minutes because of all the plastic sheeting and disassembled scaffolding in the hall. is whole wing is a mess because of the renovation of the museum. e whole time I’m glancing over my shoulder to see if Donald is going to storm out and bust me. The whole time Roland keeps jabbering about ‘It’, his voice wriggling through the sludge in my head like a tapeworm.
And when we finally get to his studio there it is, on an easel, just like it probably was a hundred and ten years ago. It’s small: eleven inches by eight inches.
‘Careful!’ Roland shouts. He’s caught a tripod I bumped into. ‘That’s ten million dollars right there.’
That’s all I need. Donald would end me if I damaged a painting.
The tripod, it’s this old thing from the seventies. The MiniDV camera makes it top heavy. Its plastic legs are fractured in places. Anything heavier than the camcorder would snap it.
The way Roland is looking at me, he’s wondering how I get through each day.
‘Why don’t you get the museum to get you a decent one?’ I say.
‘I’ve tried,’ Roland answers like I shouldn’t have even needed to ask. ‘The renovation is cutting budgets from every department.’
The thing with Roland, he’s friends with my mom, and that’s where he gets it. Everything he says to me has a ‘you should know this’ inflection to it.
Roland’s desk is cluttered with fading ash screens, digital-camera card-readers, a week-old Sun-Times and books on outdated versions of Photoshop. But at least he’s got a fairly new Mac. The one they make me work on barely gets by. Sticking out from under a pile of old prints is a Hollywood Reporter with a picture of Penelope Cruz on the cover. And out of the corner of my eye Roland is giving me a pompous smirk. He pretends to himself that he knows what I’m thinking.
That’s all for now 🙂 It flows so well, doesn’t it?!
Be sure to check out the other stops on the Epiphany Jones blog tour.
Want to win a copy of Epiphany Jones? It’s simple. All you have to do is retweet this post on Twitter, or repost the picture on Instagram for your chance to win. The competition closes at 9pm GMT today! UK entrants only (sorry.)
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