SUE LONGTREE IS TOO YOUNG TO BE A MATRIARCH, but when she moves to run down the story behind her brother's suicide, she stands at the top looking down on a family in shambles. The suicide's hardly a whodunit, as the private dick that Longtree hires, the hero of writer Michael Peck's first novel, Harry Jome, sees it. Or is it? The answer may lie less in a wall's bloodstains or the cheap framed prints that cover them than in the pages of a manuscript. The hardboiled meta-noir that is The Last Orchard in America channels both the noir genre's suspense and seaminess, and at once offers an implicit critique of the culture that makes it possible.
The preceding paragraph amounts to the back-cover description of the novel we're trying to fund here -- looking to raise enough money to do a print run of a few hundred copies to get Peck's voice into the world in a significant way. The story of how I came to publish this book with the writer is a long one. The seeds of the tale sprouted in the year 2008, when Peck sent me a very brief story of the same name and I published it in the online version of THE2NDHAND, then hosting a weekly-running short-fiction series. Peck's work I've now been familiar with for years for its mix of literary depth and noir-ish satire -- he would go on to command a section of his own in THE2NDHAND's 10th-anniversary short-fiction swan song, the 2011 All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10 collection (also funded here on Kickstarter). Following that, in year 2012, THE2NDHAND also serialized an embryonic version of Last Orchard in its then-relatively-new THE2NDHAND txt blog.
As I've moved away from shorts and into more extensive projects, it only felt natural to bring this book to where it belongs -- print, finally.
The novel comes in at 5-inch-by-8-inch, paperback, 185 pages. It's a fine read. Here's a view of the back cover:
Rewards for your contributions vary from copies of the novel and other books we've published here to vintage noir paperbacks and high-quality digital prints of artist Vinson Milligan's charcoal (and, in some cases, colored pencil) illustrations that accompany Last Orchard's text and adorn the front cover. All three illustrations in the cover triptych are available, signed and numbered by the illustrator.
Last Orchard's author, Michael Peck, known to some as a book reviewer (he's written for outlets such as The Believer and the Los Angeles Review of Books) and for the online book shop he runs from his home base in Oregon City, lends his voice to the three classic noir paperbacks that are also part of the rewards here:
"The Maltese Falcon has it all: the gumshoe, the femme fatale, the well-spoken fat man, the psychotic Levantine gunman, some murders, double- and triple-crossings, a freighter set on fire, the Knights of Malta and lots of tough talking. If that weren't enough, there's also the mysterious ebony bird everybody is wrecking themselves to find. With the first appearance of his hero, Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett concocted the incunabula of all that is hardboiled."
"Dashiell Hammett knew a little something about private dicks -- he was one. These hardboiled tales, first showing up in Black Mask, were influenced by his role in the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, a position he held until becoming dissatisfied with the group's thuggish union-busting. Here, as in his earlier Continental Op stories, Hammett crafts three finely tuned shit-storms to root out the bad guys once again."
"The desperate people of James M. Cain's works go about life like they've gotten suckered into playing a chess-master: they've lost before they move a single piece. His is a world motivated primarily by self-destructive lust and greed and deception. Nowhere more so than here -- Double Indemnity involves an insurance scam hatched by salesman Walter Huff and murderous housewife and siren Phyllis Nirdlinger, whose husband's offing is pretty much a given. Cain's stuff is considered to be the inception of modern noir, and this is his best. The film version, adapted by Raymond Chandler and directed by Billy Wilder, is somehow even better. With gab that's practically jazz and, needless to say, lots and lots of shadows."
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR MICHAEL PECK'S 'THE LAST ORCHARD IN AMERICA':
A classical story of the damaged damsel limping alongside the recovering rogue toward parts unknown. And while it's clearly a novel that takes itself seriously, that doesn't mean the reader is never given a moment of levity, a break from the grim nature of the subject matter: "Anybody who gets his head knocked off by a slow-moving train is challenged in some special way." It's the beautiful bastard child of The Long Goodbye, Pulp, and Confederacy of Dunces. --Andrew Armacost, author of The Poor Man's Guide to Suicide
You know the guy: private gumshoe, buying his pistol back from hock, waiting on a tailor to finish his suit cuffs. You know the city, though here it helps that our hero has the eye of an architecture critic, pacing around the brutalist office blocks, monuments to extortionist drunks. Here daylight comes like "a premature baby -- dangled in the trash-filled crevasses ... wax[ing] gray and forbidding." And, yes, you know the genre, but this is noir on noir, cynical to the point of meta-reflection. "Real stories don't have morals or plots," our protagonist muses, and real mysteries are just that, jagged-edged puzzle pieces for which, at best, solution is an act of will and denial. After the dame has made her entrance, dripping sex, then gone like "curdled milk on an expensive porcelain saucer" and pulled out her blades and made her exit, all too fast, there:s nothing left but a motel room that smells of death and more liquor on top of the liquor that has already stopped having any kind of effect. The dick picks up the Bible, that "first, monstrous piece of detective fiction," and a con plot, at that. Peck gives us a world "as wholesome as lice," in a tone that's as infectious, inescapable. You'll be itching through these pages for days after you're done, thinking back on the images of bridges or lines like this, about death: "Dying is just the fear of dying. I savored and chewed my breath as though it were poisoned oatmeal." --Spencer Dew, author of Songs of Insurgency, among others
Here's a book that any avid Law & Order or Dashiell Hammett fan -- like my old lady -- can get behind: a novel that's hilariously deadpan noir parody and excellent noir at the same time. It's like ruddy, half-polished wingtips in the rain, or like a simile. --Jamie Iredell, author of The Book of Freaks
Last Orchard combines the black-hearted noir of our haunted country with more twists and turns than anyone could predict; better yet, in its narrator, Harry Jome, it unleashes a voice as wry, surprising and inventive as any in recent memory. --Peter Rock, author of The Shelter Cycle and My Abandonment
Risks and challenges
Once the funding campaign is completed -- and successful -- it ought to be only a matter of a few weeks before contributors' rewards are in-hand. The book is ready for printing and full release, other rewards are set, and all that is needed is your contributions to fund the print run.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (45 days)