Monday, May 15, 2017

**GIVEAWAY** Interview with Danny Gardner - A Negro and an Ofay

I love new to me, debut authors and crime drama and I get to check off all three with Danny Gardner chatting about his brand new release A Negro and an Ofay.
Danny's publicist AuthorGuide is sponsoring the giveaway details below.


ISBN-13: 9781943402670
Publisher: Down and Out Books II, LLC
The Tales of Elliot Caprice Book 1
Release Date: 05-15-2017
Length: 280 pp
Buy It: Amazon/ B&N/Kobo/IndieBound

In 1952, after a year on the run, disgraced Chicago Police Officer Elliot Caprice wakes up in a jailhouse in St. Louis. His friends from his hometown secure his release and he returns to find the family farm in foreclosure and the man who raised him dying in a flophouse. Desperate for money, he accepts a straight job as a process server and eventually crosses paths with a powerful family from Chicago’s North Shore. A captain of industry is dead, the key to his estate disappeared with the chauffeur, and soon Elliot is in up to his neck. The mixed-race son of Illinois farm country must return to the Windy City with the Chicago Police on his heels and the Syndicate at his throat. Good thing he’s had a lifetime of playing both sides to the middle.

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one print copy US ONLY of A Negro and an Ofay
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A Negro and an Ofay

The Tales of Elliot Caprice

By Danny Gardner

Down & Out Books

Copyright © 2017 Danny Gardner
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-943402-67-0

As he came to, with blurred vision, he detected light. It didn't shine so much as claw at the brick walls, like the slender fingers of angry ghosts. An endless flight of concrete stairs coiled away from him. He was headed downward, though not by his own volition. He remembered drinking in a roadhouse joint. "Black Night" was playing on the juke. He understood how Charles Brown hated to be alone. A shot of corn. A friendly chippie. More corn. An offered dance. By the time Brown's brother was in Korea, he heard hard words behind him. "Get your hands off my woman, red nigger." The absolute wrong thing to say to him when he had been drinking. "Fuck you" this and that. A shove. The juke stopped. A fist for that fat, greasy, chicken-eatin' mouth. He heard something behind him.
Then black.
His head hurt. He heard ringing. Assumed blood in his ears. A moment later, it sounded like jangling. He figured chains or keys. His hands were bound. His wrists were cold. He thought he was cuffed.
Hoped he was cuffed.
He had accommodated himself to incessant disorientation while in Europe, where he would climb out of his tank and find himself immersed in bullets and bombs and shouts and screams. In the din of war, he learned to disregard the senses that failed him and focus on his singular survival. That's how Elliot Caprice returned from the Battle of the Bulge with all his limbs. And most of his wits.
He shifted his feet.
"Take it easy, boy."
"Shit, I'm in the bing."
"Shut your hole," the fat jailer holding his feet said. He hadn't seen the skinny jailer holding him by his arms until he rolled over after they dropped him on his face.
"If you can talk, you can walk," Skinny said.
"Easy to see which one of y'all picks up the donuts in the mornin'," said Elliot.
"You are in the custody of the St. Louis County Sheriff. You'll be detained until you can appear before a judge. Got it, smart guy?" Fatty said, just before he kicked Elliot in the ribs.
Elliot rose to his feet. Skinny pushed him down the stairs.
"Why am I here when I vaguely remember bein' dry-gulched in Belleville?"
"You had a police issue thirty-two on your person," Skinny said. He produced a key ring. "Get comfortable. Make friends."
He shuddered as the cell door slammed behind him. It sounded eerily similar to the lid of his M18 Hellcat. The blast of body heat combined with the cold limestone felt just like ol' Lucille's air-cooled engine exhaust. He was rudely reminded of the involuntary smells men create when their glands respond to despair; sweat and filth, rushed through the air on panicked breaths. Elliot immediately turned back toward his jailers.
"Look here, constable. How's about my phone call?"
"No calls on Sunday. Gotta wait until morning. Could be in front of the judge by then," said Skinny.
"That'd be too bad for you, halfie. Beatty is a hangin' judge," said Fatty.
"I'm colored. They're all hangin' judges."
"Ya know, Nathan White," said Fatty, as he looked at the docket. "You keep that attitude, you may not get in front of the bench. You're in the Meat Locker, pally."
The infamous Meat Locker was the massive desegregated holding cell underneath the St. Louis County Courthouse. As broad as it was long, it was nearly standing room only. Only a few pendant lights hung overhead so inmates depended upon street light that passed through the barred, narrow windows above. Elliot wondered if anyone walking by knew what was down there, in the depths, stowed underneath St. Louis's poor excuse for a palace of jurisprudence.
Elliot was amazed at how, although drunk and disoriented, he managed to give his alias. Nathan was his middle name, the first name of the uncle who adopted him as a baby — Nathan "Buster" Caprice. White was for the most mysterious half of his racial heritage. He resolved to use only one name, unlike the litany of aliases of the con men he encountered during his time on the Chicago Police Department. A liar is only as good as his memory. Elliot's life depended upon his deceptions.
He shambled through the bodies of poor unfortunates forced to integrate until he found a cot on the other side of the cell. The galvanized bucket chamber pots had overflowed. He'd missed the only meal of the day. He was booked on a Sunday. No small blessing. It gave him time to figure on his situation. The gun needed an answer. He was once a Chicago beat cop. His record would be examined. After that, the guards drop a dime. Elliot somehow hangs himself in the shower. The screws split the bribe. Fatty takes the bigger cut.
He laid on his back with nothing else to do but serenade himself with curses. One for drinking too much. Another for his weakness for the blues. A third for the corresponding weakness for big-legged women. Above all, he cursed himself for not playing the game well enough at Bradley Polytechnic. When life had him by the short hairs, he often fantasized about being a good student who graduated on the Dean's list. Then he could have traded on his near-whiteness to land a job in the front office of some industrial farm in Illinois. Could've had a nametag. Maybe a desk. Dated some chippie from the secretarial pool. Perhaps that would have kept him from enlisting in Patton's Third Army. He would have never followed every other discharged colored to the big city. He wouldn't have taken the police academy test while drunk, just to show how much smarter he was.
He wouldn't have ruined his life.
"Hey, yella. That's my cot."
Elliot opened his eyes. A mountain of a man had taken a seat on a cot across from him. He was dark as midnight and stood well over six feet, as tall as he was broad. He had the scarred hands of a fighter. The lines in his face outlined a massive skull underneath.
"Yeah, white boy. Get it up," came a much slighter voice.
"You a cannibal, big man?"
"What's that smart shit you say there?"
"How else you got a voice comin' out ya ass, if'n you didn't eat a fella?"
A smallish man, no more than five feet tall, stepped from behind Mountain. If he felt better, Elliot would've laughed.
"Watch it, light-skin," the big man's tiny flunky said.
"Seems like y'all got yaselves a couple of cots already. Push on."
Elliot closed his eyes again, until he felt the jump of Mountain's kick at the cot's legs.
"Ain't nobody tell ya? They all my cots."
"You want a cot, you gotta ask us," said Flunky.
"Ovah there, jawin' with the jailers, soundin' like you Jimmy Cagney. You-dirty-rattin' wit' them ofays," Mountain said. He assumed a fighting posture. "You ain't white yet, high yella, but you keep tryin'. Now, up it."
"What yo' name is, corn pone?"
"This here is Frank Fuquay. Folks around our parts call him Big Black," said Flunky.
"What parts would those be?"
"Yazoo County, Miss-sip!"
"Yeah, Lawd!" Big Black said.
"Is that so? My daddy was from around that way," Elliot said.
"Yo daddy, huh? No doubt sum' cracker that took the long way home one night."
That was the last slur of his mixed race Elliot intended to hear. Big Black's buddy was a short-stack, but it was still two against one. Uneven odds were nothing new to him, so he resolved to play it cool.
"Tell you the truth, he was 'bout as inky as you."
"What you say?"
"Yeah, boy. It took a whole lot o' snowflake to dilute that much buck. You a tall drink of Darkest Africa, Big Black. Whycome you got no white in you at all? Yo granny wasn't pretty enough for the slave foreman?"
"I know you ain't gonna take that, Frank!"
"Shol' ain't!"
Big Black's swiftness would have startled Elliot, had he not set him up for it. From his lower position, he delivered a fierce heel kick to Frank Fuquay's left knee, just above the patella. Most folks don't know healthy joints have enough give in both directions to protect them from injury. Big Black found out the hard way. The glazed concrete floor, slick from the tears of the miserable, let him down. Frank fell forward. Elliot swerved out the way. Big Black hit the floor. Before his monstrous opponent could recover, Elliot knelt, grabbed him by the throat and placed his entire two hundred pounds behind the knee he slammed into Big Black's chest. It made a loud sound. The sort a paddle makes when one beats the dust off a rug. The air rushed out of the bruiser's lungs. Flunky stayed put, shouting commands.
"Kick his ass, Frank!"
"Shut up, Tony."
"Yeah. Shut up, Tony," Elliot said, as he looked around at the other inmates. All were too miserable to get involved.
"Let me see if I can tell it. Sixty-six runs right up through Yazoo. You two jackasses steal some shoes and make the trek on up to the big city. Ain't that many pigs to stick up this way, so you opted to break the law. That's how you in heah. That 'bout right?"
"Fuck you," the big man said. Tony finally fell silent.
"See here, Big Black," Elliot said. He squeezed his fingers tighter around the bully's neck. "Instead of wastin' ya time pickin' on folks — Lord knows who you tryin' to impress — y'all need to get your stories straight. In a minute, them ofays gonna slide some confession papers in front of you. As I doubt you know how to read, there's a good chance your black ass gon be puttin' his X on somethin' someone else did, on top of your own mess."
"You fo' real?"
"Happens all the time. They'll string you up and have ya mama pay the shippin' on your body. She'd have to take up a collection for your big ass. Better stop makin' hay and start makin' friends, Big Black. Somebody gonna have to write to yo' mama about how her big, dumb baby boy wound up hangin'. Or you could write it yourself. If'n you know how to write. Okay there, Big Black?"
Frank attempted a struggle. Elliot put more weight behind his knee.
"Okay, Frank Fuquay. All the way from Yazoo County, Miss-sip?"
Elliot glared into the Big Black Mountain's eyes.
"Gotcha, boss."
"What?! Teach this yella nigger a lesson, Frank!"
"Shut up, Tony," Big Black said.
Elliot let his hand go slack. He lowered his voice to a whisper.
"We's all afraid up in here," Elliot said. He allowed Frank Fuquay up off the disgusting floor. "And get rid of the little guy. He's trouble."
"Fuck you, high yella!"
Elliot took to his cot. He was content to rest after getting himself through a scrape without anyone coming up dead.
For once.
Even in the din of the jail, he was tired enough to sleep away the headache were it not for the memory of Izzy Rabinowitz's voice, as clear as if he were in the cell with him.
"The straight path ain't for you, kid. You're neither fish nor fowl. You're meant to play the margins."
Truth told, the longest he stuck with anything was when he collected for Izzy's outfit, which was from the time he was twelve until he went off to college at twenty. From the time he could walk, he was resentful. An abandoned baby, bequeathed all of his parents' piss and vinegar. A city boy trapped in farm country. Father meets Mother in Chicago, makes her pregnant. Dies in the race riots. Mother finds Father's brother to abandon her bastard. Doc Shapiro, there at bastard's breech birth, takes him under his wing to keep him out of trouble. Shapiro's cousin, Izzy Rabinowitz, the loan maker, shows up at the back door of Doc's small office. Out in the car was a thumb-breaker suffering six stab wounds to the torso. Bastard cleans up the blood without a flinch. Asks a lot of questions about what happened. Finally, bastard finds purpose. No more overnight stays in the Southville County jail for mischief and mayhem. No more beatings with the mule strap in Uncle Buster's barn. Belonging. Acceptance. Praise. He was good — great — at doing dirty work for the most powerful Jew in the Midwest. That he never had the stomach for it was his little secret.
Yet Bradley Polytechnic Institute was his choice. He applied. Passed the entrance exam. Even made the grade for a year. At an advisor's suggestion, he allowed himself to join the forensics team. He even made a friend: John Creamer of the Lincoln Park, Chicago Creamers. It was a funhouse mirror pairing, as John was far too much of everything that Elliot lacked altogether — money, charm, good social standing. At least they shared some whiteness. They studied together. Ran together. Allowed each other into their respective worlds. Their friendship almost made Elliot forget how much he hated college.

In the south, it was Jim Crow. In the north, an understanding. Upward past the Mississippi, outside of farm country, it was hard to find anything as explicit as a hung sign or body. A Negro needed to know his place. Though Elliot knew, he really didn't give a shit.
The night of Elliot's first speech competition he won his debate. John pulled him away to celebrate. That meant they'd both be white that night. The two found a union hall speakeasy in Champaign where they could drink and dance with white girls from the University of Illinois. At the height of the party, they found themselves surrounded by angry white boys.
"Lookin' colored tonight, I guess," Elliot said, with a cackle.
Creamer was plucky when drunk, so he took off his tie and put up his dukes. Elliot pulled a snubbed-nose .32 from his ankle, concealed just how Izzy taught him. Saved them both a lot of trouble. Once the mob dispersed, Elliot ordered another bourbon from the bar. John Creamer pleaded to dangle, but Elliot paid him no mind. The snowflakes were dazzled by their show of joie de vivre.
Officers of the Urbana Police Department arrived.
"Give me the gun," Creamer said.
Something in the way Creamer took it upon himself bothered Elliot. The insistence. The eagerness.
"They won't search me. Give it to me, now."
The pistol was out of Elliot's hands for three seconds before John Law was upon him. He was dragged out to the squad car. Behind the police station, he tasted paving gravel.
"The colored part of me tries to follow the rules," Elliot said. "Only the white boy in me figures they don't apply to him."
He was sober by the third boot heel to the ribs. Silent by the fourth blow of the nightstick. Creamer finally arrived when he was unconscious.
They were halfway back to Bradley when Elliot told John Creamer to take him back to Southville. Once the car pulled in front of the Caprice family farm, they exchanged handshakes. John returned Elliot's gun. The moment was somber, yet hollow. Whatever commonality the two shared was trumped by the reminder from the college town dicks. The most they'd ever be able to do was stick up for one another. Moreover, Elliot knew stashing the gun for his colored friend made John Creamer feel good.
That made Elliot feel as if he owed the wrong white boy a favor.
It was late, five hours until morning. Elliot didn't have his key. There was no waking Uncle Buster once he was asleep, so Elliot let himself into the barn, the place where he once took his beatings. The discomfort of hay on hardpan was buffered by the return of his most dependable friend.
Resentment. It never left him. Not for a second.

The only clue that morning had come in that windowless cube of misery was the sound of wood on iron. Fat and Skinny had returned.
"When do we get grub?!" one voice said.
"I wanna talk to a lawyer!" went another.
This triggered a cacophony of pleas, all of which would be ignored. Elliot saw his jailers had been joined by a third man dressed in a suit. This was what cops referred to as a barrel check — once suspects in a crime are identified, the investigating detectives first search the lock-ups for faces matching descriptions. Depending upon the detective, near matches worked as well as exact.
"Shaddup, you mooks!" No one complied, so Fatty attacked the bars once more.
"Shut up! Or Christ on tha cross, I'll turn the boiler on!"
"This is Detective Sergeant Molak from the Chicago Police Department," Skinny said. "He's looking for two suspects wanted for narcotics trafficking."
Tom. Molak. The Polak.
Elliot remembered him from the Chicago Police Academy. Spoke fluent Polish. Politically connected uncle in the Hegewisch community. Too weak to pass the fitness test. The sort everyone figured would quit. Or wind up superintendent. He was slight of build, had hunched shoulders, smallish eyes, and a Sephardic nose that he stuck everywhere it had no business. No way he was in St. Louis for the department. Not by himself. Elliot hoped he wouldn't be spotted. His number might be up.
"I'm looking for two men — one colored, one white — both known narcotics traffickers. They were last seen Thursday evening in the Clifton Heights neighborhood," Molak said. "Anyone sharing information leading to their arrest will be looked upon favorably."
"We have a bunch of new shines as of Friday," Fatty said.
"That'd be a good start, Andy."
"My name isn't —"
"The Negroes, yeah, pally?"
Fear crossed the minds of even the recidivists. Frank Fuquay, only just prior so cocksure, now sweated bullets.

Danny hi! Welcome to The Reading Frenzy. Tell my readers a bit about your debut novel, A Negro and an Ofay.
A NEGRO AND AN OFAY is the first book in The Tales of Elliot Caprice, about a mixed-race African American shamus who battles his way through Chicago, Illinois, USA in 1952. It’s a classic period in hardboiled crime fiction, and alternatively one of the most transparently racist periods in American history. I considered what life would be like for a tough but sensitive lost soul whose dad was black and mom was white, in that city, post-WWII. Along with solving a mystery, I wanted to explore what the American Dream means to him. How he wants to achieve it. His response to threats to it. His inner conflict related to it. Who he’s forced to interact with, and in what ways he would find them different, and similar. The commonality he’d discover.
Wow, what a great premise. Is Elliot someone your imagination conjured up or is he in your bloodline sometime in the past?
Elliot is someone I conjured from the genetic memory of folks in my bloodline. Some things he says sound like my father, my mother, even myself. I can see Elliot staring back at me when I brush my teeth in the morning. I may not be him, but he is me.
Danny did you pick the time period of 1952 for any particular reason?
Two reasons.
One, Elliot’s tales occur at the fringes of the Civil Rights Movement, which began to evolve in 1952 from what was then called race cases. The Ruby McCollum Case, which I allude to in the book, was an early instance of the struggle to define freedom as related to the body, and personal agency over what happens to that body. Her murder trial challenged what it meant to be safe in a society that sees some as less than, although we all break the same. After Ruby McCollum and before the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (1960) were a lot of years where anything could have happened. This is one hell of a time for Elliot to make his mind up about his place in the world.
Two, I hinge The Tales of Elliot Caprice upon Chicago true crime history and the Kefauver Special Committee on Organized Crime. Many elements that make a good hardboiled story began to intersect around 1950; the murder of crime journalist and Police Lieutenant William Drury (Sept., 1950), the folding of the first incarnation of Sen. Estes Kefauver’s crusade against the Mob (Sept, 1951), and the retaliation assassination of Theodore Roe, kingpin of the black American numbers racket, by the Chicago Outfit’s Sam Giancana (Aug., 1952). These three events precipitate the danger Elliot faces throughout the first few books in the series.
You’ve got an impressive resume; comedian, actor, director, screenwriter and author.
Thank you for saying so.  When you take them separately, it seems like a lot, but my talent only lies in words. Sometimes I perform them, and say them as lines, sometimes I write them, and sometimes I direct other folks to say them, but it all comes from a deep, spiritual love of words.
Did you always want to write the great American novel or did something else draw your very active muse toward fiction writing?
Growing up a heavy reader, I revered books to the degree I hadn’t imagined I would ever write one. Little did I know that my talent with words had always been well-suited for the novel. You can imagine how expansive my comedy bits were, or how dense my screenplays. I came to realize the world building, historical background and subject matter I craved to cover in other mediums is best projected into the mind of the good soul who sits down with a good book.
Danny would you shelf this with thrillers, hard-boiled mysteries, crime fiction?
Put it in thrillers, right next to the empty space where the next Jack Reacher book is sold out, haha. No, honestly, it’s a hard-boiled mystery, in the mold of the great Chester Himes. If it makes it into crime fiction, then it’ll keep company with the books of some of the best writers I know, many of whom I count as dear friends.
Looking back to when you started the novel. Was the writing process like you expected, better, worse?
A NEGRO AND AN OFAY is the first time I ever sat down to write a novel and the experience was electrifying. I found myself satisfied in ways no other creative endeavor allowed. In this, my answer to your question is ‘better.’ Now that I’m halfway into the next book in the series, it’s still so incredibly fulfilling. No luster lost.
Did Elliot behave during the writing or did he have a mind of his own?
Oh, Elliot never behaves. He does, however, maintain a magnetic attraction to doing the right thing. I’ll say, when it comes to Elliot, I know the man. I may not know what’s around every corner in the story, but I know what lies in the corners of his heart. That’s good enough for me. I do love him so. I’m a sucker for him.
Would you consider yourself a seat of your pants author or was this an extensively plotted production?
It was an extensively plotted pair of pants. The hems came out a few times. I took out the waistline. I often sewed without a pattern, but those pants are plotted. And that plot is wearing pants. Patches ‘n all.
Danny thanks for answering my questions.
It was truly my pleasure.
Will you be touring with this book?
I certainly will, from May on through the end of the year. Bars, taverns, bookstores, conferences, and colleges. Maybe even a local Barnes & Noble or two. It’s going to be so much fun. I’ll keep you posted.
Connect with Danny - Website - Facebook - Twitter
MEET Danny:Danny Gardner has enjoyed careers as a comedian, actor, director, and screenwriter. He is a recent Pushcart Prize nominee for his creative non-fiction pieceForever. In an Instant., published by Literary Orphans Journal. His short fiction piece, Labor Day,appeared in Beat to a Pulp and his flash fiction piece You’re That Guy was featured in Out of the Gutter. He is a frequent reader at Noir at the Bar events nationwide.
His first novel, “A Negro and an Ofay,” will be released May 2017 by Down And Out Books. His short fiction will be featured in “Just To Watch Him Die,” a Johnny Cash inspired anthology, published by Gutter Books in Winter 2016. 
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  1. Post WW2 is one of my favorite settings for a story. Great interview!

  2. I always love the diverse list of books you show every week Debbie!

  3. This sounds gritty and I love the setting. Thanks for sharing Debbie.

  4. Sounds like a really interesting story. You always seem ti find interesting books to spotlight. Thanks for sharing.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

  5. This novel sounds captivating, fascinating and intriguing. The era is my favorite since I grew up during the 1950's and it was meaningful and unique. The setting and the characters are wonderful and Elliot is my favorite name since it is my husband's name and with that spelling.

  6. What an interesting take on the way words have been the focus of all of the different careers. I'm liking that.

  7. Mmm I like the sound of Elliot, and living in such an interesting and difficult time. Hope it does well.

    1. me too Kathryn the small press should help. Sometimes great books get lost inside the walls of the big publishers

  8. You ask some of the best questions, Debbie. And I enjoyed Danny's answers. His book sounds fab. I'm adding it to the list. I love historical detective mysteries and hard-boiled detective fiction in particular.

  9. It still baffles me how (1) this is still so recent, Civil Rights and (2) how it feels like we as a society haven't really moved forward. Racism is still rampant (sadly) and I think it's even worse now. The bigotry evolved and is still evolving into something more dangerous :/

    1. I totally agree with you Braine if I could change one thing in this world that would be it but its bred bone deep and we have to change the thinking of the parents before we can change the children.