I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the PRESTON NOIR by Sean O’Leary Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!
Title: PRESTON NOIR
Author: Sean O’Leary
Pub. Date: June 10, 2023
Publisher: Sean O’Leary
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Find it: Goodreads, https://books2read.com/PRESTON-NOIR
Read for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited membership!
Preston Noir follows Private Investigator Rufus Warhol as he tries to find a missing teenage girl while attempting to balance the consequences of having an unpaid debt to a local crime boss, a drug-dealing brother, and a drug addicted sister.
This is a page-turning, fast-moving crime novel in the style of Peter Corris or Peter Temple’s Jack Irish thrillers.
The deadline for the unpaid debt sets the cracking pace as Rufus tries to navigate through all his problems and get some clean air. His sister is causing him problems and his ex-girlfriend is sick of lending him money. His brother is done with him and all Rufus really wants to do is get wasted and go see Died Pretty at the Croxton Park Hotel.
But he and his brother put their differences aside when their sister is used as a pawn to get the debt paid. They race furiously against time to find her and put an end to all their problems once and for all.
Rufus Warhol opens his beautiful blue, now bloodshot eyes. Lifts his head gently off the pillow and sighs softly. His breathing is slightly laboured. Head lifts higher and his back comes with it but he falls back down smiling. Not yet. He tries again, succeeds. Pushes his back against the wall, sits up straight. Reaches for his cigarettes on top of the chest-of-drawers, the red lighter. Puts the ciggie in his mouth, lights it. Blows smoke straight ahead.
He reaches for the mirror, steadily brings it onto his lap. Finds a twenty note on the same chest-of-drawers. Rolls it up, sticks it up to his nose, lifts the mirror and snorts, not a line, but randomly across the mirror hitting his target at will. He jerks back and drops the whole operation, lighted ciggie too, onto his lap. Jumps up holding his cock.
‘Nearly burnt my fucken dick,’ he says snorting laughter while stomping the cigarette into the parquetry floor.
He gets off the bed, pulls on a pair of black Levi’s, sans underwear, walks into the kitchen, turns the kettle on. Goes to the fridge and gets the milk. Reaches into the cupboard for his bag of ganja and rollie papers. Sits down at the Formica table, covered in used coffee mugs, a saucer used as an ashtray, a crumpled-up piece of paper, Sunday’s form guide from the Herald-Sun and a Coles brochure he brought in from the letterbox.
Gets back up, goes into the bedroom to grab his ciggies and lighter. Mixes the ganja with a cigarette and rolls it up and lights it. Takes a huge toke on the joint and his eyes roll back a bit in his head, ‘fuck’. He gets up and turns the kettle off. The mighty Rufus. Unstoppable. Puts three lumped teaspoons of coffee in a small mug, pours the hot water and adds just a dob of milk, one sugar. He had a Nespresso machine but it fucked up and he can’t afford a new one until some new cases roll in. He sits down and takes another toke on the joint. That piece of paper, the reason for the early morning snort, to prepare. He reaches for it, unfolds it. Jersey McManus 11 am Preston Society.
Fucken Scottish cunt.
A few suburbs away in Brunswick, Nic Warhol looks at his body in the full-length mirror in his bedroom. He wears white Tommy Hilfiger boxer shorts. Admires his long, strong, lithe athletic torso. He’s a marathoner, not a sprinter. He’ll kick your arse slowly, make it hurt. He does his stretches. Basic stuff for his core. He’s old-fashioned. He does squats with his back flat against the bedroom wall. He does fifty, slowly, so it hurts, so it’s good for him. He stops. Does another fifty. Does some breathing exercises with his hand held across his chest, inhaling deeply then counting out, one and two and three and four while exhaling, his chest rising and falling. His breathing is now under control. He puts on a black silk dressing gown and walks down the hall to the kitchen. Reaches for Weet-bix and bran and puts them in a bowl. Goes to the fridge and removes a carton of skim milk, pours it over the cereal. Goes to the cupboard, takes out a packet of green tea. Turns on the kettle and eats his cereal while waiting for the kettle to boil.
His mobile rests on the wooden kitchen table, it starts to vibrate and he checks the caller ID. Jersey McManus. He ignores it. His girlfriend Ly walks into the kitchen straight from the shower, her long, straight black hair, shining wet, a towel around her, she reaches around Nic’s chest, drops her head in front of him, her wet hair falling across his face, the towel drops away as she kisses him wetly on the mouth.
Rufus walks back into his bedroom, goes to the corner of the room and picks up his cheap K-Mart stick vacuum and vacuums up the cigarette he crushed out earlier. He hasn’t had a good high paying client for a while. Jersey keeps him in ganja and speed and, on rare occasions, some H on a kind of retainer for his services as a private investigator but even that’s running thin. He lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment above Back to the Futon on High Street, Preston South. They’re good digs. Good not great. He’s barely making the monthly rent. Living not far from where he grew up on Cooma Street.
Rufus gets in the shower and wishes he could get some straightforward infidelity cases but these days any dickwad with a mobile can do it. Rufus has a great rep for being discreet but he also sometimes ends up fucking the client. Women like him. He is tall and raffish, a wiry, muscular, strong body. He had fought as an amateur boxer and turned pro but quit because his girlfriend at the time couldn’t stand it. His father said his straight right hand was a thing of beauty. Rufus is preppy looking, floppy light brown hair, killer smile. Everyone likes him on first greeting, it’s what happens after that that sets him apart. He disappoints people, lets them down, gradually.
He gets out of the shower, dresses in blue jeans, white t-shirt under a dark blue cotton shirt with a brown suede jacket. Puts on black suede shoes. Walks down the stairs from his apartment and onto High Street. He starts walking north.
Everything is changing he thinks as he looks around, they’re going to gentrify his old suburb of Preston. He can feel the hipsters and young families coming. There’s already a barber with a hipster beard working out of a container on High Street, Preston South. He walks across High Street where they’re building a huge apartment complex. He can almost feel the food trucks idling behind him, waiting to cross Bell Street into Preston. He wonders what they’ll think of the two-dollar shops, cheap bakeries, Cash Converters and the market.
Rufus knows Preston. He knows every café, every cheap Vietnamese restaurant, the Asian nail joints with the girls wearing their little masks, the beautiful, shiny black girls in the African hair extension place, the eyebrow threading place, the town hall with names of the war dead chipped into the concrete memorial, the library, yes, the two-dollar shops and the smell of hot bread from the warm bakeries. The protection money paid over steaming bowls of Pho. The gambling dens at the back of cafés and other small businesses. The massage places and the ones which give their male customers a happy ending. He knows the markets where his father had a stall for half-a-century. The Aboriginal legal service. The job networks. The paint warehouses, the buildings and shops that constantly change tenants. Tobacconists, chemists. The shutdown curtain factory. All of it. The private schools that somehow seem out of place. All of it. He goes into the tobacconist and buys a pack of Peter Jackson 20’s. He buys these cheaper cigarettes because they still give you the hit at the back of your throat when you draw in the smoke.
High Street narrows when you cross Bell Street, it somehow becomes darker, something unspoken, something unknown, something perhaps criminal lies beneath the surface. Rufus, the private investigator looking at all the angles. The drifter; the grifter. Walks into Preston Society.
Jersey sits at a table for two on the right-hand-side. There are a few occupied tables further back in the dark. A guy reading the paper on a stool at the front of the shop while occasionally looking at the street life through the window. The tall blonde girl smiles willingly at Rufus and he smiles back and says,
‘Get me a latte, strong. Thanks, babe’
Jersey with a black and white cloth cap on his head. Andy Cap Rufus thinks, remembering the old English cartoon about the drunk little man that his father likes. Jersey always wears a hat of some description, hates the fact he went bald. He has a black leather jacket on over a black shirt, both expensive looking and shiny. Rufus pulls out a chair opposite him, says,
‘Why the need to speak to me?’
‘Your brother owes me forty large.’
‘Oh, shit, Jersey, not that ridiculous cheap criminal talk. He owes you forty-thousand-dollars, forty grand. Large, what the fuck is that?’
Rufus smiles broadly.
‘I lent him, one year ago, forty grand, to get him started in his little entrepreneurial business.’
‘His drug dealing, yes. He paid you back in less than two months and he set it up with Madam Phan behind him too.’
‘I want my commission.’
‘Wasn’t part of the deal from what I…’
‘Forget what you heard. He owes me forty grand and I want you to get it or I call in your marker plus the forty grand.’
‘Jersey, I work for you as an investigator, that’s why you supply me my er, my goods, my…’
‘It’s over Rufus. You haven’t done anything useful for me for a while now. I want you to become useful again.’
‘You must know he hates my guts. My brother and I we…’
‘Family Rufus, the things we do for our family.’
‘And if I say no.’
‘You know. I don’t have to spell it out. There’ll be some violence and then you’ll work for me, dealing or wiping down tables or something else until you pay it all back. I’ve been running a tab on you for years. I know what you owe me, right down to the last little line of speed, the last joint you smoked in that dump you live in.’
‘I worked for you, gave you information and…’
‘Useless information. Truth is you haven’t done anything useful for me for a long time. You’re not so shmick anymore, Rufus. The fancy jeans and shirts and jackets, they’re fraying at the edges, the soles of your shoes are wearing thin. The famous constitution not holding up like it used to. Getting the cold sweats for the first time in your life. Hangovers, previously unheard of. Time to pay up, son.’
‘Can’t do it. Won’t do it.’
‘You’ve got fifteen days. The forty grand your brother owes me plus twenty-grand you owe me. Fifteen days Rufus or I act, boyo.’
Rufus stands up pushing the chair back and leans down into Jersey’s face, says,
‘You fucken Scottish…’
Jersey raises his hand in the air. Two big men, dressed identically in black puffy jackets, stand up and begin walking from the dark at the rear of the café. Rufus sits down. Jersey waves the hand. The men return to their seats.
‘Forty thousand in fifteen days,’ Rufus says.
‘Your brother, with the help of that Vietnamese goddess, Madam Phan, has turned into a major player. He’s got the money, you just have to get it.’
Rufus pushes the chair back, the waitress brings his latte, he says,
‘Sorry babe, won’t be needing it. This gentleman will pay. Won’t you Jersey.’
Jersey squints his eyes, tightens his mouth but Rufus turns and walks out.
About Sean O’Leary:
Sean O’Leary has published five short story collections, My Town, Walking, Wonderland, Tokyo Jazz and Other Stories and This is Not a Love Song. His novella Drifting was the winner of the ‘Great Novella Search 2016’ and was published in September 2017. He has published over forty short stories in literary and crime fiction journals. His crime novella The Heat, set in Darwin and Bangkok was published in August 2019. His interviews with crime writers appear online in Crime Time magazine. His crime novel Going All the Way is out now and his crime series featuring Indigenous investigator, Carter Thompson includes, City of Sin and City of Fear. The third book, City of Vice drops in late 2023.
He has worked in a variety of jobs including motel receptionist, rubbish removalist/tree lopper, farm hand and night manager in various hotels in Sydney’s notorious, Kings Cross. He has lived all over the bloody place but now resides in Melbourne, thinks that test cricket is the greatest game of all and supports Melbourne Football Club (a life sentence). He writes like a demon, loves travelling, is mad about photography, does some AI art and tries to walk everywhere.
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