Poor Boy Road
James L. Weaver
Genre: ThrillerPublisher: Lakewater Press
Date of Publication: March 21, 2016
Number of pages: 251
Word Count: approx. 78,000
Cover Artist: E.L Wicker
As a mob enforcer, Jake Caldwell is in the dark business of breaking kneecaps and snapping bones. But each job sends him one step closer to turning into the man he swore he’d never become—his violent and abusive father. Leaving the mob is easier said than done. When his boss offers a bloody way out, Jake has no choice but to take it, even if it means confronting ghosts of old.
Arriving in his Lake of the Ozarks hometown, Jake has two things on his mind: kill ruthless drug lord Shane Langston and bury his dying father. What he doesn’t expect is to fall in love all over again and team up with his best friend Bear, the Sheriff of Benton County, to take Langston down. Racing through the countryside searching for Langston, the web of murder, meth and kidnapping widens, all pointing toward a past Jake can’t escape and a place he never wanted to return—Poor Boy Road.
“Open the door, Carlos,” Jake said, pounding the door twice. No answer, but the shadow wavered as if its owner was uncertain if it should stay or run.
Jake sighed and stepped back. With his good leg, he exploded forward, driving his heel above the knob. The lock assembly collapsed against the splintered wood and the door burst open. Carlos cried out as the door cracked his face, his wiry frame collapsing to the floor. He landed on his ass, holding his nose. Blood poured through his fingers and onto his stained, white T-shirt. Jake entered the apartment to the stench of cigarettes and fried onions, and shut the remains of the door behind him. Carlos pushed back toward a kitchen stacked with crusted plates and glasses, his wide eyes fearful.
Jake tucked the Glock in his waistband and picked up a dented baseball bat leaning against a bookcase covered with dead plants. He held it with both hands, testing the weight. Thirty-two ounce aluminum fat barrel. He walked to Carlos and tapped him hard on the leg with it.
“Where’s your daughter?” Jake asked. The last thing he wanted was a little girl to run in screaming. It happened before.
Carlos nodded. “They can’t figure out what’s wrong.”
“Sorry to hear it,” Jake said. He didn’t wish that kind of heartache on anyone, but Keats wasn’t paying him as a shoulder to cry on. “The two grand. Where is it?”
“Ain’t got it. No insurance and the damn hospital’s sucking me dry.”
The bat burned in Jake’s hands. He didn’t want to, but his orders were to liberally apply a blunt object to Carlos’ legs if he didn’t have the money. There would be hell to pay otherwise. He raised the bat, white knuckling the handle.
“Please, Jake,” Carlos pleaded, tears rolling down his weathered cheeks. “It’s my little girl, man.”
The brief howl of air and hollow thunk of metal meeting bone echoed in his head, a ghostly sound from long ago. The excruciating pain would rip through the man’s body, so intense he would shred his vocal cords from the screams. He knew because he dealt this punishment too many times in the past. He could feel it because he was once on the receiving end. As the bat barrel wavered and Carlos sobbed, Jake’s cell phone vibrated for the fifth time in twenty minutes. Like the previous four times, he silenced it.
He glimpsed a picture on the kitchen counter of Carlos and his daughter. Eight years old, cute as hell in a white dress with a daisy in her thick, black hair. What would happen to her if Jake broke her daddy’s legs? What would Keats do to him if he didn’t? His cell vibrated again.
Jake tossed the bat on the floor. It clanked toward the busted front door and he yanked the cell from his pocket, checking the number. 660 area code. Home, if there was such a place. He needed to think and the call provided as good a distraction as any. Jake answered with his left hand and pulled the gun out with his right, training it on Carlos.
“Dad’s dying,” Janey said. His sister’s first words to him in a year. Like he was supposed to give a sh*t.
About the Author:
James L Weaver is the author of the forthcoming Jake Caldwell thrillers Poor Boy Road and Ares Road from Lakewater Press. He makes his home in Olathe, Kansas with his wife of 18 years and two children. His previous publishing credits include a six part story called "The Nuts" and his 5-star rated debut novel Jack & Diane which is available on Amazon.com. Author note: a handful of the raters are actually not related to him.
His limited free time is spent writing into the wee hours of the morning, playing parental taxi cab to his kids' sporting endeavors, and binge watching Netflix.
You can read his blog at weaverwrites.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter @WildcatJim2112.
Where are you from?
I’m Kansas City born and raised. Go Chiefs and go 2015 World Champion Royals! I live in a suburb on the Kansas side of the state line called Olathe, just 260 miles from the geographic center of the continental United States.
Tell us your latest news?
The big news is the release of my thriller Poor Boy Road from Lakewater Press. I’m really excited to finally get it out there so people can read it and I can get to work editing the sequel due to hit the shelves in 2017.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always enjoyed the process of writing, even as a little kid. As to the why I write, I can only explain it like this. The creation of something from nothing is an awesome thing. Whether you’re a writer, a composer or an artist, the mere act of crafting a piece of your soul into something tangible for others to see is both terrifying and exhilarating. There’s a thrill in knowing in your heart what you have created is good and having someone affirm it. I find writing to be a great stress reliever.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s a tough question. I’d written a book and a bunch of short stories only a handful of people ever read – some of it was good and some not so good. I had a six-part fictional story called “The Nuts” published in Bluff Magazine in 2005. I actually received a paycheck for it – enough to buy a bigger TV at least. I thought then that I was a writer because someone had paid me for my work.
Years later, I got an idea for a boy meets girl story that I fell in love with. When the agents failed to beat down my door, I self-published Jack & Diane three years ago to get it in the hands of my dying mother so she could see the results of something she always encouraged. When someone told me my book made them cry and I got mostly five star reviews from it, I thought maybe then I was a writer because I had a tangible book out there that impacted someone on an emotional level. Even then, I guess I didn’t fully believe it until a stranger read Poor Boy Road and wanted to publish it.
You see, we writers are a self-doubting bunch. You tell yourself your story is great and people will love it, but do they? Are they just being nice? You vacillate between knowing your work is good and knowing it’s a piece of shit. Sometimes, the little devil on your shoulder just seems to put in a little overtime.
In the end, I don’t think it matters. If you put words on a page to tell a story, you’re a damn writer. If what you wrote has ever made someone laugh or cry or think differently about a subject, you’re a writer. Tell the little devil on your shoulder who is whispering in your ear to piss off. Just write whatever trips your trigger. Even if you never make a dime off it, you’ve done more than most people dare to do.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I wrote my first book in the early 1990’s after reading a subpar NY Times Bestseller. I’d thought about writing for years and decided I couldn’t very well critique something without having tried it myself. So, I crafted a cop/serial killer novel and tried to find an agent several times over the next few years without success. There were numerous short stories along the way, but it wasn’t until the last five years that I really applied myself and took the craft seriously.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t know, to be honest. I think it continues to evolve as I mature and continue to learn about the craft. I try not to get bogged down in too much description and keep the action moving. I don’t want my readers getting frustrated or bored because I used a hundred words to describe what my character wore in a particular scene followed by another two hundred words blasting every last minute detail of the room he’s in. I want to get to the action because that’s where I think the reader wants to be.
How did you come up with the title?
My book is set in the real life town of Warsaw, Missouri. It’s a small town in the Lake of the Ozarks, a beautiful part of the country. I’d written about three-fourths of the book, but still didn’t have a title. I had a few tentative titles bouncing around in my head, but I just didn’t love any of them and a couple that I really liked were already taken after a quick Internet search. When I went back to Warsaw to visit some family, I took a drive down the winding back roads and ended up at the Turkey Creek Cemetery where I have a number of family members buried. Coincidentally, my main character has family buried there as well! As I left and headed back toward the highway leading to my dad’s house, the name of the road where the cemetery sat popped in my head. Poor Boy Road. As soon as I recalled the name, I knew I had my book title.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That there’s always a way out. You can’t control the shitty things that happened to you in the past, but you can choose how you will face them in the future.
How much of the book is realistic?
The setting is very real. Warsaw is a real town. Poor Boy Road is a real road. You can travel through the town and those backroads and it will look just as I described it (a few literary allowances aside). The meth problem is real as is the socioeconomic disparity. As for the things that happen to Jake and some of the flashbacks that you’ll see, those are literary exaggerations. Thankfully, my dad was nothing like Jake’s father, Stony.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There’s no direct experiences, but there are shadows of them. I think writing is taking what you’ve experienced and twisting it into something more interesting. I’ve been in a rainy parking lot of a bar in Warsaw, but I never got into a fist fight there. I’ve never been physically or verbally abused, but I’ve heard stories of it by people I know. I’ve never been wrapped up in meth, but I know people that have.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Watership Down was one of the first “adult” books I remember reading when I was in 6th grade. Not only did the story and the writing blow my mind, but I think that classic helped break through the barrier that a lot of kids have about books of size. You can watch them weigh a tome in their hands like they’re picking out a melon in the supermarket, too heavy means too much work. My dad was a huge Stephen King fan and had all his books, so once that size barrier was broken, I devoured King’s more sizable tales like The Stand, The Talisman and the Dark Tower series. King’s book 11/22/63 was on my high school daughter’s reading list as an option for her advanced English class and I almost had her talked into it until she saw it was 880 pages! Game over. In the last decade I enjoy not only King, but Lee Child, John Sandford, Gillian Flynn, and Janet Evanovich. I love series with the same cast of characters that you can grow with and come to know. I think that’s why I embarked on this Jake Caldwell series.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Just one? I’d have to go with Stephen King. His book On Writing should be a required read for any writer and his scene setting is second to none. A close second would be Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series. I’ve learned a great deal about story pacing from him.
What book are you reading now?
I just finished the brilliant book All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. His writing is outstanding. Such an enviable way of putting you in the landscape of World War II. He blends the perspectives of three different characters and time hops without missing a beat. Excellent read.
I’m just a few chapters into an advanced reader copy of A Falling Friend by fellow Lakewater Press authors Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape. The novel is set for release in April and am enjoying it so far. There’s another dozen or so books in my Goodreads queue.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I try to support new authors that I find on my Twitter feed, but it’s hard. I don’t have a ton of free time between my day job, my family and my writing so if they want me to invest in their story, I have to know that they have invested in their story. I usually give it a couple of chapters, but if I start completely redlining the book in my head, it gets distracting and I can’t get into the tale.
Looking through my Goodreads list of books I’ve read, they are predominately from established authors. That said, R.L. Martinez, a fellow Lakewater author, and her book In the Blood definitely caught my eye. I’m usually not one for fantasy, but her writing is extremely strong and I was surprised how quickly I poured through the book. Kate Foster’s Winnell Road is a YA novel that is a well-paced tale that leaves you wanting for the next one.
I generally will read anything that comes with a strong recommendation from someone I trust. So, if you have any new authors you love, I’m always open to reading a great story.
What are your current projects?
I’m currently editing the stand-alone sequel to Poor Boy Road entitled Ares Road which is set for a 2017 release, though I’d love to get it out at Christmas. I finished and polished it about six months ago before I dove head on into prepping Poor Boy Road for publication. It’s amazing what you find after letting your work sit idle for six months that you missed in the endless read and editing sessions. So, I’ll finish that run through, send it to Lakewater for their thoughts, re-write and polish and then get in the hands of some beta readers for feedback.
In between that, I’m half-assed brainstorming for the third Jake Caldwell book. I have a general idea of where I want to go with it, but that process sometimes seems like trying to catch smoke with a butterfly net. The beauty of this series, like the adventures of Jack Reacher or Lucas Davenport, is that there’s no ultimate goal or prize, no linear path they must follow. I can literally put them anywhere in any circumstance as many times as the readers want to see them. I find that very attractive.
What would you like my readers to know?Support the authors you love with not only your purchase of their books, but your vocal support as well. Get on the sites that sell their books such as Amazon or sharing sites such as Goodreads and post reviews, especially for the newer authors. We authors are a self-doubting bunch at times and those positive reviews bolster us during those doubting times. Your reviews and praise mean more than you know.
1 copy of Poor Boy Road and swag pack
3 ebook copies of Poor Boy Road